Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: Shopaholic on November 01, 2012, 12:55:25 PM

Title: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: Shopaholic on November 01, 2012, 12:55:25 PM
Many of you might remember my threads about my annoying coworker.
(http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=114426.0 (http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=114426.0))
We had a joint conversation with the PI, each said our piece, agreed to start a fresh leaf and everything has been hunky-dory since. We're even on friendly terms. :)

A similar situation arose this week with a new member of the lab. Let's call him Barney.
Barney is an over zealous Master's student.
BG
Apparatus is heavily used in our lab, and due to the delicate nature of the work it requires and the way it is set up, only one person can work in it at a time. PI's regulations is that the apparatus should be cleaned and sterilized between uses. There are a few exceptions. Apparatus is signed up for, usually at the end of the previous week, usually for long periods of time.
Because of the heavy use Apparatus experiences it is acceptable to talk to the person signed up and try to reach a compromise for its use. Example: if I need the apparatus for 10 minutes while Maddie is signed up for two hours, I can ask her if she has a break when I can use it, bearing in  mind the type of work we are both doing. Lab members are usually very amicable about apparatus use.

I was signed up for Apparatus in advance. I noticed pretty early on that I would need it longer than the original time I had signed up for, and due to the fact that no one was signed up after me, I signed up for more time.

Part of my work required a 40-minute break. I left Apparatus on, with some of my stuff inside. Twenty minutes later I notice that Barney is working with Apparatus! This is unacceptable - if Apparatus is on, and someone's things are inside you do not use Apparatus! It's not just a courtesy - it is important that different types of tasks do not mix.

I asked him if he noticed I was using Apparatus. He replied "yes" without even blinking.

At this moment Maddie shows up, she is mentoring him, and asks him if she is doing the task they planned yesterday. The task they planned uses hazardous materials, and he wasn't abiding by any of the regulations for this type of work! In fact, he should be working behind a closed door - but he had no inclination of even telling me what he was working with until Maddie asked him! This is especially serious in my case because I am pregnant. 

I told him that in our lab there is a reason we sign up for Apparatus, and that since we are all interested in helping each other out we always talk to each other if we need to share items, in the interest of good communication. Maddie told him that they noticed yesterday that I was signed up, and he replied "yes, but you said we would work it out with Shopaholic."
Maddie told him that "working it out" meant "talking to".

Whatever, I told him to get his stuff out NOW because Apparatus needed to be sterilized and I needed to use it in 10 minutes. He said OK, but continued working for another 10 minutes. Due to the cleaning and sterilization required, my experiment was delayed by 15 minutes - which is NOT OK!!

What bugs me the most is that he knew perfectly well that I was working. He showed no regret, no inclination to apologize, and not intent to clear his stuff out once I told him to remove his stuff.

I talked to Maddie later. She was shocked by his behaviour too - not just by his audacity and lack of basic human courtesy and respect, but by the fact that he does not know how to work with hazardous materials and had never worked with them even supervised.

She gave him a talking-to later on, said he was on the verge of tears (but Maddie is a softie, she probably apologized to him). Maddie also intends on filling PI in on what happened, but I don't know if she will eventually. In any case, he hasn't made any attempt to apologize.

Lab Manager knows what happened. I went to PI today and told him that since we had a lot of new people in the lab, it may be worthwhile to review regulations regarding hazardous materials at our group meeting, without going into specifics. He did, but Barney did not bat an eyelash.

Today when I was working in Apparatus, I told Barney that I had a short break, but that I am still working in it. He didn't get it, just said nonchalantly that he didn't need it.

Now I'm wondering if I need to talk to Barney directly, because the more I think of it the angrier I am. Not only at his audacity at taking over something someone else was using, but also for his lack of professionalism and basically putting everyone in the room in danger by not abiding by proper regulations. He seems to think the whole issue was no big deal. In general, you do not do anything in the lab before you are properly taught and supervised.

