Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states

Скачать 84.27 Kb.
НазваниеComing in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states
Размер84.27 Kb.
  1   2


Carolyn Ban, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Pittsburgh

Paper presented at conference on EU public administration, Brussels, December 10-11, 2009 [forthcoming, with revisions, as « Intégrer la "maison" communautaire. L'arrivée au sein de la Commission des directeurs issus des nouveaux Etats membres, » Revue française d’administration publique, 2010.


Carolyn Ban, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Pittsburgh1

En s’intéressant globalement à ce qui constitue l’univers des Euro-fonctionnaires, on s’arrêtera sur la catégorie ‘maison’ qu’utilise les fonctionnaires pour définir leurs appartenances collectives…Les fonctionnaires y font référence à plusieurs titres, en donnant à ce terme une dimension topographique d’une part, identificatoire de l’autre. Cette catégorie pose la Commission comme un ensemble doté d’une cohérence relative et de limites externes et internes… »2


Much has changed in the European Commission since 1993, when Abélès and his colleagues conducted their anthropological study. But the use of the term “house” (more often in English now than then) is still a dominant metaphor for the Commission, used frequently both by those who have spent their entire career inside the Commission and by those who have recently arrived. It is used to refer to the Commission as a whole, but sometimes to the specific Directorate General in which the person is employed, especially when the individual is speaking about the mores, customs, or way of making policy within the organization. In short, the house has a formal structure (both literally and organizationally) but also quite a defined culture and way of doing things, and the challenge for those coming in to the house is to learn how to work effectively within both the structure and culture. But what it means to work effectively depends on several factors, starting with rank.

I have written elsewhere about the process of hiring and socialization of new staff coming in at entry level.3 The goal of those coming in at that level is to fit in, to master the technical aspects of the job as well as the unwritten norms, and to be accepted and respected, and for the most part they are succeeding in meeting those goals. They come in with backgrounds quite similar to those of new staff from the EU-15 countries, they go through the rigorous process of the competition, and the Commission has formal systems in place to train them and informal systems to socialize them into the mores of the Commission.

The entry of senior managers is a greater challenge, both for the individuals and for the organization itself. In understanding why, it is helpful to look at two contrasting bodies of literature. Many studies of socialization focus on the series of steps that an individual needs to go through to integrate fully into the organization.4 This assumes that the organization has a relatively stable structure, mission, and culture, and that the task is to help the individual to adjust to the organization, a perspective that fits well the challenge for new staff at entry level. In contrast, the management literature includes both theoretical and empirical work on the selection of leaders (usually top leaders) and on the strategic choice of whether to hire new leaders from outside the organization or to select leaders from within. That literature focuses on new leaders as a force for change. Thus several studies have supported the hypothesis that organizations facing difficulties are likely to turn to outside leadership specifically so that they would help to turn the organization in a new direction.5 One private-sector study concluded that, in fact, “firms have a greater likelihood of experiencing significant changes in strategy when they choose successors from outside the organization.”6 Further studies have attempted to assess the relative impact of internal or external leadership succession on organizational performance. One study of school administrators found a short-term negative effect of external succession but a long-term positive effect of new leadership, whether internal or external.7

The case of the European Commission differs from this model in that the decision to hire thousands of new staff from the new member states, and to bring people directly into management positions, was not driven by an organizational imperative but rather by a political one – the need to honor the core value of representative bureaucracy8 that the staff of the Commission should reflect the citizenry of the European Union as a whole. Thus, as with past enlargements, the Staff Regulations were temporarily suspended while special competitions were run to meet specific hiring targets. Figure 1, below, presents the targets and numbers hired to date at the level of director or higher.














The core questions of my research reflects this history. The European Commission did not have an explicit goal of driving organizational change by bringing in newcomers. One might say it was quite the contrary. The majority of senior managers have traditionally come up from within the organization, with the exceptions of those entering in previous enlargement or through “parachutage,” often after service in a cabinet.9 To what extent is this extremely formalized and complex bureaucratic environment welcoming to newcomers at senior levels? Are those newcomers’ individual goals, like those of the younger generation, to fit in, or do they expect to be able to use their considerable experience to bring change to the organization? And to what extent can they succeed in being a force for change within their immediate environments or within the house as a whole? In addressing those questions, I focus first on the backgrounds of the new managers and the process followed in recruiting and selecting them.10 I then examine the socialization process as it functions at this level and the challenges they have faced on entry. Finally, I make some preliminary predictions about their eventual impact on the organization.


This paper uses data from an on-going study of the impact of enlargement on the organizational culture and management of the European Commission.11 A total of 95 interviews were conducted from 2006 through 2009 with staff at all levels and also with senior staff in DG Personnel and Administration and the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). In addition, I interviewed 90 people (some of them in group interviews) in six of the new member states in 2007.

