Ombuds' Corner: Supervisor and supervisee

Starting with this issue, the Bulletin introduces a new series of articles aiming to better explain the role of the Ombuds at CERN. We will publish practical examples of situations of potential misunderstanding 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 imaginary and used only to improve clarity.


John* and his supervisor Pat* have been working together for about four years, during which time they have had several disagreements and a few real explosions. They usually avoid each other for some time after each incident until things calm down again.

During a meeting between them concerning objectives, the latent tension between them resulted in a fight during which John told Pat that she was mobbing him. Pat ended the meeting by throwing John out of her office. She said that she was no longer prepared to talk to him alone. John asked the Ombuds to facilitate the situation.

When contacted by the Ombuds, Pat refused and said that she could handle the situation by herself, as always. In addition, she no longer wanted any one-to-one discussion with her staff members. John then bypassed Pat and talked to her supervisor Bill*, who said that Pat should discuss the matter with the Ombuds and John. Bill also remarked to Pat that it would probably be useless, but that it was politically correct to do so.

Pat then called the Ombuds saying that any discussion would be worthless.


The earlier that problems are dealt with, the easier it is to agree on a positive means of resolving them. If any of the people concerned had come to the Ombuds after the first clashes, they could still have reached a workable agreement. But at this stage, the conflict has almost reached the stage of no-return

* Names and story are purely imaginary.

Contact the Ombuds early!

by Vincent Vuillemin