April 6, 2001

Ombuds office expanding its mission

Fourteen months after his appointment as the Department of Energy’s National Ombudsman, Jeremy Wu says he’s pleased to report his office is growing, along with his mission.

"We have committed leaders in Gen. John Gordon and Spencer Abraham," he said of the NNSA administrator and the Energy secretary respectively.

"Some people said this office would close after seven days," Wu joked, adding that even he was uncertain whether his job would continue following the departure of former Secretary Bill Richardson, who appointed him.
"Both Gordon and Abraham are very supportive of this office. Theirs is a message of inclusiveness."

Today is Wu’s final day in a three-day visit to the Laboratory, in which he met with employees, special interest groups and senior managers. On Wednesday he held a town hall meeting for all employees, in which he gave a progress report on his office.

Wu said he still acts as the "eyes and ears" for the Energy Secretary, as well as the administrator for the National Nuclear Administration. But now his office is growing. Whereas he was a one-man operation during his first visit in March 2000, he now oversees a staff of five.

"We want to serve as the catalyst to building trust and producing positive change to advance a diverse, productive and hospitable workplace," Wu said of his office’s mission and staff. "I see this job as an agent of change. We will look for what actions are needed and what are the solutions."

Wu has spent much of the last year touring the various DOE and NNSA facilities, where "my main job has been to listen." Just as he did during his Lab visit, he has met with various employees, employee groups and managers, held town hall meetings and debriefing sessions with various directors.

The Office of the National Ombudsman was set up to provide a trusted and effective point of contact to promote understanding, resolve concerns, identify systemic problems and measure workplace climate, and produce positive change.

"We do not guarantee a solution, but we will work toward one," Wu promised, adding that in the last year "we’ve had quite a few cases where we found satisfactory solutions."

In the coming year Wu’ s office will focus attention on recruitment and retention, issues that are crucial at every DOE and NNSA facility, he said. He also wants to work closely with the University of California Office of the President. "I would like to form a partnership with education and community organizations to help with recruitment and retention problems."

Wu took a few moments during his town hall meeting to promote the Lab’s upcoming employee survey, which will also address recruitment and retention, along with diversity and various work/life issues. Pointing to various surveys his own office has conducted, Wu said "a high survey response means high credibility. I encourage everyone to fill out this survey…to provide a true measure of the workplace environment."

After a question and answer session, Wu concluded his meeting by challenging employees to act as their own catalysts for change. But he cautioned employees to be patient, because sometimes that change comes over a long period of time. As an example he cited slavery as acceptable centuries ago. It took another century following the Civil War before segregation was abolished and civil rights were established.

"If you look between Monday and Friday, you won’t see a change," he said. "What’s important is ‘are we going in the right direction?’ "