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12.12.18

EPO Trust, Leadership and Commitment

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: “Trust, leadership and commitment” is the latest publication from EPO insiders, who in the absence of free speech and freedom of association for the union/representation are an essential spotlight on EPO abuses

THE FOLLOWING publication was made available yesterday. Here it is in HTML form.


LIFER

11 December 2018

IFLRE

EPOFLIERNo. 45

The EPO-FLIER wants to provide staff with uncensored, independent information at times of social conflict

Trust, leadership and commitment

The president recently announced1 that the Office will run a staff survey in early 2019. That’s good news. The plan is for the survey to measure staff’s level of engagement (commitment). The results, to be published in March 2019, complement the president’s one-to-one meetings with staff members. Regular further staff surveys are planned for the future.

The skills, talents, creativity, innovation, and passion of its people can be the difference between organizations achieving exceptional performance or wallowing in mediocrity. In order to come out on the winning side of this challenge, organizations must connect the dots between trust, leadership, and engagement. Trust is the foundation, leadership is the driver, and engagement is the goal.

Randy Conley2

Trust is the foundation

Randy Conley says that in organisational life, trust simultaneously acts as the bonding agent that holds everything together and the lubricant that keeps things moving smoothly2. According to Will Campbell, trust is like a workplace currency, it is given and received, and convertible into higher productivity and increased staff engagement3.

Unfortunately, Mr Battistelli’s administration destroyed the staff’s trust in their employer4,5. This is not Mr Campinos’ fault, but it leaves him with a herculean task to rebuild it.

How to build trust

According to a global trust survey by PR giant Edelman, employees and executives agree that ‘treating employees well is one of the most important things a company can do to build trust.’”3

Leaders can build trust using “trust boosting” behaviours, such as asking for and receiving feedback openly, admitting mistakes, acting honestly, ethically and legally, and being consistent in word and deed, writes2 Randy Conley. That way, they “cultivate an environment where employees feel safe and want to invest their discretionary effort2.

Further trust-building elements are transparency3, consistent and transparent communication6, the recognition of employee’s contributions6 and providing opportunities for involvement6. Research has also indicated that the leading factor influencing an employee’s engagement is his relationship with his direct manager2.

Trust – where do we stand?

While the president’s one-to-one meetings with staff members may help to build trust, there are currently enormous deficits in many areas.

When the president announces that the Office will focus on quality, for example, COOs, line and team managers pass on the message to their staff that the knowingly7 overambitious and unrealistic production targets set by the Office must be met by all means8. Here, the Office is not consistent in word and deed. The new president recently told the delegations that president and Administrative Council must speak with one voice9. We agree. And we think that this should also apply to the EPO management (COOs, HR, directors and team managers).

Staff members’ contributions are often not recognised. The new career system is a lottery. Not even everyone who has reached his target gets a reward. It’s as if the system was designed to reward the top-producers, punish the under-producers and ignore the vast numbers of colleagues in-between, who work honestly, diligently – and unspectacularly – day in, day out. Can management expect trust to build on such uncertainty?

One of Mr Battistelli’s mantras was that employees need to be pushed to produce more by making them feel uncomfortable. Intimidation became – and still is – a management tool at the EPO. As production and productivity targets rise, increasing numbers of colleagues who fail to reach them are at risk of being classified as “incompetent” and dismissed10. Managers do not always act honestly, ethically and legally under these conditions. Some are using threats to push individuals to increase their output. But if Randy Conley is right2, only employees who feel safe will fully commit themselves to their tasks. Warigon and Bowers11 say that employees managed by intimidation will “not be sufficiently motivated to give their best or walk extra miles.” Staff who experience chronic work stress are at risk of a suffering from a wide spectrum of diseases12. And intimidation techniques are definitely not compatible with the president’s announced13 goal to increase the service quality, since employees whose adrenalin levels are driven up by fear will not be able to focus on their work a prerequisite for delivering high quality intellectual services14.

The legal system has also become a lottery. Staff can neither rely on a fair internal appeal system, nor on the ILO Tribunal to stop abuses of the administration4,15,16.

The uncertainty for the staff has meanwhile spread to the applicants and the public, where it has materialised as legal uncertainty through low quality patents17, and led to a loss of trust18.

The staff representatives are still being obstructed in their communication. The president has only made cosmetic changes19 to the total ban on mass emails from staff representatives introduced by his predecessor. The total blocking of staff union emails is still in place. Staff committees can now send two (2!) mass emails per year, and only when inviting staff to general assemblies. All staff committee papers must still get prior approval from the Office before they are published20. While the average DG1 directorate size is about 70, individuals can send emails to a maximum of 50 persons.

