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?
Over the past two years, the Ombuds has seen double the number of cases involving women staff members compared to those involving men, relative to their populations. Two questions can thus be asked: is that a general phenomenon also seen in other organizations? Or is it related to the under-representation of women, namely is this a common situation in organizations with fewer women than men? If so, the Ombuds should notice different statistics in organizations where the number of women and men is comparable.
Just the word “telecommuter” is enough to make many managers start to sweat. When faced with the prospect of managing an employee they cannot even see, basic managerial knowledge often becomes hazy, resulting in a confusing arrangement for both manager and employee. As more and more of our world revolves around technology and an increasing number of jobs can be executed from an office at home, managers must learn how to adapt their leadership style to cater to both remote employees, and those working in the office.(1)
Mediation is a structured process in which an external party, called a mediator, helps participants generate and evaluate options that would allow them to reach a mutual agreement. It is an informal and confidential process.
“I hope that the Code of Conduct will be a valuable tool in the maintenance and development of a workplace marked by mutual respect and understanding. We should familiarize ourselves with it, and incorporate it into our daily life at CERN.”*
“The Organization does not tolerate harassment, which can result in administrative and/or disciplinary action.”**
In any institution, conflicts are inevitable. They can, however, offer an opportunity for a positive resolution. Relationships in a workplace are generally better and stronger between people who have been able to reach a positive resolution of their disagreement, than they are between people who get along moderately well. However, in disputes involving two antagonistic parties, people often forget that there is actually a third party behind the scenes: the institution.
“True leadership, not to be confused with dictatorship, does not take away an individual's freedom, choice, accountability, or responsibility. Just as the leader is to be serving and taking into account the ideas and needs of those they lead, those following that lead are to be doing the same thing. In doing so, they, along with the leader, practice self-restraint, develop character, integrate discipline, and practice love and respect for other people. This creates a kind of self-leadership at all levels of the group.
“First, leadership is a process that is not specifically a function of the person in charge. Leadership is a function of individual wills and individual needs, and the result of the dynamics of collective will organized to meet those various needs. Second, leadership is a process of adaptation and of evolution; it is a process of dynamic exchange and the interchanges of value. Leadership is deviation from convention. Third, leadership is a process of energy, not structure.
In accordance with the Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association, one of the main values of the Ombuds is his impartiality. In interceding in a misunderstanding or a conflict the Ombuds keeps in mind the interests of both parties as well as the interests of the organization. The Ombuds does not take sides and does not favour one person over another. In resolving a conflict, he is required to contact all parties involved and to treat them equally.