Focusing on three DGs (Environment, Regional Policy, and Single Market and Services) that differed in terms of mission, function, and traditional language usage was an excellent strategy for studying organizational culture and the arrival of entry level staff from the new member states but presented challenges I had not anticipated in studying the newly arriving managers. First, hiring of managers lagged behind entry level hiring, so when I conducted the majority of interviews, in 2006-2007, few had yet arrived. And second, I had not realized how few mid-level and senior managers from the new member states would actually come in to each DG. So even if I interviewed them all, there were too few to study, and it was impossible to say anything specific about their experiences while protecting confidentiality. Thus, I needed to go outside my original three DGs to gain a broader picture of the challenges faced by managers. In a first step, in 2009, I conducted additional interviews with directors or deputy directors general from other DGs who came in as a result of the enlargement, selected at random from a list of all the senior newcomers provided by DG Personnel and Administration, resulting in a total sample of new directors or deputy directors general of 12, or slightly over 25 percent of the total. In addition, I interviewed three more directors or deputy directors general from EU-15 countries, resulting in a total for this group of 9. I plan to return in 2010 to conduct additional interviews with new heads of unit so that, in future analyses, I can draw comparisons between their entry experiences and those of directors.

Of course, results from qualitative analysis cannot be generalized to all members of a group, in this case, new directors. They do provide, however, a nuanced view of the range of backgrounds and of entry experiences among this group. WHO APPLIES? BACKGROUNDS OF NEW MANAGERS

As I have discussed elsewhere,12 the backgrounds of new staff who enter at the typical entry level (mostly at AD-5) look very much like those who come from the old member states: their studies often prepared them for a career in European law, economics, or politics; most have studied or worked abroad; and they are fluent in several languages. In contrast, at the level of the director, the educational backgrounds and career experiences of those entering from the outside from the CEE countries differs significantly from those of directors from EU-15 countries, mostl of whom started their careers while fairly young and worked their way up the organization. These differences reflect, first, the conscious policy of the Commission, and, second, the history of the new member states, which marked the new entrants in sometimes dramatic ways.

The Commission made two strategic decisions as it planned for hiring new managers. First, as one staff person at DG Personnel and Administration (Admin), reported:

We lowered… the number of years of experience required, because otherwise we would have excluded everybody except for the old Communists. All the young people would have been too young to apply… So it’s perfectly possible to come in in your mid 30s.

For directors, the new requirement for directors and above was for 12 years of professional experience and at least five years of senior management experience. In the past, when hiring externally at this level, the requirement had been for 15 years of experience, with five years of management experience. In fact, most directors are in their mid to late 40s or 50s, so new directors in their 30s are quite unusual. My observations are corroborated by the findings of an external evaluation of the process of selecting and recruiting new staff from the EU-10 countries published in 2006.13 Based on survey results, the study reports that the average age of new directors was 40, with a range from 34 to 62.

At the same time, the Commission intensified its focus on diversity and is widely seen as having used the enlargement to correct its gender imbalance, a fact well-recognized and not always appreciated by men in the new member states whom I interviewed. One result of these two changes is that the Commission had, for the first time, to respond to a request for parental leave by a relatively new director. As a person involved told me, “They never had a director who was pregnant because historically 99% were men or post-menopausal women.”

In educational background, the new directors are not dramatically different from the EU-15 directors I interviewed, although the have a somewhat wider range of degrees, including science and engineering (the latter a very common degree under Communism, not only because it was officially encouraged but also because it was seen as politically “safe”). But their careers reflect the turmoil in their countries as a result of the transition out of Communism. Most of the EU-15 directors had relatively straight-forward careers, with some coming immediately to the Commission as their first job and moving up the ranks and others starting in academia, government, or business and coming to the Commission quite young. Of the nine I interviewed, only three came directly into management (one as a director in a previous enlargement). In contrast, only two of the people I interviewed from the new member states had straight-line careers (both in diplomacy or trade). Virtually all the others have had lives that the French would call “mouvementé,” that is, eventful, sometimes difficult, and marked by abrupt transitions.

Giving specific examples here is difficult without violating confidentiality, but several left their country and worked abroad, in business or in international organizations. One person with a particularly varied career path was at one point blacklisted by the Communist government in his country and moved from academia to setting up a private enterprise to local and then central government and worked abroad in the developing world as well as in several east European countries. Another, from a Baltic country described the abrupt and dramatic transition:

There was a collapse of the country in ’91. In one night, it was announced that there is no more Moscow supervision anymore. That everything is ours and we have to take over and all the assets, [and manage the enterprise]… I still went to Moscow to get back money which they owed us. Otherwise, we would not have anything for the six months. And we lived through the process of deflation, inflation, defaults, whatever, but my enterprise was in good shape.

