MARCH 7, 2020


Returning to the Secretariat after the reconstruction work required by the Capital Master Plan a decade ago, staff were scattered in a different new set-up. Instead of an open space and collegiate atmosphere, they are split among kiosks, unable even to see each other before hitting a wall or a glass divider or a door which leads to another one, or maybe to nowhere. This, of course, is how the general staff are assembled. Some higher-ups are put in large offices, though still restricted and with limited visual contact, even with those with whom they are supposed to be dealing directly. While most staff took mini-breaks to visit each other, certain higher-ups hopped around in their own areas to gather with one another or consult about what's going on. That attitude does not help inspire a desired team spirit.

Since the term of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, normal connections with the office on the 38th floor became complicated, presumably for security reasons. Even a cafeteria where staff enjoyed casual healthy connection was dislocated. A direct elevator to the 38th floor was cancelled. All visitors must stop at the 37th floor and buzz, to be welcomed by one or more security officers who will - if permitted - take "follow-up action" like escorting them upstairs. That puts more stress on those who have to be alert to whatever diplomatic officialdom is arriving. It also put more security officials in the position of administrative receptionists. Several delegations consider it quite bothersome if not dismissive. The rest of the staff don't even try to reach out as the distance has grown way beyond floors. There are several other unintended consequences of that decision was that a wise step? Who suggested it?

A new look at the way staff offices were clipped would strengthen the bond among staff, raise morale and promote a keenly desired team spirit.

If there are security considerations, all of us will be fully behind the Secretary General. However, if it is just to maintain an outdated operation, perhaps some effort to explain it to the rest of the staff and diplomats will help the image of the Chief Administrative Officer.