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When respect is missing

It’s rare that visitors to the Ombud’s office complain about the outcome of administrative decisions. There are many types of decision that can impact someone’s career, from not awarding a contract or a promotion to rejecting or imposing internal mobility, or a refusal to grant the requested resources. Such decisions are generally expected and mostly understood, even if they’re not always welcome.

Whatever the consequences of the decision and whatever is at stake for the person concerned (family, career, etc.), what drives people to come and talk to me about the experience, which in many cases has hit them hard, is how the decision has been taken and communicated and the lack of respect shown towards them.

The respect that others show us, like esteem, is part of our dignity, so it’s no wonder that we’re so taken aback and upset when it’s missing.

Showing a colleague respect, whatever the decision that’s been taken, demonstrates that you see that colleague as a person and give credit to their intelligence. Everyone is entitled to respect, so it is important that you follow all the steps of the communication process:

  • Prepare and lay the foundations for the decision, allowing time for as much discussion as needed;
  • Explain – and explain again, if necessary – openly and honestly, the reasons for the decision, the process behind it and the criteria that have been taken into account;
  • Provide evidence that a fair and transparent process has been followed; 
  • Show empathy and your ability to put yourself in the person’s shoes and understand what they may be feeling;
  • Help the person to bounce back by giving them all the support you can. This is only fair and recognises their contributions to and investment in the Laboratory;
  • Once you’ve announced the decision, make it clear that the person can come and talk to you at any time to avoid them feeling isolated and disoriented. 

We are always being reminded about the importance of respect but, just as when it comes to trust, leadership, listening, integrity and excellence, what really convinces and inspires us is seeing it in action, with words matched by deeds.

360-degree respect is not only respect between peers but respect between all levels of the hierarchical structure, both bottom-up and top-down, and respect in applying the processes that govern our professional lives.

A lack of respect can have a terrible impact on a colleague at any stage of their career. So let’s get to grips with the problem and make sure that 360-degree respect becomes a reality and not just a worthy ambition.

You will find in the Learning Hub a very useful compilation of  articles, videos and podcasts about respect in the workplace, have a look!

Laure Esteveny

I want to hear from you – feel free to send an e-mail to ombud@cern.ch with any feedback or suggestions for topics you’d like me to address. 
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