Like many others, especially in the new Baltic republics, this person was thrust into a senior management role at a very young age.

The Research voor Beleid study cited above does not capture the complexity of these directors’ careers, but it shows interesting trends. First, directors were much more likely than young officials or heads of unit to have had government experience in their countries. Second, “most of the recruited senior managers already had international experience (75% of the recruited senior managers already worked abroad before they entered the Commission).”14

In sum, many of the senior managers come with wide-ranging experiences, whether living through the transition in their home country, working for the private sector, or for an international organization. What many of them articulated was that they were, as a result, adaptable and often creative in dealing with new situations and that they brought diverse perspectives into the organization. One of them explicitly contrasted their career trajectories with those typical in countries with a formalized path of elite reproduction:

You can see [the contrast from] the countries with the stabilized structures like ENA. You know, you go to ENA, you go to LSE, you go to Oxford, Cambridge. I was born as a manager because I was forced – I did myself, happy to do new things or to develop them. So, I learned about coaching because I did coaching. I learned about financial management because I was asked to simply manage the books….I did the first public relations campaign because I did campaign myself. I mean, those things you have learned because I made them myself. So, of course you can say that my life was crazy because I had so many jobs and I can share my CV with three people and I think each one of them would be happy. But I think this is also the way the Commission goes – a completely new experience from this part of Europe. People with different – I don’t like to say we are better or worse, but it’s just different.


The European institutions all use a system of open competition for hiring at all levels. At entry levels, and for most middle manager competitions, that process is managed centrally by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). But for senior managers, each institution manages its own staffing process. Within the European Commission, the process is complex and slow. Figure 1 (in the appendix) details the many steps involved.

An explanation of terms and of the steps of the process is necessary. First, unlike staffing at lower levels, at the director level the process is a search conducted for a specific position. Thus the first steps are for each DG to identify vacant positions, or, in some cases, to create new positions, and then to draft a specific notice of a vacancy, which is reviewed by the relevant unit in DG Personnel and Administration (DG ADMIN). The position is then advertised, and initial review of candidates based on their written application (the preselection process) takes place within the specific DG where the vacancy is located (the portfolio DG), resulting in a short list that DG ADMIN must review and approve. Several of those interviewed reported having an interview with the relevant Director General as a part of that initial process, and some saw that step as crucial, since they felt that absent a positive rapport with the Director General, they were unlikely to win the position. Those on the short list then go through an assessment center exercise to evaluate their management and decision-making capabilities.

The formal review is managed by the Consultative Committee on Appointments (CCA), also referred to in French as the Comité consultatif de nominations (CCN). In typical Commission style, the two acronyms are used interchangeably, sometimes on the same web page. The CCA reviews all candidates against a competency framework[footnote to interview with Emer] to assess their management skills. The assessment center results are considered as one element by the CCN members. The CCN is supported by CCNProc (the CCN Procedures unit, within DG Administration. A key player in the process is the Permanent Rapporteur to the CCN, a director at DG ADMIN who participates in the reviews of all candidates, aided by a team of 20 to 25 rapporteurs who are senior managers within the Commission who work on a rotating basis on specific committees. The committee is chaired by the Secretary General of the Commission for Directors General or by the Director General of DG ADMIN for directors, and includes the head of the cabinet for the Vice President for Administrative Affairs. The head of the cabinet for the relevant DG and an external expert on human resources also participate. And, for Director General level appointments, the head of the cabinet of the President of the Commission is also present. Finally, the finalist is interviewed by the relevant Commissioner, who must give the final approval.

Challenges in the process

The first challenge is simply that of time. It is typical for the entire process to take up to a year, and that is a source of frustration for both the applicant and the DG. Given the multiple steps in the process and the number of applicants (high for some vacancies, lower for others), it is unlikely that the process will be shortened significantly.

A second issue is how potential candidates find out about vacancies. On the one hand, the Commission has put into place what one informant referred to as a “senior vacancy publication regime,” which includes not only posting on the EUROPA website but also publication in the national press and in both the Economist and the Financial Times. In addition, the Office of Permanent Representations of the member states are generally notified. Still, some directors complained that it was not easy to find out about openings. As one of the directors reported, “it was advertised in a very – just like many things the Commission does – in a very obscure way in the official journal that nobody reads.” As this person pointed out, the process is now a bit more open and the Commission sometimes advertised in the Economist. In fact, word of mouth remains an important source of information. Several of those interviewed received encouragement to apply from friends or acquaintances within the Commission who sent them e-mails. As another director told me, “I had a few good colleagues or friends here, and they said ‘this is exactly for you. You have to apply.’” Others found the advertisement on their own or knew generally about the process and saw the enlargement as providing a window of opportunity to apply.

