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CERN Ombuds: A new "sounding board"

Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill takes over from Vincent Vuillemin as the CERN Ombuds

After Vincent Vuillemin’s farewell last December, we are happy to introduce Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill, the new CERN Ombuds. Her mission is to help people find their own strategies to overcome issues in the working environment and to support them as needed.

Coming from the Human Resources department and, in particular, from the Diversity office, Sudeshna sees her new function as the CERN Ombuds as a natural evolution of the work she had been doing in her career. Sitting very comfortably in her welcoming office, we discuss her vision for the future.

The Ombuds mission is demanding. Why did you decide to accept the challenge?

Because I really value the role and believe in the need for a function that aims to resolve workplace issues informally and help to prevent them from escalating into more formal grievance procedures. Back in my time as equal opportunities officer, I strongly recommended the creation of an Ombuds office at CERN and I was really happy to see it finally take shape. So, when I was asked to take it over, I accepted the job not only because I believe that I can bring my previous experience in coaching and communication skills to the role but also because I know that it will be very satisfying if I am able to help people and the Organisation in this way.

In what way can the Ombuds help people?

The Ombuds is there for everybody regardless of contractual or hierarchical status. My role is to provide an impartial ear, to listen and to help people to gain a better perspective of the situation they are in and to identify ways in which they themselves can resolve the issues they face. Sometimes, just by verbalising a problem, one can really see aspects that one couldn’t see before. Often, when we are in a difficult situation, we tend to think that there is only one way out of it. Coming to the Ombuds will offer people an opportunity to discuss their problems in a safe environment and to explore different options, or strategies by which to address them. It is up to them to decide on the specific action that suits their situation best and I will provide them with any support they may need. If requested, I can also speak to the other party or facilitate a discussion between them. In all cases, they may count on my treating their situation with total confidentiality and impartiality.

Another aspect of my role is to see whether there are any systemic themes or common situations that I can bring to the attention of the Management, of course in a completely anonymous way.

Working with the same positive and constructive attitude as her predecessor, the new Ombuds has started the year with quite a busy agenda. However, "availability" is a key word for Sudeshna and, therefore, she invites you to contact her by e-mail as soon as a problem arises. "The earlier the better," she says. "For anything that you perceive as a problem, just don’t think that it is too small to come to the Ombuds." So, the Ombuds has changed but not the main messages.