On the other hand, maybe I just tend to over-react and take these things too hard. His mentor addressed it, it may or may not be discussed with PI - it's not really my job to put him in his place. And yet, in a working/learning environment where there is a good atmosphere of collaboration and mutual help I really do not want to do anything to help Barney out right now - and he frequently asks me questions.

Chocolate chip cookies if you made it so far! I would appreciate your thoughts, seeing as you have been so helpful and insightful in the past!

Thanks so much!
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Outdoor Girl on November 01, 2012, 01:23:58 PM
As a (former) fellow Lab Rat, Barney was so far over the line, he couldn't find it with binoculars.  You never, ever take over someone else's space without clearing it with them first!  And you never work with hazardous materials you don't know how to handle.

The lab I used to work in was very cramped.  So if I wanted to do one test and coworker wanted to do another, there wasn't room for a third coworker to get in and do her thing.  We were self scheduled but discovered this problem one day when we were all trying to use the same space at the same time!  We quickly learned to communicate first thing in the morning and go over who was planning to do what when so we could make sure to not be in each other's way.  Fortunately, the only equipment we shared was the fumehoods and dishwasher.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: NyaChan on November 01, 2012, 01:29:44 PM
I think that the correct people have already addressed the issue.  Unless Barney has done something again to violate proper procedures, I'd keep quiet for now.  If he does cross the line again, then by all means, make it clear to the superiors and to Barney that it is unacceptable. 
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Hmmmmm on November 01, 2012, 01:33:24 PM
Wow.  I don't have much to offer.  One thing I competely amazed at is that people are given access to hazardous chemicals without any type of training or certifcation.  Is there a way that you can talk with Lab Manager about instituting some more stringent policies?  Things like training and certification before they can have access to specific equipment or chemicals?  And have them review and confirm in writing that the understand lab procedures? 
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Shopaholic on November 01, 2012, 01:41:01 PM
Wow.  I don't have much to offer.  One thing I competely amazed at is that people are given access to hazardous chemicals without any type of training or certifcation.  Is there a way that you can talk with Lab Manager about instituting some more stringent policies?  Things like training and certification before they can have access to specific equipment or chemicals?  And have them review and confirm in writing that the understand lab procedures?

It was something he and Maddie had worked on the previous day, so it was continuing work. Barney had attended a lecture two weeks previously regarding this specific type of material. The regulations suggested at the lecture were much stricter than the ones implemented in our lab. For someone who understands the risks, go ahead and work as you want - but don't put everyone else in danger without their knowing it.
PI said today that he expects mentors to fully pass on relevant information to new students in the lab.
According to Maddie they made a plan the previous day to work on their task when she got in.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: DavidH on November 01, 2012, 03:57:56 PM
I'm not sure what else you think is needed.  The incident is over, the procedure was explained to him and it sounds like there was a large miscommunication in the first place.  From what you described, he seems to have thought it was cleared with you, when it apparently wasn't. 

"Today when I was working in Apparatus, I told Barney that I had a short break, but that I am still working in it. He didn't get it, just said nonchalantly that he didn't need it." I'm not sure what response you were looking for, or how his response indicated that he didn't get it.

Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: JoyinVirginia on November 02, 2012, 07:01:07 AM
I think it would be beneficial for you to talk to new student to reinforce the training with the personal view of WHY policies matter.  ” Student, we will be working together and I want you to understand WHY the policies are so important. You can RUIN someone else work if you just barge in and don't talk to them. You can HURT someone with hazardous materials. If we are going to work together, I need to know you understand this.”
When hazardous materials are involved, EVERYONE has a responsibility to maintain a safe environment. Safety trumps etiquette.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Twik on November 02, 2012, 08:19:54 AM
For someone who understands the risks, go ahead and work as you want - but don't put everyone else in danger without their knowing it.

Not to get into legalities, but have you consulted your OSHA/other applicable regulation over this policy? In most North American jurisdictions, the employer is required to enforce safety regulations, not merely explain them and let people choose to follow them or not.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Hillia on November 02, 2012, 08:44:42 AM
I'm not sure what else you think is needed.  The incident is over, the procedure was explained to him and it sounds like there was a large miscommunication in the first place.  From what you described, he seems to have thought it was cleared with you, when it apparently wasn't. 

