Ombuds’ corner: the third party, the institution

“The Ombuds shall provide confidential assistance for the informal resolution of interpersonal issues, in the interests of the good functioning of CERN.”*


In any institution, conflicts are inevitable. They can, however, offer an opportunity for a positive resolution. Relationships in a workplace are generally better and stronger between people who have been able to reach a positive resolution of their disagreement, than they are between people who get along moderately well. However, in disputes involving two antagonistic parties, people often forget that there is actually a third party behind the scenes: the institution. It is sometimes surprising to see that even people holding management responsibilities or hierarchical positions in projects fight each other, and completely forget that they are accountable for the good functioning of CERN. Commitment and professionalism are part of the five priority values of CERN, as expressed in its Code of Conduct: “Promote the CERN mission and act in accordance with CERN values. Maintain a professional environment characterized by good working relations and an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.”**

The respect of CERN values and the overall efficiency of work in our institution are directly linked. This point should be kept in mind: disputes – although inevitable – will always mean a loss of efficiency in our various missions, as well as disastrous human costs. Obviously, we should not commit ourselves to any loss of efficiency.

Everyone is accountable to our institution. Of course, conflicts will always be with us and will have to be attended to at the earliest possible moment. However, the interest of CERN itself, accountable to its Member States and to the overall physics community, should never be forgotten in such cases. This is yet another good reason to confer with the Ombuds, if appropriate, before any dispute reaches the level where a loss of work efficiency becomes detrimental to our missions and, even more harmful, where the human costs may be with us for a long time.

* Mandate of the CERN Ombuds
** CERN Code of Conduct

Contact the Ombuds Early!


by Vincent Vuillemin