Thank you for your post and the shout out. And Oliver, I appreciate where
you are coming from.

Ideally, if HR functions properly (e.g., both legally protects the
interests of the foundation AND caringly relates with employees as real
human beings), then this role should already be fulfilled. In that case, I
would see no need for an ombudsperson.

And that function was previously fulfilled at the Foundation. I know,
because I worked in HR in Learning and Org Dev under Gayle Karen Young and
in collaboration with Joady Lohr, who still occupies her post. We were a
unique team, willing to grapple with tough trade-offs to both protect the
foundation and respect the basic agency and dignity of our people.

When Gayle left, Joady and I did a good job of maintaining for as long as
we could. Joady managed operations like a master and I spent my time with
people, listening to them, building their skills, and helping them find
ways to solve their own problems with my support... problems of process,
strategy, collaboration, decision making, all the way to existential
problems (e.g., the death of a friend, the sick wife, the complicated
marriage). So I speak with some authority when I say that these are a
bright, capable group of people. I know them.

But for a series of reasons that we should no longer focus on, Joady and I
were not able to maintain our previously unique stance with staff. For a
brief moment, in spring of last year, Lila offered me the role of
ombudsperson. It never materialized. I moved to Major Gifts, but that's no
my point. My point is that I came to see the emerging need for the role of
ombudsperson was because HR had been somewhat strip mined of its heart.

Before adding another layer of process and reporting and complexity
structurally, we should more likely try to renew the heart of HR and allow
them to work with Legal in partnership as they had done so well throughout
our entire history.


On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 11:08 AM, Oliver Keyes <> wrote:

> On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 1:38 PM, phoebe ayers <>
> wrote:
> > On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 12:43 PM, Anna Stillwell
> > <> wrote:
> >>  +1 to what Oliver and Vibber said.
> >>
> >> The situation is still delicate, Jimmy.
> >>
> >> Staff are being extremely kind to one another. I was blown away by the
> >> respect and care that staff showed toward *the entire situation
> yesterday *when
> >> we met as a group*.* We were mature, measured, civil, reasonable and
> >> supporting and trusting of one another. Last but not least, we were
> forward
> >> thinking.
> >
> > This is great! I am glad to hear it.
> >
> > One thought. Given that it is a complex situation, with many
> > individual reactions and experiences as Brion points out, I wonder if
> > it would be good for the organization to appoint a temporary, but
> > on-site, omsbud who could listen to staff needs (...and those of
> > contractors, and those working closely with staff).
> >
> > I'm imagining someone who could both be a sounding board outside of
> > current structures, and who could assist any interim ED -- who
> > themselves will likely not have enough to time to do all of this and
> > also run the organization. An omsbud could triage issues: from those
> > requiring changes in process or even Board attention to those that can
> > be dealt with in other ways. And they could provide a place for those
> > who simply want to vent or discuss can do so. Ideally it would be
> > someone respected, empathetic and open, and with channels and
> > influence at a high level, but not someone with too much history at
> > the organization -- especially not recent history.
> >
> > I suggest this because I worry about the emotional load on people at
> > the WMF who others turn to the most -- people who are respected and
> > empathetic and thus have no doubt gotten a lot of extra work to do in
> > listening to their colleagues in recent months. I worry about people
> > who don't feel like they have anyplace to turn.  And I worry that the
> > official structures in place to report areas where change is needed
> > may not be sufficient given large-scale dissatisfaction.
> >
> > I think Jimmy's heart is absolutely in the right place for wanting to
> > listen to staff and I commend him for it, and for doing what many of
> > the other trustees are likely logistically unable to do right now. But
> > even he doesn't have enough time or energy to be at the WMF for a few
> > months, and calmly help facilitate the organizational processing that
> > seems like needs to happen. I think that needs to be a separate,
> > actual position, even if just for a brief period. And ideally, such a
> > position would not get in the way of but rather be able to facilitate
> > and sustain the self-generated group dynamic of support and energy for
> > forward momentum that Anna describes.
> I think this is a fantastic suggestion. We currently have an Employee
> Relations person, but an Ombudsman (who was actually promised to staff
> last year) has yet to appear.
> To perpetuate Anna's pattern of thankfulness, I am very very thankful
> that internally these are issues we have actively begun to discuss:
> both the need for specialist help with recovery (HR has been very good
> at this) and the emotional cost of people taking on the role of "toxin
> handler" without it being in their JD, and without it being recognised
> as real work.
> >
> > -- Phoebe
> >
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Anna Stillwell
Major Gifts Officer
Wikimedia Foundation
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