"Today when I was working in Apparatus, I told Barney that I had a short break, but that I am still working in it. He didn't get it, just said nonchalantly that he didn't need it." I'm not sure what response you were looking for, or how his response indicated that he didn't get it.

I think what the OP is looking for is some acknowledgement from Barney that he understands what the problem was and the danger he put her in, so she has some reassurance that he won't do it again.  It was maybe a little PA, but I can see her point - until i can trust you to follow lab procedure, I'm going to verify with you every time that you're not going to disregard that procedure and do your own thing.  If he just said something, anything, to indicate that he understood what happened, she would feel a lot more secure.  Right now it sounds like he doesn't think it's any big deal, and will merrily go along doing whatever he likes despite the 'talking to' - because what he wants to do is more important than any silly rules.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: JoyinVirginia on November 02, 2012, 09:09:49 AM
In a health care setting I have on occasion worked in same area as oblivious med student, sometimes their direct supervision on a busy service may be less than they really need. It is every member of the health care team s duty to assure safety for patients and workers. I have spoken up before, or actually stopped a student from doing something and directed student back to their supervising fellow/ resident for a hands on demonstration. Like students who think they can start ivs because they did it on a manakin arm, but don't understand about sterile technique in a real person.
OP will be doing a service for her entire work group to have a follow up chat with student.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Dr. F. on November 02, 2012, 10:02:11 AM
As a PI, I would be seriously reconsidering having this guy in my lab. I have zero tolerance for health and safety violations. Now, people do vary in their enthusiasm for enforcing rules, but I'm sure the University has rules, as well.

Document. Maybe he's learned his lesson, but maybe not. You and your lab mates (and manager) need to document each time this guy breaks one of the rules and is informed about it. If it turns into a pattern of behavior, you'll need to approach the PI, and the more documentation you have, the better.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: DavidH on November 02, 2012, 10:39:57 AM
I see what she was looking for, but that wasn't where the conversation went.  Responding to her saying she's taking a break with that's okay, I don't need to work on it is pretty reasonable.  That's pretty much the answer one might expect. If saying I'm taking a break but still working on it was code for I'm still upset that you were clueless yesterday and shouldn't have jumped in and I want acknowledgement that you now understand what you did was wrong, I'm not surprised he didn't understand the code. If you want him to acknowledge that, then say I'm still upset about yesterday, do you now know proper procedure. 
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: rain on November 02, 2012, 10:46:36 AM
IMHO you need to be blunt with him - if something happens again.  Frequently guys don't get "hints" - straight talk is best.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Shopaholic on November 02, 2012, 11:45:43 AM
For someone who understands the risks, go ahead and work as you want - but don't put everyone else in danger without their knowing it.

Not to get into legalities, but have you consulted your OSHA/other applicable regulation over this policy? In most North American jurisdictions, the employer is required to enforce safety regulations, not merely explain them and let people choose to follow them or not.

I don't want to get too much into this, but there are different approaches to working with this kind of materials. The lecture we were all required to attend two weeks ago detailed the strictest working protocols - which is how I used to work at my previous lab. An additional lecturer is someone who has worked with these materials for many years, and based on his knowledge and research does not recommend to follow the strictest protocol.
PI has told us that we can chose to work how we want, provided that the guidelines agreed upon by both lecturers was followed - one of these includes a closed door, clearly marked with the nature of the work being done inside.

In short - if you understand the risk, and choose based on that to NOT work with a face mask that's fine - but don't make that choice for me. If I prefer wearing a mask that is my right, but I have to know what it is you're working on so I can decide for myself.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Onyx_TKD on November 02, 2012, 11:48:25 AM
I see what she was looking for, but that wasn't where the conversation went.  Responding to her saying she's taking a break with that's okay, I don't need to work on it is pretty reasonable.  That's pretty much the answer one might expect. If saying I'm taking a break but still working on it was code for I'm still upset that you were clueless yesterday and shouldn't have jumped in and I want acknowledgement that you now understand what you did was wrong, I'm not surprised he didn't understand the code. If you want him to acknowledge that, then say I'm still upset about yesterday, do you now know proper procedure.