The question of how information about vacancies is disseminated has a direct bearing on the next challenge, which is the number and quality of applicants. For entry level positions, EPSO is often inundated with applicants, up to 20,000 of whom may apply for a single competition. At the management level, the number of applicants varies, and in some cases is not as high as desired, especially from some of the smaller countries and for some areas of specialization, such as information technology. Further, informal recruitment by acquaintances inside the Commission increases the likelihood that the candidates will have strong technical skills in specific policy areas. That may, however, conflict with the requirement for mandatory rotation and the need for managers who are able to function in a range of policy areas.

The challenge is to convince people who already have very good jobs and who have full lives with spouses and families that it is a good idea to uproot themselves and move to a different city to work in a very different organization where they have to complete a probationary period of nine months before becoming a permanent employee. Many of the qualified potential candidates in the new member states have moved up rapidly at home, in some cases because of the upheaval of the transition. If they are not already working on a policy area that has brought them in contact with the European Commission, such as participating on a relevant EC committee or coordinating implementation of EU policy in a specific area, they are unlikely either to hear of openings or to take the initiative to look for them. And, as one person involved in the process reported, people at this level expect to be recruited for positions rather than to go out looking for them on their own. The result is that, according to one person who has served as a rapporteur, ‘the pool of people that applies to the managerial posts, director and above, is not easy to fish in.”

The use of Assessment Centers

One of the innovations introduced in the selection process both for directors and heads of unit is the use of an assessment center exercise, which will now be required for all management competitions. In fact, EPSO is now moving to the use of assessment centers in the standard entry-level competition.15 The process for senior managers consists of a full-day series of exercises, managed by an external contractor, designed to test the candidate’s aptitude for management. Assessment centers are quite widely used in selection of managers in the public sector16 and are increasingly in use in national governments in Europe, but they are perceived by some within the Commission as yet another reform that is importing a more northern management approach into the Commission. The results of the assessment center are provided to the CCA, and reflect the emphasis by the CCA on general management skills that will lead to future success in a range of positions, rather than simply on technical knowledge directly relevant to the first position. Most of the managers interviewed accepted this as a valid process, but those who had competed for several positions complained that the Commission doesn’t save the scores or roster finalists but rather begins de novo for each vacancy, meaning that several people went through exactly the same process, with the same questions, as many as five times, which they saw as a silly waste of resources.

The role of nationality in the process

Normally, for entry-level hiring, the staff regulations make clear that nationality should play no role, but, at the time of enlargement, in order to meet the need to hire large numbers of people from new member states, those regulations are temporarily waived, so that hiring targets are set for each new member state and special competitions can be held just for citizens of those countries. At higher levels, the role of nationality is complex. Previous research on the Commission has made clear that nationality plays a significant role in hiring and promotion at the levels of director and above.17 Of the people interviewed, half spoke explicitly about this question. Some, especially those coming from international organizations, made it clear that their national government had played no role at all. Two reported being passed over for earlier positions, which they attributed to a lack of political (i.e., national) support. One person in particular was still bitter: “I was very disappointed because I still have some young pioneers’ hope that there is some justice in the world for some merit approach -- still very naïve, probably.” The second time around, that person got support from the relevant commissioner and succeeded. Another director reported going all the way through to the final stage without notifying his national government, only to be told by an official involved in the process:

Okay, you went quite far but now there are only 3 candidates on the short list. But the other two have very strong political support. We didn’t hear about you at all. So could you please at least ensure that your representation in Brussels would say “We have interest to get this position for [this country]?

On the other hand, especially early in the process, national governments sometimes didn’t understand the process and thought that they could control who was selected. According to one new director, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actually passed a government regulation with a list of the people they supported, and people were sent for interviews with letters of recommendation from the Prime Minister. It took some time for them to realize that this was not effective. In this case, the candidate contacted the ministry only when well into the process, resulting in an amusing interchange:

They claim they are doing a lot but when I asked them what is the format of this CCA, this Consultative Committee of Appointments, they said, “Oh, don’t worry. By the time somebody gets there, we’ll know.” I said, “Look, I am going to them tomorrow.” And there was a long silence (laughter) and they said “What? Why didn’t you tell us that you were in the process?” I said, “Why should I?”

Overall, the perception both of those managing the process and of many of those succeeding in it was that it had at least reduced the worst effects of national pressure -- that the process, including both the assessment center and the review by the CCA, was more transparent and more rigorous than in the past. As a person who served as a rapporteur put it, “It is a system which assures that you cannot any more appoint a completely inappropriate – a loser.”

