Ombud’s Corner: are you being served?

A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation in the cafeteria where a colleague was asked how it was that he was always smiling… his answer was immediate - “That’s easy”, he said, “I work in such a great place – great science, great people, great opportunities…”. Amidst the general laughter and acquiescent nodding that followed, I found myself musing on this response and thinking about all the different services that play their part in achieving the mission that inspired this sentiment.


The list is long, and of course we cannot possibly name them all, but it is still worth sparing a few thoughts, for instance, for some of the services that we may typically encounter in the course of an ordinary day.

It starts with the guards at the gate who contribute to our safety as they check our badges and wave us on, the cleaners who spend their evenings working to provide us with a pristine and welcoming work space, or the repair and removal men who work on their tasks as quietly and discreetly as possible so as to allow us to get on with our own. And finally let’s not forget the cafeteria staff that always has a smile for us in the midst of the hustle and bustle of lunchtime and other much needed breaks!

Of course, we cannot perhaps stop to thank them all every time – that would risk holding up traffic or indeed in some cases hold up their work– but are we aware of their contributions, and do we acknowledge or greet them if on occasion the opportunity should arise?

Then come the (thankfully!) less frequent days when something goes wrong and we reach out to dial 77777 – do we take the time to explain the problem politely and as fully as possible to the front line support so that they can determine the suitable action or relay the message to the appropriate expert, as needed? And then do we trust them to understand the urgency in prioritizing all the demands on their time and refrain from calling back within the hours that follow? How often do we then remember to send off an email to acknowledge the work done?

And what about those not-so-ordinary days when we have the incredible privilege to be invited to talks, workshops and events in the auditoria, the ‘Pas Perdus’, the Globe – with top-of-the-field speakers or showcasing front edge developments – all organized for us on our own doorstep and free of charge? Do we think of the hours of planning and work involved and the inevitable disappointment of the organizers when only a scattering of colleagues turns up? Do we consider their position or indeed the image of the Organization when they are obliged to turn people away and yet the seats remain empty because colleagues who registered do not show up? Do we stop to wonder what impressions of our Organization the speakers take away?

So many questions, revealing so many lost opportunities, often probably based on a mere thoughtlessness on our parts – and my musings lead me to wonder if indeed just a little consideration for others might not make this an even greater place for all?

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All previous Ombud's Corners can be accessed in the Ombud's blog.

by Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill