On February 14, Ignazio Cassis was the guest of the RTS evening newspaper. Between two questions about his trip to Africa, the presenter challenged the politician on the management of his department. “I take any criticism very seriously,” replies the Federal Councilor. I have a lot of respect for people who have the courage to knock on my door. I have less respect for those who hide behind anonymity and circulate criticisms that cannot be verified in the media. The Confederation’s survey of the quality of employee work shows that everything is better in my department than it was three years ago. There are the facts and the media rumors. I look at the facts more readily. “
The reality, however, is factually less rosy than the Federal Councilor claims. By invoking the law on transparency, which aims to promote access to official documents for information purposes, Time obtained a report which shows that the dissatisfaction of some of the employees with the way to manage the department was documented as early as 2019. By an employee of the FDFA.
“The corporate culture is often characterized by a lack of transparency, fear and a lack of confidence in management”, observes bluntly the doctor Sabine K. Hired in May 2019 to the new post of “occupational doctor of the FDFA” , the practitioner had the task of “supplementing and strengthening the preventive aspects of the existing offer in the field of occupational health management and better meeting the specific needs of employees of the FDFA”.
Six months after taking up her post in the “case management” unit, she submitted an internal report intended to “draw up a provisional assessment in matters of health management at the FDFA”. Constituted on the basis of “more than 120 requests” – two thirds coming from abroad – addressed by employees of the department, this one can only be “incomplete and subjective”, estimates the doctor, in particular in reason for the current study time on which it is based. However, his observations clearly qualify the idea of “media rumor” put forward by Ignazio Cassis to explain the convulsions underway in his department.
“The culture of gossip”
The document first notes a number of fairly common problems in the entrepreneurial world: the culture of “always reachable”, the failure to respect rest times, excessive balances of vacation days – although on the decrease. In general, says Sabine K., preventive measures to protect workers’ health are “rudimentary”. More pungent, the doctor also describes a damaging “culture of gossip”.
The document then dwells on the indirect factors of ill-being within the department. And notes the following: “A loss of confidence of the employees in the structure, managerial gaps and a very high level of stress.” On this last point, the doctor draws up a list of the causes most often stated: “Opaque decisions during the transfer process”, “the replacement of a coherent leadership by circles of power” and “a general lack of support from the institution ”. The most exposed employees regularly complain about these last elements, informs the document, which estimates that “the situation has worsened more and more within the senior executives in recent years and constitutes one of the main causes of the lack of job satisfaction ”.
In frank break with the conclusions put forward by Ignazio Cassis, the internal document is not kind to his department, which has been struggling to deny this kind of accusation for several months even though they had been documented. “Medical confidentiality may have motivated some employees to speak out,” said the doctor in the text. However, the question remains: how to explain such a large gap?
Read the interview:
“She only spoke to those who needed medical advice”
“This report was written by Mrs K. on her own initiative,” emphasizes Tania Cavassini, director of the resources department of the FDFA. Even if I welcome with pleasure any constructive remark that allows us to move forward. As to her conclusions, I would say the following: Mrs K. only dealt with people who needed medical advice. Its report is based on interviews with 120 out of 5500 people. This does not represent the whole of the FDFA. Our satisfaction survey, to which 66% of staff responded, shows that people feel healthy. Our health indicator is the highest in the entire federal government and the number of sick days per year is the lowest. The work-life balance is also widely welcomed in the survey and this value is increasing. ”
Following Dr. K.’s report, measures were taken, specifies the director. “A seminar on stress management set up with Dr K., for which we had very good feedback. A webinar to develop the resilience of teams at headquarters and abroad, which was a great success. And I would add that each embassy has a medical adviser, it should not be forgotten. ”
The action of the latter was also praised by Sabine K., who rather questions the dysfunctions caused by the administration itself. What about that part of the report? “There are the health issues and there is the rest,” says Tania Cavassini. When it comes to criticism about managing stress caused by job transfers, everyone experiences it differently. HR advisers are available to employees for any questions. FDFA employees and their families can also call on a team of external psychologists. ”
Having left shortly after the drafting of this document, Sabine K. declined to comment further on her observations. Contacted by Time, she believes – obviously without regrets – that “this period of her life is behind her”. Due to a lack of applications “although her post has been put up for competition several times”, she was not replaced. “In the meantime, we are working with the HUG during the Covid-19 crisis,” explains Tania Cavassini. And a public health specialist should soon succeed him. ” “His vision of things is always useful to me to manage my department”, assures the HR director, who emphasizes “making sure to cultivate a culture of exchange”.