I&IC sets up social safety work group to restore balance

The Innovation & Impact Centre has set up a social safety work group to help ‘restore balance’, according to the chair Jan Schiereck. The Centre’s employees were negatively affected by the way the organisation handled the departure of their director. “We want to ensure that everyone feels senang (happy) again.”

(Photo: Thijs van Reeuwijk)

The work group is an idea proposed by the management team (MT) and the interim director of the Innovation & Impact Centre (I&IC). They asked employees to register their interest in participating. Caroline Kohlmann and Jan Schiereck share the chairing of the work group, which consists of nine people.

Schiereck was the first to talk openly about his department’s problems in March in a letter to the editor in Delta. Three weeks later, Delta published an article about what exactly was happening. The editorial team removed that article the very same day, under protest, after being ordered to do so by its own legal department.

Internal culture

The work group will first determine how they define social safety, according to the work document. Next, they will explore how social safety can become a ‘cornerstone of the internal culture’. If necessary, that will result in ‘clearly communicated’ and concrete behavioural rules and procedures to counteract ‘undesirable behaviour, intimidation, discrimination and bullying’. The MT has also asked the work group to provide suggestions about how employees can address each other regarding undesirable behaviour.

‘Many people are distraught by everything that has happened in the past few months’

This is not a frivolous luxury, according to what Schiereck says. “People are happy to work at I&IC, because they feel they are doing something useful. We have a good working climate. But many people are distraught by everything that has happened in the past few months. That becomes evident when you talk to them a bit longer.” Kohlmann considers the events within I&IC and the report of the Education Inspectorate about the lack of social safety at TU Delft an opportunity as well. “Now we can increase awareness of this issue and realise a positive and sustainable change together.”

Gauge the organisation

The idea to establish a local work group is separate from the social safety change roadmap that the Executive Board submitted in mid-May to the Education Inspectorate. According to the interim director Alice Stäbler, the I&IC will participate in the resulting proposed actions, but she and the management team wanted to ask their employees themselves ‘to implement the core values of TU Delft’, such as diversity, integrity, respect, commitment, courage and trust. “How do we define respect? Different people will have different answers to that question. What can we jointly agree on?” asked Stäbler.

She started her job at I&IC on April 2 and feels that she works together with the ‘finest group’, with whom it is ‘extraordinarily pleasant’ to work. The work group has been established despite that, because ‘you have to be continuously alert’ to what is going on, explained Stäbler. “You can never think that you have made it, certainly not if you are in a managerial position. You have to keep examining your style of managing and communicating. Does it suit everyone? If not, adjust it to suit that person. You must constantly gauge how the organization is doing.”


Stäbler will stay on as interim director until her successor has been appointed. She hopes one will arrive by October. The draft job description is ready. Internal and external candidates will soon be able to apply. “The MT is involved in that process, to ensure widespread support and that we arrive at a unanimous choice this time.”

The work group aims to present an advisory report before the Christmas holidays, said Schiereck. He hopes and expects that the entire process will ‘restore balance inhouse’. “We want to ensure that everyone feels senang again. The process certainly seems to be heading in the right direction.”

Editor in chief Saskia Bonger

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