Employee surveillance, humiliation and exodus at CoStar

Real estate data giant defiant after 37% of its workers left last year

CoStar CEO Andrew Florance (CoStar via YouTube, iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
CoStar CEO Andrew Florance (CoStar via YouTube, iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

One of the biggest real estate data firms is dealing with a mass exodus of employees amid allegations of surveillance and humiliation by former workers.

CoStar is doing damage control but is unapologetic after 29 current and former employees accused the company of authoritarian practices, according to Insider. Accusations range from firings for minor offenses to dressings-down in company meetings.

An employee with knowledge of the statistics told Insider that roughly 37 percent of the company’s 4,200-person workforce left in 2021, more than 1,500 workers in all. About 75 percent of those who departed did so on their own volition, according to the employee.

That marks a big jump from the departures in previous years — 638 in 2020 and 985 in 2019, according to the data provided by the employee. It was the highest absolute turnover for the company in seven years, and while employee departures affected many industries during the pandemic, CoStar’s attrition rate outpaced that of the industry at large.

“Our turnover rate over the past few years has been typical and now that the ‘great American resignation’ is ebbing, our turnover rate is trending down,” CoStar said in a statement.

One terminated employee started an Instagram account that shares memes and posts from anonymous employees. A spokesperson for the company called him “disgruntled.”

Sources told Insider that the company surveilled employees working from home, including an incident in May 2020 when IT workers made unannounced video calls and took notes on employees’ responses. The company has said it was not “surveilling employees under false pretenses.”

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Managers were also reportedly tasked with keeping internal reports that recorded the activities of employees, from phone calls to database access. One researcher reportedly got in trouble after returning two minutes late from a 15-minute break.

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The company reportedly worked to minimize the spread of unhappy reviews. One executive reached out to Glassdoor to have posts removed on several occasions. CoStar has a rating of 2.9 on the website, below the 3.7 average.

“We will not apologize for these standards, nor will we compromise them to accommodate a vocal few who decide that this level of expectation is not for them,” CoStar said in a defiant statement.

CoStar was founded by Andrew Florance in 1987, a database tracking almost 6 million commercial properties across the nation. The company has grown with significant acquisitions over the years, including STR and Ten-X.

In the first three quarters of 2021, its net income was almost $200 million.

[Insider] — Holden Walter-Warner