News - December 13, 2012

Course on how to behave for ESG bosses

Managers particularly guilty of inappropriate behaviour. ESG suffers from 'every man for himself and God for all' culture.

All ESG managers will get training in social leadership. That is the most striking measure that the ESG directors plan to implement in their efforts to combat antisocial behaviour and intimidation. In addition, all members of staff will get workshops in 'Corporate culture and feeling safe' while inappropriate behaviour will be a standard topic on the agenda in appraisal interviews.
The planned measures are the ESG directors' response to the study by Bezemer & Kuiper, looking at how people behave towards each other in the organization.  One in three participants in the study has experienced inappropriate behaviour. Also, one in three feels there is a judgemental culture within ESG. In fact, one in five is even afraid of some colleagues. Auke de Bruin, Director of Operations at ESG, admits that these are startling results. 'I found the report disturbing. I was also surprised: the percentages are higher than I had been expecting. That is not nice, but it's good that we know this. Now we can do something specific about it. We definitely don't want to sweep it under the carpet. We want to send out a message that we find inappropriate behaviour a very important issue.'
Pressure to perform
The study by Bezemer & Kuiper was in response to the 2010 Employees' Monitor.  This monitor showed that ESG stood out within Wageningen UR when it came to inappropriate behaviour. That is the case in the new monitor for 2012 too: antisocial behaviour is 50 percent more likely within ESG than elsewhere within the organization. It is anyone's guess as to why. Pressure to perform may play a role. 'Academic culture has become more merciless,' thinks researcher Willeke Bezemer. But ESG is not unique in that. Bezemer notes that ESG has a culture of not intervening. 'Every man for himself and God for all. It's strange to see how few people intervene (one in seven) if a colleague behaves inappropriately. That is really quite low. They don't like to get involved in other people's business. Everyone is very focussed on their own work.'
'More of a business culture'
Bezemer says it is striking when considering inappropriate behaviour at ESG that managers are the main culprits. Managers are said to be responsible for two out of three cases of inappropriate behaviour. The directors and MT, a total of ten people, account for a relatively large share. When asked, director De Bruin says this does not match his experience. 'You get difficult discussions and tensions in any organization. But I have never personally seen this getting out of hand and turning into inappropriate behaviour. There is more of a business culture within ESG these days. Managers are focusing more on results. Perhaps that has made staff feel less secure.'
The idea is that courses, coaching and workshops will improve the culture within ESG. The first priority is to get an open discussion about antisocial behaviour. Managers are to get training in social leadership, which will give them a better understanding of the effects of their own behaviour. Bezemer: 'Being aware of it is half the battle.' And De Bruin says that of course this will include the directors as well.