At CERN, every member of the personnel has the right to formally contest an administrative decision by requesting a review or by making an internal appeal. Anyone who feels that they’re a victim of harassment can initiate proceedings with the Harassment Investigation Panel.
Instead of resorting to formal proceedings, however, members of the personnel can seek the Ombud’s assistance to resolve a conflict informally.
How do you choose between the formal and informal approaches?
In an oriental fable, six blind men decide to meet an elephant in order to broaden their horizons. The first rubs up against its side and says: “This elephant is like an unmovable wall!” His neighbour feels a tusk and exclaims: “It’s so smooth and pointy; this animal is surely an impressive weapon!” One by one, the four other blind men discover the other parts of the animal: the ear, the trunk... and each experiences a different reality: a fan, a snake...
Barbara* has accepted a new role in a new service, where she hopes to have more opportunities to use her skills as an analyst. But after her first few days on the job, she’s already disillusioned, because the procedures and spreadsheets she’s taken over from her predecessor are much more complicated than she expected. To make matters worse, there’s no record of the work that’s already been done and her predecessor has left CERN.
Paul* came to see me because he’s not getting along with his colleague: “Ben* is the coordinator of the project I’m working on, but he’s doing it without really consulting any other members of the working group. He seems to work on the project from his office, by e-mails mainly. He does everything on his own and we rarely have working meetings. As someone who is keen on sharing and teamwork, I find this hard to take. I feel trapped, unable to change the situation. I’m even thinking about leaving the project.”
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;
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.