The problem with the response "That's okay, I don't need to work on it" is that it's irrelevant. It doesn't matter whether he "needs" to use that equipment or whether he's "okay" with the fact that she's using it doesn't matter one little bit because the equipment is scheduled to the OP and not available for him to work on.

The entire problem was caused by him thinking that the fact that the equipment was not currently being used at that moment meant that he could use if he needed to. The OP was informing him that "I am leaving the lab for a break, but the equipment is still in use" (implying "Do not touch the equipment while I'm gone"). Responding "That's okay, I don't need it" implies that he thinks the equipment would be available if he did "need" it while she was away, which is wrong. "I understand" would be an appropriate response, but his "need" for the equipment, or lack thereof, is not relevant at that point because the OP was not offering to let him use it.

OP, maybe the "don't touch" subtext needs to become text next time you need to leave the apparatus. In my research lab, we have a standard printout to set next to research equipment that says, basically, "Research in progress: Don't touch or move anything in this area without permission from [Researcher]. Email:________ Phone:_________." Maybe you need a sign to hang on the door or door handle to the apparatus (it sounds like this is an enclosed booth of some sort?) to inform people that "[Apparatus] is in use by Shopaholic from _____ to _____. Do not move anything or use the [apparatus] without permission. [Contact information]." That way he cannot claim that he didn't know or forgot that he wasn't supposed to interrupt your experiment--it's right there on the door in black and white.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: DavidH on November 02, 2012, 12:23:17 PM
If my colleague gets up and says I'm just taking a break, but still using the computer, I might say I understand, but of course I understand the concept of you're taking a break.  I might also say, okay, or have a good time, or see you later, or no problem, or no problem, I don't need to work on that computer today.  It has no bearing on whether I now know not to jump in or the correct safety procedure since that wasn't really covered in the I'm taking a break but still working on the computer.  If I were being snarky I might ask why you are telling me this.

The only way we know that the right response would be I'm sorry about yesterday, I have now learned the safety procedures is the context she wrote. 

Take another example:

Poster writes my colleague told me she was taking a break from the machine, but was still working on it and I replied, I understand.  She seemed annoyed at my response.  Did I do something wrong?  I think we'd all say no, your response was fine. 

I'm not saying he was right at the beginning, but that if the OP wants to know if he understand the right procedure now she has to ask, not obliquely allude to it by saying she's taking a break now and is still working with the apparatus.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Surianne on November 02, 2012, 06:18:34 PM
I agree, David.  I'm not sure what the coworker was supposed to say instead of "I understand"?

He's been talked to.  At this point, OP, I don't think it's your responsibility to make sure he knows the procedures -- he's been instructed in them.  If it happens again, address it then, but for now, assume he's up to speed.  Or, if you're really worried that he could ruin your experiment (I'm not sure if that's the case -- I found the timeline confusing) then talk about it with him before setting yours in motion next time.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Onyx_TKD on November 02, 2012, 06:29:21 PM
I agree, David.  I'm not sure what the coworker was supposed to say instead of "I understand"?

He's been talked to.  At this point, OP, I don't think it's your responsibility to make sure he knows the procedures -- he's been instructed in them.  If it happens again, address it then, but for now, assume he's up to speed.  Or, if you're really worried that he could ruin your experiment (I'm not sure if that's the case -- I found the timeline confusing) then talk about it with him before setting yours in motion next time.

