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Director of Natural History Museum quits

Natural History Museum — He cleared his office over the weekend. Monday he announced his resignation. Peter C. Kjærgaard has resigned after massive criticism of his management style.

Peter C. Kjærgaard has resigned from his position as Museum Director at Natural History Museum of Denmark (SNM).

He announced this in a LinkedIn post.

»I have informed the University of Copenhagen that I am today resigning from my position as Director of Natural History Museum of Denmark at the end of June 2024 to take on new tasks,« he writes on LinkedIn and continues:

»I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in this time. Talented and dedicated colleagues have contributed a huge effort in a historical transformation of the museum. A recent international report shows that we have created a world-class museum with top marks on all parameters.«

He refers to the Natural History Museum, which is a unit of the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), tripling its visitor numbers, created critically acclaimed exhibitions, and turning a large annual loss into a profit five years in a row.

»The ambitions have always been sky-high, the goal is well defined, and it is therefore with pleasure and expectation that I am now standing aside,« he writes in the post.

Quits after resistance

The resignation comes in the wake of harsh criticism of the working environment at the Natural History Museum, which drew particular attention to Peter C. Kjærgaard’s management style. To Frihedsbrevet news site, anonymous employees reported that he was a manager who abused his power and »couldn’t care less« about employees’ well-being. More than a quarter of employees said in a 2022 workplace assessment that they did not believe that management takes responsibility for well-being at work and the psychological work environment.

READ ALSO: 26 employees: Toxic working environment at Natural History Museum

Paige Madison, a former postdoc working close to the museum director, told the University Post how Peter C. Kjærgaard gaslighted, micromanaged, and »prioritised his own personal gain over my career and wellbeing.«

READ ALSO: Former postdoc: Director of Natural History Museum abused his power

»How can you forget that your employee sat and cried in your office two weeks ago? I felt gaslighted into thinking that it was me who had not been clear enough in my communication,« Paige Madison said to the University Post in March when she recounted one of the times she had pleaded with Peter C. Kjærgaard to take action in the face of the extreme workload she was experiencing. Several anonymous sources have confirmed Paige Madison’s experience to the University Post.

Cleared his office

After the revelations about a poor working environment, management launched an extraordinary action plan. The plan includes a statement that »all managers have the necessary management training to meets the needs of the organization,« and that there needs to be »100 per cent clarity over who has the mandate to do what, and can make decisions in accordance with the Natural History Museum of Denmark management structure.«

READ ALSO: Dean: We need to work »seriously and with dedication« on the Natural History Museum working environment

In March, the University Post asked Dean at the Faculty of Science Katrine Krogh Andersen whether she still had confidence in Peter C. Kjærgaard as head of the Natural History Museum. She answered:

»I do not deal with or comment on personnel matters in the press. This also applies in relation to Peter C. Kjærgaard.« She also replied that she expected that there would be »serious and dedicated« work on the working environment at the museum.

The University Post has contacted Peter C. Kjærgaard for a comment on the resignation in an interview. Peter C. Kjærgaard had set an autoreply on his email with the message that he is »not in the office.« He subsequently replied however that he has resigned from his position because he has found a new job.

»I look forward to giving an interview at a later date,« he writes.

Anonymous employees at SNM report that Peter C. Kjærgaard cleared his office over the weekend, and that they have not been able to reach him since his resignation, which he announced Monday 22 April.