Jokes, sexism or racism? “You can especially feel the sick work atmosphere”

There was already a #MeToo movement in 2017, which was set up to denounce infringing behaviour. Many discoveries followed, including about The Voice of Holland, about Ajax, about the world of gymnastics and politics and now also about NOS Sport.

There has been a toxic work atmosphere for years where sexual harassment, racism, bullying, and extreme cocky behavior were so normal that they sometimes went unnoticed. In recent months, de Volkskrant has spoken to dozens of employees and former employees of NOS Sport.

But how do you notice that you are working in a place with a toxic work atmosphere? “It’s all about how people interact with each other,” says Inge te Brake of the National Association of Confidential Advisers at RTL Nieuws. “Are there too many jokes and pranks at the expense of others? Is there sexism, discrimination or racism? You can hear, you can see, but above all you feel a sick work atmosphere.”

It is necessary to surrender to this feeling, Te Brake asserts. “An employee should stay close to his feelings. If he’s not feeling good, try to do something about it. Cross-legged behavior at work can get sickening.”

Abdominal pain and sleepless nights

The problem is that as an employee you tend to think about how you can prove something. “But trespassing behavior is about making it reasonable for people to cross borders. That’s a different kind of evidence than we’re used to in criminal law.”

Do you get headaches, stomachaches, and sleepless nights because of situations in the workplace, or just don’t feel good about what’s happening to you? “This is what it must be like if you want to prove that infringing behavior occurred.”

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According to Te Brake, there is still little substantive discussion on the subject, despite interest in the topic. “We’re not in the habit of discussing this with each other. We don’t ask each other how we’re doing in the workplace and if we feel safe in the same workplace. And it will continue as long as there are managers out there who hear about it but do nothing.”

So the question is: why not do anything with it? “There’s a class that’s scared, and a class that doesn’t know how. They’re totally incompetent with the subject. I’m not sure about that. People report to their managers or go to a confidential advisor, but after that message stays.”

deep breath

This is not easy to break. It’s a matter of patience, says T-Break. Management must express its commitment and it must also go through training courses on how to act properly. Managers themselves must be made aware of their role, position and tasks and then also learn how to carry out these tasks. “It takes about three or four years before this transformation takes place in the entire organization.”

Executives must adhere to a kind of zero-tolerance policy. In addition, a secure safety net must be provided. “So we’re just talking about the managerial layer. The employees should also learn how to deal with it; they should also know what this is about.”

This involves a lot of conversations. Speak, speak, speak. “Talk to the employee to see if they’re interested in something. What do you see happening? And we need to do something to get employees to say something about what’s happening to them.”

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Keep talking

Crucial: Keep the conversation open. “Keep talking to employees a few times a year: What do you think the work atmosphere is like here? Then the employees will realize they’re allowed to talk about it, and then they’ll start talking about it.”

Secret advisors are expected to be busy. According to Te Brake, agencies that offer training for confidential advisors have a 50 percent increase in employment. There is also a growing demand for training courses for managers.

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