For decades people have been extremely critical about the level of expertise in the workplace in the Netherlands.
Job tasks are increasingly more challenging, yet their actual value is decreasing.
The expertise, motivation, and experience of those employees who are doing the "real work" is being undervalued and underutilized. The fact that these issues are being neglected is having serious negative implications for the Netherlands. This has resulted in disillusion and dissatisfaction at work. This is particularly evident in the public and semi-public sectors in areas such as security, education, health care, welfare, and policy. The respect for-- and self-respect of-- employees is being undermined as they are constantly bombarded with permanent reorganizations, economies of scale, and regulations. At the workplace this is reflected in lack of motivation, mediocre levels of performance, and a large turnover of staff, while the clients themselves become disappointed and dissatisfied. This finally manifests itself in predictable calls of "The customer comes first." However, putting the customer first and ignoring the workers' concerns is not the solution. Professions and businesses that are exposed to the harsh realities of the marketplace frequently no longer deliver quality. A more general cultural problem seems to have arisen. In fact, professional groups that have always had a high degree of professional ethos, such as lawyers and accountants, now also seem to be in an increasing state of confusion. This cultural erosion has had a significant impact not only on the public and semi-public sectors, but on the free market sector as well. It is not surprising that the position of the Netherlands in international rankings has plummeted in the last few years. Whether it is a case of power struggles, the presence of corruption, or lack of trust in the government, money alone will not solve this problem.
The time is ripe for the revival of a sense of professional honor and pride on a variety of levels. Having a sense of pride means that a person strives to deliver quality and in so doing receives recognition from others. Individuals then place high demands on themselves and how they operate, in order to ensure that both they and those around them recognize what they have achieved. These demands are embedded in self-respect and a sense of pride in one's work. Professionals must be given a wide range of opportunities and must make the most of these to bind themselves to their profession, in order to work to their highest capacity. Intellectual activity, cultural values, and ethics are becoming increasingly important in contemporary society. When employees learn to work to their full potential and are able to air their views in a safe environment where people listen with full attention, ambition flourishes. People then want to take personal responsibility for achieving their ambitions and synergy with others is created.
Much will have to change to make this possible. Let managers become service-oriented leaders. Let us rediscover the honest cycle of quality and enjoyment in one's work. Let us give the professionals the courage to stand up for what inspires them. Let us encourage professional groups to focus on quality and honor in what they do, and make them strong and efficient from within. Let us talk to each other about what can be improved and what can be done differently, about what we really want. Let us encourage each other to achieve our respective goals. Let us clean up the barrage of demoralizing practices: the constant obvious doubts as to the work ethic; quality of work that is solely measured in terms of efficiency; constant reorganizations; changes to the political system without any input from professionals; proliferation of regulations, procedures, and forms that take time away from the real work; the swelling ranks of highly paid managers, coordinators, and directors; the aim of creating as many standardized employees as possible; and, finally, a lack of mutual respect and trust.
The turnaround that is proposed here can only be successful if politicians, directors, managers, and professionals have the courage to make the revival of honor and pride in one's work a top priority in the Netherlands.