‘You can’t tackle cross-border behavior with committees’

Culture23 Aug ’22 18:38Author: BNR Web Editor

Investigations, committees and working groups do not solve cross-border behavior in business, experts believe. “I don’t see the answer in setting up committees, it should be put much more on the agenda in the organizations themselves,” says Rob van Eijbergen, professor of integrity at the Free University and Winnie Sorgdrager, former chairman of the Cultural Council. …

Since Tim Hofman’s BOOS episode on The Voice, the topic of transgressive behavior has been high on the political agenda. For example, the government appointed Mariëtte Hamer as government commissioner for sexually offensive behaviour, media and culture minister Uslu discussed the issue with John de Mol, and the cabinet came up with a ‘national action plan’.

Since Tim Hofman's BOOS episode on The Voice, the topic of transgressive behavior has been high on the political agenda.
Since Tim Hofman’s BOOS episode on The Voice, the topic of transgressive behavior has been high on the political agenda. (ANP / Robin Utrecht)

According to Sorgdrager and Van Eijbergen, the main focus should be on the companies themselves, which must adapt the culture. And one should not only think of ‘sex’ in transgressive behaviour. ‘It’s also about bullying behaviour, such as ignoring and excluding,’ says Sorgdrager, who previously led a commission of inquiry into cross-border behavior in the culture and media sector.

‘Serf relationship’

“In the media, it’s primarily about sex, but it’s a whole range of behaviour. It is about addiction and abuse of power. This is very important within large law firms,’ says the professor. ‘You see a pattern between lawyers and interns, which makes it seem like a kind of ‘family relationship’. It is part of the sector’s corporate culture, and anything can go wrong’, he continues.

To initiate a culture change, one must look at the top of business. ‘Diversity is very important in that. So look not only at men and women, but also at young, old and other cultures. In this way, you avoid a closed system. People are not aware of it, as you saw with John de Mol with his statements’, Van Eijbergen refers to the Boos episode, where John de Mol pointed to victims who had to report, and not to the wrong culture in his companies. “It is also a generational problem. In the past, people were used to very different situations than they are now. When I studied psychology, almost all my teachers had an affair with a student, it’s unthinkable now.’

Revenue model

But transgressive behavior is also a problem among the younger generations, emphasizes Sorgdrager. “It still happens. (…). Just look at the student body in Amsterdam. They are young students and see what happens there”. Talking about the problem in particular should be the solution, believes Van Eijbergen. ‘Have a conversation with each other. Imposing more rules doesn’t help, it’s created a whole integrity industry.’ It has therefore become a revenue model, sees Sorgdrager. ‘Many people make money from it,’ continues the former committee leader.

Starting a conversation about the topic can sometimes be difficult, Sorgdrager knows that too. She also offers tips. “Before starting a project, you can, for example, talk to each other and make it clear how you treat each other. In addition, you can raise this issue once in a while in organizations, for example on days off. State your boundaries.’ Companies should not think that transgressive behavior does not take place on their floor. “Don’t wait for the crisis.”

Blame the victim

Mourners also advise against the disappointing phenomenon of ‘victim blaming’, which Talpa chief John de Mol was also guilty of. ‘You should not tell the victims that they should not have done certain actions or tell them to report it. ‘ De Mol blamed the victims for not coming forward. “But people don’t report incidents either, because it can be unsafe. There is a good chance that the person will be deregistered’, says Sorgdrager.

Earlier this year, Tim Hofman did an episode with BOOS about the structural cross-border behavior on The Voice of Holland. A sequel is coming later this week, Hofman reported.

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