Ombuds' Corner: A section leader on a limited-duration contract

In this series, the Bulletin aims to explain the role of the Ombuds at CERN by presenting practical examples of misunderstandings that could have been resolved by the Ombuds if he had been contacted earlier. Please note that, in all the situations we present, the names are fictitious and used only to improve clarity.


Bob* has been working at CERN for almost four years on a limited-duration contract. Due to the early retirement of one of his colleagues, he was appointed Section Leader very early in his career, as he was the only one who was able to replace this person. As Section Leader, Bob had to provide annual assessments for several staff members, which he did in a very honest and balanced way.

When staff members were given their results from the MARS exercise, George – one of Bob’s supervisees – accused Bob of not giving him the promotion he deserved. George had been expecting his MARS appraisal to include work that he claims Bob, being under a limited-duration contract, attributed to himself.

Bob was very hesitant to bring the case to his Department or to any official unit at CERN or even to the Ombuds, as he was afraid that this single event would ruin any possibility of his getting a long-term appointment. He then tried to resolve the issue with his supervisee by himself, aggravating the situation as George felt that Bob was trying to sweep the entire issue under the rug.

Convinced that his Section Leader had undermined him, George ended up making a formal appeal. At that time, Bob felt that his career was in danger and finally came to the Ombuds for confidential advice.

Interaction with the Ombuds remains strictly confidential. If Bob had come to the Ombuds as soon as the issue arose, a facilitated discussion could have avoided the cumbersome formal procedure.

* Names and story are purely fictitious.

Contact the Ombuds early!

by Vincent Vuillemin