As 2019 gets under way, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a year full of good things:
... a lot of listening: both listening to others and being listened to yourselves;
... understanding: may you and your colleagues have the courage to express yourselves openly and respectfully, making sure you’ve understood each other’s needs;
... kindness: may you and your colleagues assume that each other’s intentions are good, even if they may sometimes be interpreted wrongly;
Tomas* has spent the whole day in meetings with his industrial partners, discussing highly sensitive matters that have required him to be very diplomatic. He’s had to rein in his desire to say what he really thinks and put all his energy into arguing his case in the negotiations.
Julien* was recruited three years ago on a limited-duration contract, and he hopes to apply for an indefinite contract post next year. However, he’s in the midst of a dispute with his supervisor. He’s thought about contacting the Ombud to talk about it, but he’s hesitant and decides to talk to his colleague and friend David*. “Won’t the Ombud want to meet my supervisor afterwards? How independent is he?
It’s now been a year since I took on the role of Ombud at CERN and I’d like to thank all those who’ve come to see me for the trust they’ve placed in me. I hope I’ve been able to help them.
My last article summarised activities in 2017 and I’d now like to share with you the daily routine of my consultations over the last year. A lot of situations come up time and time again and many conflicts have a misunderstanding at their root. Be that as it may, every story’s unique and every consultation’s different, as the following examples show.
I recently presented the 2017 Ombuds Report to the CERN Management, and then to TREF, and I would like to outline the main points for you here. This report covers the work of my predecessor, Sudeshna Datta Cockerill, during the first ten months of the year, as well as the period from 1 November when I took on the role.
Jane* is a discreet administrative assistant who has worked for the same group leader for more than ten years. She has an administrative secretarial background, knows all the ins and outs of CERN administration very well, and has built up a strong network within the Organization. As part of an expansion of the group’s activities, Carlos*, a new administrative assistant and recent business school graduate, has joined the team. He has many ideas about doing things differently, especially more efficiently.
Wednesday, 4 July: it’s summer, the days are long, it’s warm and sunny. Marc, Kevin, Miguel, Nicolas and Thomas1, five colleagues from CERN, decide to go to the Bains des Pâquis in Geneva to relax after work. They head into town on the tram, getting off at Cornavin and continuing their journey on foot. On the way, they encounter a few young women, on their own or in groups, and try their luck with a few compliments to break the ice. When they get to the Bains, they take a table and order the obligatory fondue, washed down with a local white wine.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that respectful behaviour has beneficial effects within organisations; in practice, however, it’s sometimes difficult to make it the norm. All members of the personnel, whatever their hierarchical level or status, expect to be treated with respect in all aspects of life, and particularly when it comes to their work. It’s no secret that employees who work in a respectful environment are more cheerful, loyal, successful, cooperative and creative than those who have to deal with rudeness or bullying all day.
“The best times are when Bjorn* is absent. Only then do we get a break from having to walk on eggshells all the time.”
Bjorn is what we call an abrasive manager. Whenever his predecessor Isabella* thought that her team wasn’t at the top of its game, she analysed the situation, tried to identify the causes of the problem and discussed her ideas with the team members so that they could find solutions together. But Bjorn makes threats, shouts, humiliates, mocks, makes a fuss over nothing and throws his weight around.
An ancient book in the CERN library captivated two scientists. It told of a place at the end of the world, where the sky touched the earth and they would find the answer to all their questions. They decided to take a sabbatical to go in search of it, swearing that they would not return until they had found it.