Back to school

“Before I recently started my first job at a PR agency, many insiders I knew had warned me to watch out for the not-so-friendly female rivalry in the PR world.

‘Bitch jungle’ is the word they literally used referring to this world. After three months at work now, navigating the office culture has indeed proved to be quite a quagmire, a recent issue I had with my manager being just one example. The other day my manager took a sick leave. To not let any coverage opportunity slip away, I took the initiative of contacting our client about some media requests. As every PR pro knows, the media never waits, and our client highly appreciated my efforts. However, the next day my manager called me to say that I’d overstepped my authority by contacting our client without her approval. Since then, I’ve got a cold attitude from her and been excluded from most office outings.

How I now wish TU Delft had offered a course in ‘Dutch Office Politics 101’ during my studies, but since it didn’t’, and not knowing how to deal with this situation, I turned to my Dutch friend Ben for advice. He’s a senior-level professional possessing enough knowledge and experience to be my career coach. After hearing my story, he pointed out that I was probably getting ‘relational aggression’ from my manager. Noticing a bewildered look on my face, he patiently explained that ‘relational aggression’ is behaviour that’s calculated to control another person’s ability to maintain rapport with his or her peers. And what’s worse, it only accounts for a small portion of the whole ‘office politics’ thing.

For someone like me, who has just come from the ivory tower of academia, it’s shockingly eye-opening to be confronted by the diversity of tactics used in office politics. While some are blatant, most are under-the-radar. Anyway, the word ‘politics’ always had negative connotations for me – conjuring up manipulation or even sabotage – but Ben quickly corrected my apparent misconception. He told me that there’s nothing wrong with office politics; it’s only the purpose I use it for that makes the big difference. He said: ‘Whether you hate it, admire it, practise it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in any organisation. And, like it or not, it’s something you must master for your career success’. I suddenly started wondering: why is such an important subject missing in our university education?

But still, simply being aware of the existence of ‘office politics’ didn’t help to solve my particular problem. I suppose many starters like me ask the same question: how to be ambitious while not crossing the boundary? After all, aiming high and remaining ambitious is a virtue that’s been highly praised by mankind for centuries. Shall we be wolves or sheep? Fortunately Ben was on hand to provide another wise quote, which might be a golden rule for all of us to practise: ‘Be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.’”

Lei Li, from Shanghai, China, is recent MSc graduate in science communication. She can be contacted at: LeiLivanShanghai@gmail.com

“Met het geld dat we overhouden, kunnen we hooguit de ondersteuning aan individuele studenten handhaven”, zegt directeur René van Pelt van Handicap + studie, dat de belangen van studenten met een functiebeperking behartigt. “Als het niet lukt om daarnaast geld te verdienen met advieswerk, dreigt onze kennis verloren te gaan. Dan is het hoger onderwijs over vijf jaar weer terug bij af.”

OCW had de stichting al wel op de hoogte gesteld. Dit najaar gaan ze samen onderzoeken of de stichting zich kan omvormen tot een volwaardig expertisecentrum. Voorheen was Handicap + studie vooral aan het lobbyen en prikkelen. De instellingen moesten achter de vodden worden gezeten om hun voorzieningen voor gehandicapte studenten op orde te maken.

Universiteiten afrekenen
Vanaf volgend jaar worden universiteiten en hogescholen expliciet afgerekend op hun zorg voor gehandicapte studenten. Die gaat deel uitmaken van de kwaliteitskeuring van onderwijsinstellingen, de zogeheten accreditatie. Wie onvoldoende scoort, krijgt hooguit een jaar de tijd om zijn voorzieningen op orde te brengen.

Instellingen worden daardoor gedwongen hun kennis over gehandicaptenbeleid ergens vandaan te halen. Het ministerie denkt dat de stichting daarom best geld kan verdienen met consultancywerk. Prikkelen en aanjagen wordt minder noodzakelijk.

Bijna één op de tien studenten heeft een handicap, blijkt uit enquêtes. Vaak gaat het om dyslexie, dyscalculie of psychische problemen. Studenten met functiebeperkingen kunnen een beroep doen op voorzieningen van de instellingen. Ook krijgen ze, indien nodig, extra tijd om hun tentamens te maken.

Redacteur Redactie

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