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.
Felix*: “My supervisor’s becoming more and more aggressive.” This obviously isn’t acceptable, but is it due to an excessive workload, or are there other reasons?
David*: “My hierarchy wants to get rid of me.” In fact, they’re very keen to keep David and simply need to iron out a few issues with him.
Ester*: “My supervisor breaks his promises, makes decisions seemingly at random and is too controlling: it doesn’t inspire confidence.” What steps could you take as a supervisee to improve your relationship?
Michael*: “I’ve just arrived at CERN and one of my colleagues, who’s been here for several years, looks down on me and ignores me.” If that’s the case, you should remember that, whatever your status, respect is one of the key principles of our organisation.
In most of the above examples, the key to solving the conflict lies in communication.
Maria*: “I’m not sure my situation complies with CERN’s rules and principles, but I don’t dare talk to anyone about it.” Although that’s actually the case, my status as Ombud prevents me from taking action. My conversations with Maria stay between the two of us; I give her advice on what she can do and it’s up to her to take the necessary steps to resolve her situation.
Finally, some problems relate to sexist behaviour and sexual harassment of varying degrees of severity. Hostility and, often, abuse of power make communication fraught or even impossible. If you’re a victim of harassment and your attempts to solve the problem have been unsuccessful, come to see me. As a last resort, you can always file a harassment complaint, which will be duly investigated by the Harassment Investigation Panel.
Generally, my role is to ask the questions that lead you to the solution. Indeed, in 80% of cases, you already have the answer but just don’t realise it. I’m here to help you find it, respecting the four basic principles of the Ombud: confidentiality, neutrality, independence and informality.
If you’d like to comment on any of my articles or suggest a topic that I could write about, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at Ombuds@cern.ch.
*Names have been changed