While social dialogue seems to be slowly resuming, there are still deficiencies in transparency and in providing opportunities for involvement to staff committees and staff unions. To name an example, a new circular on performance management, which will enter into force on 1 January 2019, is being prepared in a rather opaque manner21.

How can trust and engagement be improved?

Without knowing the results of the upcoming staff survey, it is already clear from the above that the Office management needs to do much more if it wants to regain the staff’s trust.

But there is more. The survey provider says that engaged staff “believe in where we’re going” and are “proud to work at the EPO1. For staff to believe in where we are going, management must first indicate where it wants to go. The president needs to define a clear and transparent overall Office strategy, and the individual staff members must know their role in that strategy. They must also be able to rely on their management to stick to the strategy it has defined. For staff to be proud to work at the Office, they must identify with its mission and feel valued for their contribution.

For staff to be engaged, they need to trust their management and their organisation. And for that trust to emerge and grow, there must be a high level of certainty for them. That certainty can only be provided by fair rules and a reliable justice system which staff experience as fair.

After eight years of destructive management, the EPO workforce is exhausted. Staff are thirsty for genuine leadership whose cornerstones are honesty, consistency and fairness. Their hopes for swift improvements must not be disappointed. If the president wants to energise the staff, meeting them face-to-face for 15 minutes alone won’t do the trick. Concrete actions are required.

Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business. It’s as simple as that.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group22

www.epostaff4rights.org

1 Communiqué “Update on the planned staff engagement survey” (28.11.2018)

3 Why Trust Is The Core Of Employee Engagement (Will Campbell, 22.11.2015)

4 Destroying trust – for a long time. (SUEPO The Hague, 05.03.2018, monthly password required)

5 EPO FLIER No. 36 “Trust is broken & quality in decline” (16.03.2018)

7 Patent quality has fallen, confirm Euro examiners (Kieren McCarthy, The Register, 15.03.2018)

8 An example are two recent and rather contradictory messages from one of our COOs. One of them addresses her staff, requesting them to improve the quality of patent grants, the other one was sent to her directors and team managers, pushing for higher production. See “New EPO messages reveal quality decline and ‘confuse’ staff“ (Barney Dixon, IPPro Patents, 4.10.2018), “Act Now? –YES, please!” (SUEPO Munich, 8.10.2018, password needed)

9 Report on the 121st meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee (CSC, 31.10.2018)

10 Which recently happened: EPO dismisses employee under new controversial ‘incompetence’ provisions(Barney Dixon, IPPro Patents, 06.09.2018)

11 Why management-by-intimidation can never work long-term in IT (Scott Robinson, Tech Decision Maker, 18.12.2011)

12 Such as burnout, heart disease, diabetes, and infectious diseases as the immune system becomes compromised; see Burnout Prevention and Treatment (helpguide.org), the Whitehall study, and What ails us? – Or: what the Whitehall study tells us about the relationship between work and health (CSC, 14.11.2005, password needed)

13 Communiqué “Moving forward with quality” (8.10.2018) and EPO FLIER No. 41 “The Price of Quality” (15.10.2018)

14 ”Impact of Management by Intimidation on Human Capital: is it destroying you organisation?” (Slemo D. Warigon, Betsy Bowers, see College & University Auditor, Vol. 50, No. 2 / SUMMER 2006, pages 5-10)

15 EPO FLIER No. 38 “The ILO Tribunal – Is it still worthy of our trust?“ (12.06.2018)

16 EPO FLIER No. 42 “Status of EPO disciplinary cases” (7.11.2018)

17 EPO FLIER No. 39 “Reputation and patent quality after eight years of Battistelli: ruined” (26.06.2018)

18 The EPO’s Vision (V) – Trust (Thorsten Bausch, Kluwer Patent Blog, 31.03.2018)

19 EPO partially ends staff rep email ban (Barney Dixon, IPPro Patents, 13.11.2018)

20 In February 2018 the Office refused permission to publish a CSC paper it didn’t like: EPO staff committee argues against publication review (Barney Dixon, IPPro Patents, 14.03.2018)

21 At a staff general assembly on 15.11.2018, called by LSCTH, staff were informed that minutes of a recent working group meeting were not taken since the matter was considered “highly confidential” by HR management.

22 Virgin Group Ltd. controls more than 400 companies with approximately 71,000 employees.

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