Can you still function properly as a director if all your professors have said they have lost confidence in you? Yes, says the Executive Board. The director in question is Kees Slingerland, the Environmental Sciences Group director. One month ago, the 18 chair holders in the science group unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in him. The immediate provocation was a serious row about the budget for 2015.
It looked as if Slingerland’s fate had been sealed with this vote. But the Board decided that Slingerland can still finish his current term of office, due to end in May 2015. ‘Workable agreements’ have been reached about the next five months. The director will continue to do his job but will no longer chair the monthly meeting with the professors.
The executive board hopes to minimize casualties with this decision. The rebellious professors do not get their way – Slingerland’s immediate departure – but nor are they penalized by the executive board for their mutiny. The board remains impartial, and the parties to the dispute must solve it together in the coming months.
Slingerland has made few friends during his time at ESG. The strong-willed and unbending director has had countless conflicts with his staff, some of which ended up being settled in court. Slingerland, who has guided Alterra through a difficult period with declining budgets for nature-related research, has a reputation for being a tough boss. He is pleasant to outsiders but overbearing and inflexible in his dealings with his staff. At present the employees’ council declines to comment on the conflict with the professors.
Staff at the ESG do not really know where they stand now. Strictly speaking, the conflict was between the director and 18 university heads, but the lack of confidence in the management is more widely shared. Slingerland too will feel that he does not have the executive board’s full confidence – he is a bit of a lame duck now. So it is in everybody’s interests for Slingerland to find ‘a new challenge’ soon.