Conflict at work?

The Ombudsperson provides impartial and confidential services that can help EMBL employees to resolve and cope more effectively with difficult situations and conflicts in the workplace.

Even with the very best intentions, our actions may hurt, insult, hinder or even damage rather than help colleagues – the Ombudsperson is on hand to help make sense of difficult situations, and assist in preventing conflicts or resolving them fairly and constructively.

What can EMBL employees expect from the Ombudsperson?

  • Confidential discussions to listen to EMBL employees' concerns or inquiries.
  • Complete impartiality, no matter which party to a difficult situation/conflict makes initial contact.
  • Help in identifying and evaluating EMBL employees' options, and deciding which option makes the most sense for them.
  • Coaching on how to deal with the problem directly.
  • Help with addressing issues that EMBL employees are reluctant to raise within regular channels.
  • Only on request, active involvement in resolving problems and speaking with relevant parties in the organisation in order to do so.
  • Facilitating resolutions to disputes.
  • Acting as a mediator or assisting with identifying a suitable mediator.
  • Alerting management to systemic trends and issues that give rise to conflict.
  • Making recommendations for changes in policy or practice.

Examples of issues that can be brought to the EMBL Ombudsperson:

  • Miscommunication between colleagues
  • Interpersonal, intercultural, and group conflicts
  • Confusion around policies and/or procedures
  • Perceived ethical dilemmas
  • Perceived unfair treatment or bullying

The Ombudsperson will: not take any decisions concerning the case; disclose to anyone that the employee has consulted the Ombuds Office; disclose what has been said, without consent. EMBL employees will remain in control at all stages.

Other useful sources to turn to for advice: immediate supervisors or the Head of section or Unit, Human Resources, the Dean of Graduate Studies and Academic Coordinator (especially for pre- and postdocs), the Staff Association.


Principles applied by the Office


The Ombudsperson is independent in structure, function, and appearance within the organisation.

Neutrality and impartiality

The Ombudsperson, as a designated neutral, remains unaligned and impartial. The Ombudsperson does not engage in any situation that could create a conflict of interest.


The Ombudsperson holds all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, and does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so. The only exception to this privilege of confidentiality is where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm.


The Ombudsperson, as an informal resource, does not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure related to concerns brought to his/her attention.