Many requests for help at economics faculty during Susanne Täuber crisis

The contact person for social safety at the Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) received 68 requests for help in her first year.

Faculty employees have been able to turn to social safety contact person Ella Sebamalai since 2022 for a confidential conversation about unsafe or inappropriate behaviour. A lot of people made use of this.

Interestingly, she notes in her first annual report, 46 requests were made during the period when FEB researcher Susanne Täuber challenged her dismissal by the university. Whether they can be directly linked to that situation, she doesn’t say.

The report further shows that contact requests were related to issues of integrity, the UG’s social safety campaign, discrimination and bullying. Some fifty times it was bystanders who initiated the conversation and in almost twenty cases it was the victims themselves who came forward.

Confusing

Sebamalai makes some striking observations in her report. For instance, she indicates that the UG-wide campaign around social safety has been confusing for FEB staff. For most, it has actually become more difficult to talk about their concerns, she observes.

People also indicate that they do not feel it is their job to say something when they observe undesirable behaviour. ‘They often feel that it is the responsibility of someone in the leadership to do this first (also for fear of retribution).’ At the same time, those in charge do not always take responsibility.

Finally, people indicate that their colleagues or supervisors do not know how to respond properly to reports of social insecurity.

Positive

Dean Peter Verhoef considers the report positive despite these observations. He is happy with the fact that employees are aware that there’s a contact person and that they feel comfortable raising problems in the organisation. ‘Then we can take steps to ensure that it does not lead to further escalation and that matters are resolved.’

The social safety contact person was appointed after a 2021 survey by the faculty board revealed that there were problems with social safety at the faculty. Dutch men dominated the workplace, while social safety among minorities left a lot to be desired.

Bullying behaviour

Internationals, women and junior researchers were particularly affected. They felt unsafe, had to deal with aggression and bullying behaviour. There was also an old-boy network and little transparency around promotions.

But according to Verhoef, a lot has happened since then. For instance, there has been plenty of investment in inclusive leadership and recruitment training for managers, he explains. There are many working groups where this is discussed, R&O interviews are invariably with three people these days to strengthen the employee’s position.

‘Nevertheless, it remains a complicated process’, he says. ‘You don’t always have insight into what is happening in the workplace. Culture change takes a long time and requires perseverance. This is a marathon.’

Dutch

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