Like my predecessors, Vincent and Sudeshna, to whom I wish to pay tribute, I would like to share my thoughts with you in Ombud’s Corner. This first article will be a chance for you to get to know me and a chance for me to remind you of the framework in which the Ombud operates.
First of all, I am deeply honoured that CERN’s Director-General has entrusted me with this sensitive role, which I will hold for the next four years.
When the news of my appointment first began to spread, a lot of people came to congratulate me. Some, however, seemed uncertain as to whether congratulations or pity were in order! I can assure you that I was very keen to take on this role, having expressed my interest as soon as I found out that Sudeshna would be leaving the Organization.
The importance of human relationships, especially in the work place, is something in which I have always been profoundly interested. Each and every person working in an organisation brings to the party their own unique skill-set and personal commitment. I have noticed that it often doesn’t take much to make employees feel appreciated and motivated or, conversely, to dampen their enthusiasm. In undertaking this job, I am entering into the heart of workplace relationship dynamics.
As you will have realised, I have worked primarily in the field of human resources, first in the private sector, mainly in Belgium, and, since 2001, at CERN. I led the Compensation and Benefit section here for seven years, and was then technical coordinator of the 2010 five-yearly review for two years. Following this, I worked in the Learning and Development Group for a year and, from 2011 onwards, in the Recruitment unit.
Although the role of Ombud is something altogether different, I believe that my experience and range of roles in Human Resources have prepared me very well for it.
In what framework does the Ombud operate?
As you all know, the Ombud exists to provide informal support to anyone at CERN who finds themselves in a conflict situation.
What does that mean? Firstly, it means that when you come to see the Ombud, you are entering a safe space: what is said between you and me will remain absolutely confidential and will not leave the four walls of my office. So when you enter my office, you can lay down your weapons and take off your armour, because the more open you are, the more effectively we can work together to define the situation and the possible ways to resolve it.
It is important to realise that the Ombud is an entirely independent role. I answer to no department and have no particular interest to defend, except for ensuring that CERN remains a place of mutual respect, where conflicts can be resolved quickly and fairly for all. No one can exert pressure on me. With your agreement, I can approach any person in the Organization, whatever his or her status or role. As I will reach retirement age and leave the Organization when my term is up, I do not need to worry about what I might face if I had to rejoin a department.
Finally, the unique nature of my role also lies in its informality. When you come to see me, there is no procedure to follow, no time frame to respect and no report to write. This lack of formality means that we can solve problems flexibly and often quickly.
In a future article, I will explain how a discussion with me will work and how I can help you.