Human resources management in delegation, if not well (better) supervised, can therefore have serious repercussions on individuals (as well as on the delegation’s “performance”). This mismanagement is often combined with a feeling of total abandonment by headquarters and a feeling of loneliness: being far away from Brussels, you will find it very difficult to elicit the slightest compassion and response for your individual case, especially as you are always imagined to be in the position described at the beginning of this article. This leads a number of staff to leave their ‘hell’ (by requesting a reassignment if possible, or even resigning) and plunges other colleagues into states of intense distress/burn-out/stress. In particular, those in precarious situations fear for the continuation of their contract (fixed-term contract not yet renewed, probationary period).
This demonstrates the importance of the position of Head of Administration and the whole ‘administrative’ section in general – in particular the colleagues in charge of accommodation and protocol issues (customs clearance, diplomatic status, entry and residence visas for staff and their families, car plates). However, at present it seems to be regarded as a second-class post. However, the wellbeing of everyone in the delegation, its functioning, and indirectly but obviously the working atmosphere and ultimately the quality of the work done by the delegation depend on it.
To do this, it is necessary to recognise the extreme difficulty of this position, which requires enormous human skills in listening, empathy and flexibility. It is also necessary to demonstrate real strength of character and willingness to seek and find solutions for the good of colleagues and not for convenience. In particular, you have to be able to stand up to any unscrupulous suppliers/owners/service providers as well as to very slow and often corrupt national administrations. The countries we are sent to are often poorly organised institutionally, corruption is rife at all levels and it is always, in a way, the law of the strongest (or at least of the least fearful) that applies (including in court, if you can call it “justice”). It is probably difficult to understand for those who have never left Europe outside of their holidays, but Europe (the West) is a small, sacred island when it comes to respecting the rule of law that are democratically adopted. Elsewhere, this is rarely the case and one must therefore be able to “bang the table” and “stand up” to get things done, or at least not let oneself be “eaten” completely, which few of today’s heads of administration seem capable of doing.
In addition to these indispensable human skills, the head of administration should also have a thorough knowledge of the rules, procedures and the system, to be able to give quick, clear and correct answers to colleagues. And this should be done in a spirit of seeking a solution that responds to the concrete demands/needs/concerns of the colleague and not for convenience.
This kind of post should therefore surely not be reserved for one category of staff but open to all those who are prepared to face such situations and who have the appropriate skills assessed before going on delegation.
Your feedback on this article is welcome so that these experiences are no longer taboo and so that the problem can be tackled head on by realising the difficulties that the staff in delegation can experience.