One can also conceptualize the issue of nationality not just in terms of the active involvement of the government but also in the extent to which those entering were formed entirely or primarily within their national government. At all levels, there is, in fact, a clear bias for people who have had some significant international experience, either studying or working abroad or working for an international firm or organization within their country. This strategy reflects an assumption, probably valid, that such people will adapt more easily to the multicultural culture of the Commission but also that they will accept the supranational role of the organization and not advocate too strongly for their own country’s interests. But there is a downside here, as well. In the colloquium at which the papers in this issue were presented in Brussels, one of the discussants pointed out that this was not a new strategy. In fact, he made clear, it had been true for virtually all previous enlargements, and that the result was that the Commission hired “false Portuguese, false Spaniards, and false Greeks.” Besides the implicit devaluation of national experiences from these countries, the result is new officials who, in fact, do not bring informal links to networks in their countries or even, in some cases, much first-hand knowledge of the political situation there.


Those responsible for preparing for the arrival of the new staff as a result of the most recent enlargement were particularly mindful of the problems the Commission faced after the last enlargement, in 1995, when Sweden, Finland, and Austria joined. New staff at all levels from those countries but especially Sweden, even including directors general, had real trouble adjusting to life in the Commission and in Brussels. Those I interviewed told me that the Swedes were uncomfortable with the bureaucracy and formality of the Commission; with the gap between official written procedures and how things actually worked; with the sometimes conflictual operating style; and even with the hours, as they placed a higher value on work-life balance than was typical in the Commission and were not used to meetings that started after 6 p.m. In fact, life in Brussels was not at all to their taste. As one person told me, “Here it is a southern country, and their mentality isn’t made for it. The style of life is very different, and they are used to having everything regulated and efficient.”

Indeed, it was not only the Swedes who found the organization very challenging to enter at a senior level. I interviewed one person who arrived as a director after the 1995 enlargement, and he captured that challenge very clearly:

The whole institution was rather cryptic. There are a lot of hidden agendas, and first of all the Commission is not an international organization in its traditional sense, so this is not an intergovernmental setting, it’s more than intergovernmental, which, in a sense, makes it very political and sometimes very strong. And so you have all kinds of games going on all the time. And of course, getting in to those games, and perhaps coming from outside not really wanting to enter into one of the games but trying to influence the games, that is a long process. Even understanding what the game is. And of course, there are a lot of national interests, a lot of vested interests. And you have the official way of working, but then you have all these other things. And that took some time for me to understand.

The Commission took a number of steps to help new managers adapt and to prevent high turnover among those arriving after the latest enlargement. First, it was decided that this time no one would be brought in from the outside directly into the position of Director General. Rather, new senior managers would enter as Deputy Directors General or as Directors and would learn “the house” before they were moved up to a top position. Several of those interviewed expressed their frustration that this hadn’t happened yet. The expectation was that, once the new Commission was in place, there would be a mobility exercise, and that at that time, one or more would advance to the level of Director General. In fact, at the time of writing, this process is under way, and the appointment of the first Director General from a new member state has been announced. Jan Truszczynski will shortly take the leadership of DG Education and Culture.

The EU institutions as a whole also strengthened their orientation programs at all levels, and the Commission introduced more in-house training as well as formal coaching and mentoring. At the senior level, as well, there is a required formal training program as well as access to other training, including programs at top European universities. Two particular innovations are of note. First, the Commission encouraged all senior managers (not just those from the new member states) to work one-on-one with a coach. As the person in DG Admin responsible for working with the senior managers told me, “most of the directors in the Commission in general choose executive coaching as their training plan.” When this was introduced, roughly at the time of the enlargement, it was somewhat of a culture change and initially faced some resistance. But, as my informant explained, “the reticence…was overcome by restricting the availability only to directors general, so that when it was loosened up a bit and went down to directors it was grabbed.” Almost all the new staff I interviewed described working with a coach as a useful experience. Some stopped after a year or two, but others have maintained the relationship with their coach, using the coach as a sounding board when facing major decisions. Two directors described using their coach to interview their own staff and provide them with feedback, which they found extremely useful.

Second, senior managers who arrived early, starting in 2005 and 2006, banded together and started to meet as an informal support group, sharing what they were learning about the organization. When the staff in DG Admin who were working with them realized this, they organized the group on a more formal basis, and they continue to meet as the VIP group, roughly once every two months. In my initial interviews, in 2006 and 2007, this group was mentioned frequently and always very positively as a useful way of learning how the organization actually worked. In more recent interviews, it became clear that the group was currently serving more of a networking function, and some were beginning to question whether it was still necessary, and, if so, whether it should be opened to all new senior managers. Some of those I interviewed expressed concern about being identified primarily as being from a new member state. And others felt they no longer needed this kind of support. Indeed, those responsible within DG Admin are considering where to take this group in the future. Still, those who arrived earliest clearly found the support important.

