Ombud's corner: About letting go…

New year, old problems? The best way to start 2015 is by not carrying over any frustration from 2014. Instead, let it go and move forward.


As I blew out the candle to celebrate my first anniversary of my position as the CERN Ombud, I found myself reflecting back over the past year, wondering what I could share with you, and the following recurring situation came to mind…

Often, people come to the Ombud’s office either because they feel mistreated or because they consider themselves to be facing an unfair situation. When this happens, we work through the problems together and identify different options by which to tackle the situation.  Sometimes they ask to be coached through the way in which to go back and deal with the issues themselves; at other times they prefer to address the issue with the other person, in the presence of the Ombud, and request mediation. In both cases, the objective is the same: to ensure that both points of view are understood and to agree on an outcome that improves their working relationship and allows the situation to move forward in a way that is mutually acceptable to both the parties concerned.

However, the agreement that is reached is almost never quite what one or the other wanted at the outset. Understandably, this leads to a certain amount of frustration as both parties feel that they have had to give up a part or all of what they had originally wanted, albeit in favour of an outcome that is an improvement on the situation that had initially led them to seek a solution.

In some of these cases, people come back to the Ombud complaining that, although the solution is indeed working well, they still believe that ‘justice was not done’, they feel hurt and continue to believe that the legitimacy of their own position was not fully acknowledged. For example:

John is a senior technician who has built up a reputation for being ‘the man for the job’ in a certain area of expertise. Eric is his supervisor.

John visits the Ombud’s office because he is unhappy about a decision that Eric took to assign an important and prestigious task to another colleague. John considers this colleague to have less experience than him, and feels that his competence is being questioned.

With the help of the Ombud, the reasons behind this decision are clarified:  Eric explains that he has taken John off that particular project because he wishes to develop the competencies of a junior colleague in that field and needs John’s expertise in another area.

John is assigned a new task, equally prestigious and challenging.

Even though John finds the new task interesting, he still feels frustrated at having been taken off the previous task, and his pride is hurt at not having at least been consulted by Eric before the decision was taken.


These feelings may be undeniable but they are certainly not very helpful to John as they keep him in a negative frame of mind and prevent him from being able to make a clean break away from a stalemate situation and move forward.

All conflicts have two sides to them, and when coming to a resolution, whether individually or with the help of mediation, it is very rare to find a solution that corresponds exactly to what one expects or desires. On the contrary, seeking resolution involves stepping out of one’s own position and trying to find the best solution that is in the mutual interest of both the parties concerned. It involves finding a new path, agreeing on a new way out and ahead. To achieve this, it is best to let go of the old feelings that keep one from fully committing to the new situation and move on to embrace the future. 

So, if you have been through such a conflict situation and agreed on a course of action…then why not just focus on that? Make it your ‘new-year resolution’ to let go of the past and engage fully in making a success of the days ahead!

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

by Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill