Interview Margriet Magazine 15 March

Interview Margriet Magazine 15 March

Text: Sanne van de Wetering Last updated: 21 March 2023 Image: Getty Images

Trustee on transgressive behaviour: 'Women are no longer ashamed to share what happened to them'

'Nothing is allowed these days either'. You may also have heard that statement after all the fuss surrounding NOS SportThe World Turned Door and The Voice. Erik Drenth, co-owner and trustee at Punt Uit finds that we have evolved. "For a very long time there was talk of, 'Surely this should be possible?', but those times have changed."

All the stories that have hit the media recently have led to a small increase in the number of reports of cross-border behaviour, according to Erik Drenth, but he also sees another strong development. "The events have meant that HR managers and company board members are now actively engaged in appointing a confidential advisor. At first, this was not a priority at many companies, but now you really see a change in that. As a result, companies have moved away more from feeling: 'This doesn't happen at our place'."

Time has changed

Recent events have increased discussion about how employees are supposed to treat each other and what the norms and values are in the workplace. On social media, this does not just create understanding. Still, according to Erik, times have changed. "There was a time when a woman got married and the next day her employment contract was terminated. We have evolved tremendously. You can also see this in the generations. There was a time when transgressive behaviour was like, 'Surely this must be possible?', but those times have changed. If you look at the millennials, you see that they live their lives in a completely different way than, for example, Baby Boomers and Generation X. Work, for instance, is a very important part of the millennial generation. They have higher demands in this area and therefore also in terms of manners within a company."

Erik thinks it is a weakness to say, "Nothing is allowed these days either". "Because employees just experience certain things as rotten and hurtful. I think it's more powerful if you turn it around and say, 'I have an eye for it.' By doing so, you increase mutual understanding. Then once something doesn't go right, you can switch directly with the staff and discuss the problems with each other." This is what is also currently going wrong with recent events in the media, Erik believes.

Furthermore, according to Erik, the MeToo movement has also caused us to make different demands on each other. "Women are no longer ashamed to share what has happened to them. They have come to the conclusion that sharing their experiences is not a weakness, but a strength."

Problems under the surface

At NOS SportThe World Turned Door and The Voice according to Erik, there is no openness to give feedback when you are dealing with undesirable behaviour. "You can't say there: 'I don't think it's OK that this is happening'. So as a result, cross-border behaviour stays under the surface for years and then suddenly everything comes out. You have to prevent that. Make it discussable and have the conversation with each other." The issue will therefore not be off the radar for some time yet. "There is a need for more openness within organisations and to come clean about past events," Erik says.

The role of a trustee

Are you experiencing cross-border behaviour and want to talk to someone about it? Then you can go to a confidential counsellor. What exactly is this person's role? Erik: "You can report to a confidant if you experience undesirable behaviour or if there is a problem with integrity. When it comes to undesirable manners, we are talking about situations involving intimidation, bullying, aggression, discrimination, and sexual harassment." The moment someone makes a report, we work with the confidential advisor to see how the reporter can resolve the problem.

Erik: "The role of a confidant is threefold. First, the confidant is a listening ear. Then there is a role for information and advice. The reporter is always in charge of what happens with the report. In many cases, the problem is solved within the organisation through a conversation. The challenge arises when there are structural abuses within the company, as seen in The Voice, The World Turned Door and NOS Sport. If the fiduciary receives reports from several sides, there is the option of reporting themselves, so signals are picked up. Confidentiality is of course maintained."

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