Confidential counsellor Ton helps people with his life experience: 'Seek help'

Ton Ammerlaan is a confidential advisor for HAN academies - including ATBC -, who helps people deal with undersirable and transgressive behaviour. Using his interesting career background and enormous commitment, Ton knows exactly what he can do in that role. "It's rewarding to help someone regain control instead of feeling like a victim.”

Ton Ammerlaan is vertrouwenspersoon voor ATBC

Some feel that swearing and raising one's voice 'should be allowed', while others experience it as hurtful and transgressive. Feedback can be constructive and part of a healthy work atmosphere, but if you are constantly criticized for everything you do without being able to defend yourself, it is a form of bullying. It is not always easy to assess whether you are dealing with transgressive behavior such as harassment, bullying, threats or aggression. But as soon as you have a suspicion or a gut feeling of 'this is not right', do not hesitate to contact your confidential advisor.

That is the message of Ton Ammerlaan, lecturer in communication at Automotive & Engineering and HAN confidential advisor "Talking to us is safe and can help you quickly. Maybe that behaviour turns out to be not so bad after all or maybe you have to conclude that action is needed. Everything starts with that step of starting the conversation with us. When people bottle up their frustration and the undesirable behaviour continues, things go wrong for them."

Potential undesirable behaviour

As a confidential advisor, Ton is there for students and staff to discuss their concerns about (possible) undesirable behavior. "Listening to the other person and helping them with their options, that is my job. So that someone regains control, instead of feeling like a victim of undesirable behaviour. Our approach to this is always to de-escalate where possible. Preventing things from blowing up unnecessarily. Because often an incident can be resolved simply by having a good conversation about boundaries. And sometimes all that remains is to file a formal complaint."

In addition to this conversational task, a confidential advisor also provides prevention education to students and employees. "About how to prevent undesirable behaviour, for example. And how to start a group discussion about norms and values. We help international students when they encounter cultural or communication problems that they cannot identify, and we advise management teams on matters such as anti-racism and discrimination policy."

Despite the fact that these are quite a lot and important tasks for an organization to be safe, a confidential advisor is not a full-time position. Anyone can basically do it on top of their regular HAN work. "But the role of the confidential advisor is becoming more professional. Recognized training is now mandatory and from January 1, 2024, there will even be a national LVVV exam. So in order to continue performing your function, you must also demonstrate that you are putting in the time and continuing education from the national association of confidential counsellors LVVV. "


'Rules of the game'

Ton takes his role as a counselor very seriously. Since he started three years ago, he has taken all kinds of courses and trainings to develop his knowledge. There is still a lot to learn and train. "Think about advanced conversation techniques, 'real' listening, probing, the legal and ethical 'rules of the game' for confidential counsellors and knowledge of organizational culture, group dynamics and hierarchy."

The most important ground rules for a confidential counselor? "All conversations are, of course, confidential. You should never do anything without someone's explicit instruction. You may think along, help analyze the problem, give information about what help is possible. But the choice to really take action against undesirable behavior always lies with the person himself."

All about Ton

Ton joined HAN 32 years ago. He started as an English teacher, made another foray into IT and is now a teacher of communication at HAN Automotive & Engineering. And HAN confidant, in other words. A role for which his life experience comes in handy. "I was also a psychology researcher in Australia. There the standards were very strict. The supervising professor there was the saint even if she intimidated the students. 'Get used to it' they would say. If you did not do what the professor wanted, you were belittled, bullied, pushed away. I thought that was horrible."

"I also worked in companies where sometimes a 'bully' was the boss. This created a culture of fear. In such an unsafe environment, everyone is making strange moves as a result. And things only get worse because everyone is in fear. People start ducking, hiding behind their own bulkhead or join in on the bullying. They no longer feel responsible for each other, and when there is overt bullying, they no longer intervene."

Ton wants to urge everyone again: be involved with each other. Raise the alarm if something doesn't feel right. "Rather too much, than too little."

Getting in touch
For more information about-and contact information for trust officers at HAN, contact Ton at

Foto David van Haren