Have been involved in most humanitarian emergencies since I started this job, back in 1994, with a break of the last four years when I took a sabbatical, and worked for three years in our headquarters.
For eight years, I lead an intervention team, which went into any humanitarian emergency operation way before anyone else was allowed in, as we had to install the technical infrastructure ensuring the safety of the other staff.
As a manager, I have always taken the responsibility for the safety and well-being of my staff seriously. No matter what the rules, procedures and regulations were, I have always put the mark higher for my own staff. I have publicly questioned existing rules where I found them lacking. I have opened many a can of worms where I felt "the system" was inadequate to deal with safety. I have taken difficult decisions which did not always make me popular. Sometimes amongst the staff involved, sometimes amongst management. Over the years, I earned the reputation of being a pain in the ass.
Let me get the record straight: I *am* a pain in the ass. I would not like to be my own supervisor, as I am very difficult to be managed. But I have always found pride in the fact that - taking away my un-orthodox ways of working - people deep down inside realize at one point or the other, that I was right.
Now that, once more, I am leading a team in an emergency operation, many past experiences come back to me. Including the feeling of "these people must think I am a pain in the ass". Particularly concerning staff safety.
All too many times, as managers, people think of staff safety in the context of the political situations. In context of cost to implement the security measure. In context of the operational impact, when implementing strict security rules. But in all of this complexity, some questions continuously come back to me:
Would Pero still be alive if I had spoken up more openly about the obvious insecurity in West-Timor? Would Magda still be alive if I had spoken up more openly about the obvious decreased security in Baghdad?
Since those days, I leave no stone unturned unless if I can say to myself "I did all I could".
That does not make me very popular. But I don't care. I have to live with my conscience. Staff safety and security is not a responsibility of "a system", but also for each individual manager. And they should take that responsibility personal.
Picture courtesy AnneMarie VanDenBerg