Careers Company contract conflict

Sujatha de Poel, an employee of the Careers Company in the Faculty of Economics and Business, claims that her contract was not extended as payback for calling out misconduct within the organisation.
By Traci White

On Monday afternoon, in the sunshine-filled law faculty room in the Academy building, Sujatha de Poel, who is originally from India, her husband (who is Dutch) and her lawyer shared the details of what has happened to De Poel over the past year and a half. Next to them sat John de Groot, managing director of the Faculty of Economics and Business, Wijnand Aalderink, the director of the Careers Company and De Poel’s manager, and their lawyer.

The two parties were attending a hearing with the Arbitration Committee, an external group of individuals tasked with assessing conflicts within the university. In this case, the conflict they were seeking to resolve was De Poel’s conviction that she was denied a permanent contract because she and a colleague spoke up about what they saw as professional misconduct in their department.

Discouraged

Early in 2016, De Poel and a Dutch colleague wrote a confidential letter to the faculty board of economics and business, raising their concerns regarding hiring policies within the department and transparency about those practices.

As a result of sending the letter, De Poel says that they experienced ‘intimidation, harassment and managerial bullying’. De Poel says that the management secretary tried to discourage them from sending the letter and informed them that they had to lift the confidentiality of the letter before their concerns could be looked into. De Poel and her colleague reluctantly complied, and Aalderink was made aware of the letter’s existence and its authors.

Soon thereafter, De Poel had an annual evaluation meeting with Aalderink. According to De Poel, Aalderink set the evaluation forms aside and spent the majority of the meeting questioning her about the letter and why she thought that the board would listen to her complaints. She was given a poor evaluation, which meant that she would be out of a job.

Aalderink and De Groot cited multiple communication issues and De Poel’s alleged unwillingness to improve as ‘red flags’ that were reflected in her most recent evaluation. ‘We are also responsible for our other employees, and there were too many instances where things became problematic’, De Groot says. But De Poel says that the incidents in question were minor and are now being overblown in an attempt to mischaracterize her as an unfit employee.

‘Very good’

De Groot suggested that when it came to the letter, De Poel ought to have discussed the issues with her manager ‘from one employee to another’ rather than going over his head. But De Poel says that given the circumstances, she and her colleague felt compelled to send the letter, and she is convinced that sending it to the FEB board is what sealed her fate. Her evaluation in the previous year was positive – she was deemed ‘very good’ in terms of the content of her work and ‘good’ in terms of competencies – and she feels that her second evaluation being held shortly after the letter was sent negatively influenced her manager’s perspective.

The Arbitration Committee will deliver their recommendations in the case to the Board of Directors of the RUG in the coming weeks. De Poel’s contract officially ends on 15 April.

Nederlands

6 COMMENTS

  1. I was in a similarly bizarre situation concerning one of my professors, thus went to the confidential advisor. This means I cannot repeat what she replied when I mentioned the accident. Let me tell you that I was shocked and got goosebumps all over my body. Poor me for having such physical reaction after speaking out about misconduct.

    I have experienced several more cases of power abuse that are easily swept under the rug (no pun intended) and my lawyer (yes, from insurance even though that should not matter) does not even want to take my case. His words: the chances of winning are so low that this trial will unduly hurt our interests. This is a highly respected company I must add. It is not the AIG with which the university has a worthless contract that costs a LOT for being there, people must earn money over it and otherwise tell me how much claims this company treated with respect in 2016. My talk with M. van Dam had nothing to do with money though, (it had to do with truth, which is even more shocking).

    I was a proud student of the University of Groningen. I am a desillusioned and saddened student.

    PS I need to stop thinking about it if I want a shot at completing my studies. That is hard when you are confronted with these kinds of daily unapolegetic happenings at the ‘Rijksuniversiteit Groningen’. Shame on whomever allows this university to be a successful fraud.

  2. I am truly shocked to read this. What a shame to treat a hard working and kind person in this way! As I work in that faculty, I know Sujatha and her good work. She has supported many of my students with their careers.
    I have heard for a while now about friends being given jobs in the career company, and there have been questions about integrity.
    Since when is is wrong to ask questions when you see misconduct happening?! That’s what every principled person should do.
    It’s clear from the article that the way the letter was handled by management was wrong. Confidentiality must be respected when asked for, and it is the responsibility of management to respect that.

  3. Causality is often hard to prove… Did she got a bad evaluation because of the letter or did she send the letter because she knew the upcoming evaluation was going to be a disaster?

    • Totally understand your doubt. The truth is Sujatha did not get the contract extension just because of that letter. When Mr. Aalderink was noticed the existence of the letter, Sujatha was told by him in person: “you should not have written that letter, you will have consequences”. Afterwards, loads of shit happened. Another evidence was the interview in the FEB magazine. When they were having a good relationship, Mr. Aalderink recommended Sujatha to have an interview with FEB magazine, speaking highly of her excellent work. The picture of them taken at that time was posted in the magazine. If she did not do well in her work, why would he do that? In the hearing session last Monday, regarding the words Sujatha proposed, Mr. Aalderink did not speak for himself at all and his body language was quit weak.
      I hope I answered your question.

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