From the perspective of an outside observer, all but a very few of the senior managers appear to be adapting well, to be fairly comfortable within the organization and in their specific role, and to be committed to the organization and to their continued career within the Commission. Certainly the Commission succeeded in avoiding the wholesale departures that plagued the Swedish entry. Still, from the perspective of their peers and of those reporting to them, the story is more mixed. We turn next to some of the challenges that the new directors faced, and to the concerns raised about their performance.


Of course, in any organization, a new manager coming from outside the organization will need to go through a learning process, and, as discussed above, the formal and informal attempts to help the new managers have been quite successful. Still, in order to succeed, they also have to be accepted by their peers and subordinates in the organization. In this section, I summarize the new managers’ own perceptions of the challenges they have faced as they have gone through the entry process and compare their perceptions to those of their peers and subordinates.

First, many new managers report feeling welcomed and supported within their organization. Indeed, one of the people responsible for working with them stated:

[It] also interesting from a point of view of the culture of this house. What you always see, more so here than in any other organization, is this willingness to adapt to newcomers. So you would think that this is a network of people who know each other and don’t let anybody else in, but the reality is totally different and is being tested to the limit by this enlargement where you see the existing directors, directors general, heads of unit were extremely eager to recruit as many EU10 colleagues as possible. And once they were recruited, to spend a lot of time with them and to give them the opportunity to develop and adapt….And we’ve never trained these people to do that. So they do that because they are part of this organization and they feel that if you need to have new nationalities in the organization, then you have to make an additional effort to make that happen. And that’s what they did very well. So I think that’s also a side where the strength of an organization was clearly demonstrated.

Several new managers were very appreciative of the support they received, particularly from their Director General and from the Secretary General, who took a direct interest in their adaptation to the organization. Yet, at the same time, they were aware that not all of their colleagues were equally supportive. In fact, faced with hiring so many people, the Commission faced a difficult choice: It could place the new managers in existing vacancies, thus engendering resentment on the part of the people who felt their own advancement had been blocked but giving the new arrivals real jobs heading organizations with clearly defined roles. Or it could create new positions, by dividing up existing divisions, for example, in which case the sense of competition is somewhat lessened, but the challenge of figuring out one’s role is increased. In fact, the Commission did some of each, with the predictable results. One the one hand, managers themselves sometimes reported difficulties in understanding their roles, and this was particularly true for directors, who were surprised to learn, for example, that they had no authority to hire the staff or heads of unit they directed who had trouble figuring out their role in relation to that of the Deputy Director General. Some were surprised to learn, for example, that they had no authority to hire the staff or heads of unit they directed As one outspoken director told me:

The director’s level is the biggest nonsense that the Commission has. It is a very artificial level because you have heads of unit who are on a daily basis involved in subject matter. You have deputy director general who is in charge of policies and you are the layer in between. This is very artificial.

Indeed, several of those working with them perceived that they had trouble understanding their job. On the other hand, they themselves recognized that filling vacancies only with managers from the new member states was a “brutal instrument” that created considerable anger and resentment among their colleagues.

One of the central issues raised by heads of unit and directors from the EU-15 countries about the new entrants was their level of ability or competence. Those I interviewed recognize that it was particularly difficult to enter at a management level. That was often said with sympathy, but some actually disparaged them as being selected only because of their nationality and as not being up to the job. Mostly these complaints were couched in polite terms, but not always. One particularly outspoken head of unit referred to a new manager in his DG as “a fruitcake – a disaster.” It is important, however, to note that very similar things were said about those who entered in previous enlargements. For example, Abélès and his colleagues report a similar concern about those coming from Spain and Portugal, who “weakened the performance of the Commission by placing into high positions people who had no experience of Europe” […ont fait baisser la performance de la Commission en plaçant à des postes élevés des personnes qui n’avaient aucune expérience de l’Europe]18 Similarly, there has been for many years resentment against those who enter from the outside through parachutage, along with questions about their competence or commitment to European values.19

While many new directors received good support from their peers, they knew they needed to prove themselves to their coworkers and subordinates, and several reported facing a “show me what you know” mentality. Inevitably, they also experienced the kind of testing that all new managers go through in almost every organization. There have been cases of withholding of information or of less than full cooperation. And, in typical organizational politics, there have been attempts to take credit for the work of a newcomer or, in one case, a move by another director to take over part of a newcomer’s area of responsibility. In one such case (where a fellow director tried to take credit for a woman’s work and she had to publicly confront him), the individual attributed this to the fact that she is a woman. That may have been at least partly true. This kind of bureaucratic politicsclearly exists in other organizations, including international organizations. For example, a study of the management of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the strong organizational culture “contributes to the difficulty new staff, and especially new senior staff, often experience fitting into and succeeding within the organization…Newcomers are given a hard time. They have to prove themselves doubly and it’s worse if you’re a woman and worse if a woman is from a developing country.”20 While several women felt they were, indeed, held to a higher standard, men also experienced an inevitable period of testing and needed to prove themselves.

