Ombuds’ corner: Ethics - first speak to yourself

Good ethics start with you. It is similar to the CERN Code of Conduct: such a code is not designed to remind us to be in agreement with its values, but rather it is intended to remind us that we should first apply it to ourselves. Why is this in our interest?


Let us contemplate, for example, someone who does not demonstrate fairness, does not respect differences or offends others. How can such a person sincerely live with oneself? For every one of us it is very important, would that only be for ourselves alone, to create in our mind an environment in which we can live with ourselves according to the highest human values. Certainly integrity, sincerity, openness, empathy and respect are among such values. Let us then try to be crystal clear with ourselves. That way we will behave the same way with others, and respect them as much as we respect ourselves.

As Lao Tzu once said, “When you are content to be simply yourself and do not compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”

For a change, and for fun, let me share with you a Zen tale:

Once upon a time, a shepherd took his flock to the river in order for them to drink some fresh and clean water. When he approached the river, he noticed upstream a man washing up his ears in the flow. “What are you doing?” yelled the shepherd. The man answered: “I just heard some unfair and malicious words which messed my mind up. So I am washing my ears to get rid of them. I do not want to keep them.” “Oh! Thank you for letting me know,” answered the shepherd. “In such conditions I will bring my sheep somewhere else to quench their thirst, as I really do not want them to drink such dirty water.” And he went away.

Clear, is it not? If we want everyone to work in a respectful workplace, we should start by applying elevated ethics to ourselves and act accordingly. As it is quite improbable that we can change the behaviour of other people, the best strategy is for everyone to make a U-turn and take a look at themselves first.

As much as everyone does their best in order to guarantee the success of the Organization - be it scientific, engineering, financial, environmental, safety, human resources, etc. - we should also guarantee mutual respect and good ethics in this Organization by looking first at ourselves, and not waiting for the others to do the same.

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As a reminder, all previous Ombuds corners can be accessed in the Ombuds blog.

by Vincent Vuillemin