Minister Dennis Wiersma has sometimes been too sharp, too fierce and too demanding towards his officials. He said this before the start of the cabinet meeting in response to a piece in De Telegraaf.
De Telegraaf has spoken with officials from the Ministry of Education. They would have told the newspaper that the minister “regularly went crazy and that he could ignite in frenzy”. A number of officials would have resigned for that reason.
The VVD member has been Minister for Primary and Secondary Education since the beginning of last year. In retrospect, he feels that his behavior in the first period of his ministry was not good. “I ask a lot of people and sometimes put pressure on them. I realized what that does to people and I started working on it.”
Wiersma acknowledges that he “by definition always has to set a good example and that his words as a minister sometimes hit harder than as Dennis”. In his own words, he thinks it is bad when people at the ministry sometimes feel that they cannot say what they want. He has now talked to many at the ministry about his style and is “doing his best every day” to change it.
Wiersma said he already realized the impact of his style in the first months of his ministry. But the reports about transgressive behavior in De Wereld Draait Door were an “extra wake-up call” for him. The minister blames himself for sometimes crossing people’s boundaries.
Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf of Education considers it very important that organizations have a safe environment. He regrets that it was not there for everyone at the ministry. Dijkgraaf said that “intensive talks were held with Wiersma about the signals” and that he did so himself. According to Dijkgraaf, Wiersma was open to the signals and his behavior has since changed. “In doing so, he shows that you can also learn from your mistakes as a minister,” Dijkgraaf added.
A spokesman for the VVD in the House of Representatives does not call Wiersma’s behavior attractive. “But it is good that he acknowledges this himself and talks about it with employees.”
According to Prime Minister Rutte, Wiersma is “very shocked” and has realized that he sometimes “reacts too fiercely and harshly” to his officials and that this is not possible. The two had a conversation about this. Rutte does not want to say what he said as a manager. But he thinks Wiersma did the right thing by talking to employees.
“That he corrects himself is very important,” the prime minister said of the “painful issue”. He added that he still fully supports his choice to appoint his fellow party member as minister in his fourth cabinet.
Incidentally, Rutte acknowledged in his weekly press conference that he himself sometimes gets out of hand. “What I sometimes have, and luckily I have that under control, is that when the pressure is on I can be angry. And then I always immediately say ‘sorry’, because I think it’s inappropriate for you to do that. But it happens occasionally with me, that is known. Also against civil servants, and then I think it is important to rectify that immediately. “
Research on manners
Apart from Wiersma, an external investigation was carried out after signals of undesirable behavior at the ministry. That was completed in January. According to the ministry, undesirable behavior has indeed come to light, “but not to such an extent that there were grounds for employment law consequences”. The ministry declined to go into details.