Further, their initial propensity to compare management procedures within the EC to those in their home country or previous place of employment were not at all welcomed. In fact, the norms of the Commission discourage officials from making such statements. Interestingly, there was a similar reaction to staff who entered from international organizations, two of whom reported that they were explicitly told to stop talking about that organization. As one reported, “One of my colleagues actually introduced a new rule. So whenever I talk about the [organization] I have to pay 50 cents. So, I stopped doing that, because it’s very expensive.” Both also reported a reaction that reflects the condescension sometimes faced by new CEE staff at all levels. Both were told that they were seen not as from a new member state but rather from the international organization, a back-handed compliment implying that this maked them somehow easier to accept as one of the group. One reported being present at a meeting when fellow directors were complaining about having to hire people from EU10 or EU2 countries:

So I smiled and I said, “Listen, be at least polite to me. I am from EU 10.” “No, no, no, you’re from [international organization].” I said, “no, no, no, I am from EU10.”

Inevitably, there were reports that some of the new managers were unhappy. One of the senior staff working directly with them described their initial reactions, an “initial period when it’s practically incomprehensible.” The complexity of the procedures was surprising, as was the fact that French was still very much in use. Some were discontented with the level of responsibility given them, not surprising since, as the senior staff person described it “when you’ve got to make space for so many at senior management level, there’s a certain amount of salami slicing of responsibilities which leads to jobs that haven’t grown organically for organizational reasons.” In contrast, one person who is clearly seen as a successful manager from a new member state told me that it was fortunate that the Director General “gave me an existing functioning running directorate so it was a train that was lugging along and I just stepped in. So, it wasn’t one of those cases, more frequent, of patching together things, inventing a directorate, because we need to create a function for a newcomer.” Still, follow-up interviews conducted in 2009 with several directors who had arrived in 2006 found them settling in to their roles, feeling more self-confident, and starting to think about where they might move in the next rotation.


As I cited above, one of the key senior staff responsible for working with the new directors sees the process as a great success, and at the most basic level, I would agree. The Commission managed within a relatively short period of time to come close to meeting ambitious goals for hiring senior staff, set up formal and informal programs for assisting them to make the transition into the organization, and continues to provide them (and all new directors) with considerable support. Speaking to senior directors within several agencies, however, one gets a more uncertain view of the longer term success of the venture. By far the most blunt and most critical was a director, interviewed in 2009, who reported that the new senior managers “are finding it very difficult. I must say, it is a very very tall order for anyone, but my expectation is that at least a third of the senior managers from the new member states will die out within five years. Which would be considerably better than under the ’95 enlargement. The Finns and Swedes all disappeared.”

This prediction of sizeable numbers of departures is most probably overly negative, but still where the new managers go in the next five to ten years will be a reflection of their success in learning the ropes but also an indication of how much influence they can have on the organization. The first important milestone will be the rotation exercise that is currently under way, following on the appointment of Barroso’s second cabinet. It undoubtedly made sense not to bring new people directly into the role of director general, but the fact that no one has yet been promoted has been a source of frustration for some. There are now five deputy directors general from the new member states, and expectations are that one or more will finally make it to the top.

Whether from the high vantage point of a position as director general, or as directors or deputy directors general, it is clear that the new arrivals have already changed the organizations in significant ways, the first of which is demographic. The fact that roughly one third of them are women and that many are younger than the typical senior manager is not trivial. This is a topic that deserves more extensive analysis, but several observers, both from within and outside this group, explained to me the extent to which the traditional Commission was a macho organization. At the same time, because the ‘normal’ route to high position was internal, the ‘normal’ senior manager was a man in his 50s. The fact that so many newcomers do not fit the mold in terms of age and gender has probably increased the challenges that they encountered, but they have changed the face of the Commission.

The critical question, which I posed earlier, is whether the newcomers see their role as bringing change to the organization and whether they can succeed in being a force for change. The answer to the first question is clearly yes, at least in some cases. The second question remains to be answered. In the formulation of policy, it is already clear that managers from the new member states have had a direct policy impact, particularly in helping to shape policy proposals to fit the reality in their countries or region, as well as in policy toward Russia and Central Asia and in neighborhood policy in relation to Eastern European countries such as Ukraine. Their knowledge of the region has been an important resource, and some have not been shy in attempting to redirect attention toward issues or geographic areas they felt the Commission was neglecting.

