I think it was 25 years ago, when the university celebrated its 75th anniversary, that I took part in something similar. Then, too, employees were invited to talk in groups about image and identity. I found it interesting, now that we’ve been around for so many more years, to join in that conversation again. At the time, I found it really fun and useful, and now again, it was interesting to hear how other people feel about the University. I have personally become a bit less positive in recent years. I think our approach has become harder, more businesslike. I’ve worked at this university for a long time, and I feel that we used to be given more trust, more autonomy. Now there’s more control and more vision that you need to comply with. I think that’s the zeitgeist. What was said at the time – and again now – about values such as charity, mutual respect and consideration, and especially the idea of emancipation, that really appeals to me.
At the start of our dialogue, we were asked to describe the University in one word. I said 'businesslike'. That was different from what other people said. I was pleased that most people in my group of twelve still found those old core values, such as being mindful of each other, important. I was also happy to hear in other places, people still see, feel, and experience it that way. My somewhat divergent contribution was received openly. I think there was also some recognition that things have changed over the years. I feel the noticeably more businesslike approach is mainly due to something of a zeitgeist creeping in.
That basic feeling of 'we’re a lovely university where people are considerate of each other' appears to still be felt by most. In the end, that gave me a good feeling. In my work as HR coach, I see that people are often very loyal. While conversely, the University as an employer can be really harsh when people are ill and unable to return to work. They’re well into their 50s and they’re offered outplacement. Does that match who we want to be as a university? Surely, we'd want to make some effort to keep these employees, who have very little chance of finding anything suitable elsewhere, on board? To me, this kind of harshness, which I also sometimes see in the style of leadership, is at odds with what people apparently experience. That is perhaps what bothers me the most: that the interaction between people is still warm, friendly and cordial, but the system can be quite harsh
- Harriët Reker