Ombuds’ corner: A simple confidential discussion can help

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.


No story this week, for a change! But I would like to convey to everyone a simple message: whatever issues you are facing, the Ombuds is here to listen to you; the Office is open for you. From time to time I hear that someone had to leave his/her workplace due to an overwhelming stress or even a depression. To get to such a point takes time and I always wonder if these people have actually looked for help, and if not maybe this increased their isolation. At CERN, several Services are available to give valuable help, including the Ombuds. It is unfortunate that these people have not at least tried this Office, as this action would have been quite common.

A simple discussion sometimes allows the visitor to be heard and to tell his/her story while being certain that it will be kept confidential. This can help a lot of people: they feel that someone, totally neutral and independent in the Organization, has heard them. It is a positive way for people to release pressure. So, the Ombuds is also here simply listen to you - you do not need to come only in the case of an interpersonal dispute. You will not be the only ones doing so, as the statistics from the first year of the Ombuds service shows that in more than 70% of cases, visitors came to the Ombuds solely for a discussion or to look for advice or coaching that would allow them to handle a situation by themselves. In all cases, these people left the Office more confident in themselves and more empowered to face their problems.

The division of the different categories
of “actions” taken by the Ombuds.

It is obvious from the graph that the most frequent methods of help from the Ombuds are related to simple discussions or giving advice. Most of the time the visitor knows what he/she would like to accomplish but may not be confident enough to decide how to go about it. Exchanging possibilities – the Ombuds does not influence people but helps them to get their ideas and plans in order - allows the visitor to take his/her final decision.

Never believe that your case is too trivial, just come to the Office. As seen in the first year results, most people simply want to bring their concerns to the Ombuds, be heard with empathy, and be comforted that there are ways they can take to handle their situation themselves. The Ombuds will also direct you to other Services where you can get professional help if you need it. Do not stay isolated. Build a network of support before it is too late.


Contact the Ombuds Early!


by Vincent Vuillemin