The impact of the enlargement on the management and culture of the Commission is complex, and it may still be too early to draw firm conclusions. In fact, when I began to plan this research, in 2005, a British colleague told me that it was too early to study the impact of the enlargement, and that I should instead look at the past enlargement, in 1995. As I result, I asked respondents what the impact of that enlargement had been, and there were quite consistent responses. The Nordics (especially the Swedes) were perceived as having moved the Commission towards more transparency and pushed the organization toward hiring and promoting more women and paying attention to women’s issues. And it was the three countries of the 1995 enlargement that are credited with (or blamed for) moving the Commission more toward the use of English. In contrast, those asked about the impact to date of the more current enlargement do not give a consistent response, with one exception: This enlargement is seen as increasing greatly the movement toward use of English as the dominant language within the Commission.21

It is not surprising that there is not yet a clear agreement on the question of impact. This was the largest enlargement in the history of the European Union, and the countries that joined are extremely heterogeneous. Even though all but Cyprus and Malta were formerly communist countries, and thus presumably shared the experience of transition out of Communism, in reality the countries differ sharply, not only in size, history, culture, and language, but even in their experience under Communism and hence in how they went through the transition period. That is reflected in the different management styles that characterize those who have joined the Commission, as explained by a manager from a new member state:

The post-Communist countries are much more used to command and control style, and you could have two approaches to that. They either hate it or use it. But it’s much more expressed – one or the other way. Whereas the culture from the UK, Netherlands, France and so is much more using the soft tools, knowing there is also the stick behind. But this is not the first thing they would say. Whereas the Eastern people would say “You never use the stick,” or they will say “this is a good tool.”

In fact, one could say that the main thing the newcomers have in common is simply the experience of being a newcomer, of having to adjust themselves to the very distinct culture of the Commission, although even within the Commission their experiences varied, as the distinct cultural differences across DGs meant that some were much more welcomed than others. The other thing that many share is a sense of frustration at the extremely hierarchical management and overly bureaucratic procedures within the Commission. Whether they have gone through the transition in their home country and played a role in bringing modern management approaches into the administration or whether they have worked in international organizations or business, they have first-hand experience of other ways to manage.

While some of those I interviewed have argued that the number of new staff and new directors is too small for them to be a real force for change, the 45 directors already in place are close to 20% of the 250 current directors, and further recruitments are still on-going. It is clear that the Commission will fill or even overfill its hiring targets for managers, although achieving the exact balance by country will continue to be a challenge. Further, several of the directors and deputy directors general have now been in place for 4 or 5 years, long enough to learn how the “house” works and to start to make their mark. In follow-up interviews in 2009, I have already begun to get examples of specific changes put in place as a result of leadership by no longer quite so new senior managers, in such areas as financial management. But gaining the knowledge and confidence to push for change comes slowly. As a senior staff member at DG Admin told me in 2006, “There is a very long time-line before they actually understand the culture sufficiently to run with it and play with it and adapt it…. I am interested in when they adapt and then we adapt. At the moment, they are doing the adapting. But it’s coming now, it’s coming.” Indeed, as they learn how the game is played and as they move up to positions of greater power, it is possible that we will see attempts to introduce concrete changes and even a broader impact on the management culture.

The impact of the Kinnock reforms is the focus of this colloquium, and certainly those reforms had an immediate and dramatic impact on life within the Commission. However, as Ellinas and Suleiman have made clear, those reforms had multiple goals and introduced reforms that were far from internally consistent.22 As I expand this research to look more closely at heads of unit and to conduct follow up interviews with managers who have been in place for several years, I will be looking specifically at the interaction between the Kinnock reforms and enlargement, and at the extent to which the newcomers are instrumental in introducing more modern management approaches to the Commission, both in the way they manage personally and in support for reforms that reduce the Commission’s extremely rigid bureaucratic procedures, some of which are the direct result of the Kinnock reforms.


  1   2


Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states icon1. European Commission Directorate F, Health Research

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconExploitation strategy seminar european Commission

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconEuropean Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (cepej)

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconCommunication from the commission to the european parliament and the council

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconInternational conference Supported by the European Commission

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconEuropean commission preliminary draft internal use only not for distribution

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconOpinion of the European Commission, Scientific Committee on Food

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states icon1. 3 In Europe, member States (which includes the uk) are subject to the Basic Safety Standards (bss) Directive euratom the most recent version of which was agreed in 2011 and has passed into eu law 4

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconOf the Information and Communication Technologies (ict) Theme of the European Commission ’ s 7 th Framework

Coming in to the ‘house’: the arrival in the european commission of directors from the new member states iconProject co-funded by the European Commission within the Sixth Framework Programme (2002-2006)

Разместите кнопку на своём сайте:

База данных защищена авторским правом © 2014
обратиться к администрации
Главная страница