After thirty-three years at CERN, including three and a half years as Ombuds, I am leaving. During my time of Ombuds I have seen many people for discussions, misunderstandings, difficulties in communication and also conflicts. No institution can live without conflicts. The main thing is not to face conflicts but to be flexible enough to resolve them.
We can all agree that efficiency leads excellent results; this is a cornerstone in research and organisational matters. However, people may not unanimously point to which method of management and leadership is best for achieving such a goal.
Achieving two goals at once is a real challenge in personnel management: on the one hand, a manager must reach the results expected by the institution with the available workforce; and on the other hand, the manager must take care of their collaborators' well-being. Pursuing these dual aims calls for a real potential towards leadership. Why should a line manager care about the well-being of his/her supervisees? Is it not sufficient and satisfactory that the deliverables for which he/she is accountable come in time and within the budget?
For the Open Days, CERN will be transparent for all visitors. It's also the occasion to remember that the Ombuds' door is fully open every day of the year for all persons working for or on behalf of CERN.
On average over the past three years, 3% of CERN staff members have used the Ombuds’ services each year. This is a reasonable figure as no institution can live without conflict. Too many cases would be worrying, as would too few: it would mean that conflicts are swept under the carpet. The question is not really how many conflicts arise, but how many can be and are resolved. Any conflict has a positive side: the opportunity to overcome it. Once a conflict or a misunderstanding has been resolved, the relationship generally ends up stronger as the obstacles have been removed.
“Virtue ethics provides managers and business leaders with an opportunity to ask themselves what kind of people they become through their actions and how their decisions impact the lives of others. It gives them a chance to consider what kind of business environments and cultures they should build, how business goals, policies and procedures foster positive or negative learning in their employees and what kind of societies they contribute to developing through their operations and the products and services they offer.” (1)
Good ethics start with you. It is similar to the CERN Code of Conduct: such a code is not designed to remind us to be in agreement with its values, but rather it is intended to remind us that we should first apply it to ourselves. Why is this in our interest?
Although around a hundred cases a year are reported to the Ombuds, several issues may still not be disclosed due to employee silence*. The deliberate withholding of concerns, escalating misunderstandings or genuine conflicts can impede the global process of learning and development of a better respectful organizational workplace environment, and prevent the detection and correction of acts violating the CERN Code of Conduct.
Most people that seek help from the Ombuds just want that their dispute ended, so they can get back to work in normal, respectful conditions. They clearly express it when I ask them what they want: “I want it to stop!” How should it stop? And who should stop it?