Ombuds' Corner: Between colleagues

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. 


Following a reorganization in their Department, Don* and Sam* found themselves working in the same unit. Given their complementary competencies, they were asked to collaborate on the same project. At the beginning, they both appreciated being able to exchange ideas and progress as they learned to get to grips with their new challenge.

After a few months, Don forgot to forward some urgent information to Sam, who was annoyed as it placed him in an awkward situation. Being unaware of the information caused Sam to make a wrong decision, for which he was criticized by his Management. Not wanting to point the finger at his colleague, he took the blame himself. Nevertheless, unconsciously retaliating, he started to work on his own more and more, sharing less and less information with Don. When Don became aware of the situation, he started to avoid Sam and the gap between them widened to the point where the project ended up in trouble and behind schedule.

At this point, Management called them both in and told them that they must resolve their problems, either by themselves or with the Ombuds. If they failed to do so, the project would be given to another team.

If one of them had come to the Ombuds at an earlier stage, it would have been possible to resolve it this unfortunate misunderstanding very easily. After weeks of bad feelings, strong words from the Management, and the prospect of being removed from the project, it will be difficult to re-establish a good working relationship between them.

* Names and story are purely fictitious.

Contact the Ombuds early!

by Vincent Vuillemin