He didn't say "I understand." Instead he said he didn't need the apparatus. That is exactly the problem. His answer does not confirm that he has learned the rules that this apparatus is not available for him to use while someone else has it reserved. His answer implies that the reason he won't jump in and use the apparatus while the OP is gone is because he doesn't need to use it that day, not that he understands that it is not available.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: kherbert05 on November 02, 2012, 06:46:01 PM
Background: My Mom once evacuated a research lab right before two arrogant Masters students exploded their experiment. She had told them to stop what they were doing and double check their instructions/plans. They told her they were Masters students with undergraduate degrees from Rice and didn't have to listen to some foreign lab tech (Mom was Canadian). She told everyone else to get out, sounded the alarm, went to the their adviser. They poured a very strong acid into a very strong base and got a very strong reaction. They were lucky noone was hurt or killed.  (they had misread the instructions and used the wrong chemical.)

That said I don't think the higher ups did enough
Barney should have all privileges suspended until he takes and passes a remedial  how you behave safely in a lab class.

Maddie should be relieved of her supervising duties until she demonstrates she has a spine. She should have NOT allowed hit to continue to use your equipment for 10 minutes. She should have demanded he stop immediately, clean up his mess, and leave the lab not to return till she had a conversation with him. That conversation should still be ringing in his ears 10 years from now.

His "that's ok I don't need it" should have been met with "NO you don't get it. You do NOT under any circumstance touch that equipment, because you could ruin my experiment. His response shows he should NOT be allowed to use the lab till he gets it.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Surianne on November 02, 2012, 07:07:02 PM
I agree, David.  I'm not sure what the coworker was supposed to say instead of "I understand"?

He's been talked to.  At this point, OP, I don't think it's your responsibility to make sure he knows the procedures -- he's been instructed in them.  If it happens again, address it then, but for now, assume he's up to speed.  Or, if you're really worried that he could ruin your experiment (I'm not sure if that's the case -- I found the timeline confusing) then talk about it with him before setting yours in motion next time.

He didn't say "I understand." Instead he said he didn't need the apparatus. That is exactly the problem. His answer does not confirm that he has learned the rules that this apparatus is not available for him to use while someone else has it reserved. His answer implies that the reason he won't jump in and use the apparatus while the OP is gone is because he doesn't need to use it that day, not that he understands that it is not available.

I was using "I understand" as short form -- sorry for the confusion.  I meant, the problem in the past was that he used the apparatus when he shouldn't have, yes?  (Let me know if I've got that wrong.)  So by saying "I don't need it" he's made it clear he won't be doing that -- using the apparatus when the OP needs it.  What else was he supposed to say?  "I don't need it, but even if I did need it, I acknowledge that I should not be using it"?  People don't really talk like that.  I guess I'm unsure as to what the problem was with the guy saying he didn't need it, when the OP's goal was to find out if he would be using it.  He answered her question, yes?
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Onyx_TKD on November 02, 2012, 07:27:17 PM
I agree, David.  I'm not sure what the coworker was supposed to say instead of "I understand"?

He's been talked to.  At this point, OP, I don't think it's your responsibility to make sure he knows the procedures -- he's been instructed in them.  If it happens again, address it then, but for now, assume he's up to speed.  Or, if you're really worried that he could ruin your experiment (I'm not sure if that's the case -- I found the timeline confusing) then talk about it with him before setting yours in motion next time.

He didn't say "I understand." Instead he said he didn't need the apparatus. That is exactly the problem. His answer does not confirm that he has learned the rules that this apparatus is not available for him to use while someone else has it reserved. His answer implies that the reason he won't jump in and use the apparatus while the OP is gone is because he doesn't need to use it that day, not that he understands that it is not available.

I was using "I understand" as short form -- sorry for the confusion.  I meant, the problem in the past was that he used the apparatus when he shouldn't have, yes?  (Let me know if I've got that wrong.)  So by saying "I don't need it" he's made it clear he won't be doing that -- using the apparatus when the OP needs it.  What else was he supposed to say?  "I don't need it, but even if I did need it, I acknowledge that I should not be using it"?  People don't really talk like that.  I guess I'm unsure as to what the problem was with the guy saying he didn't need it, when the OP's goal was to find out if he would be using it.  He answered her question, yes?

The way I see it is this: Barney screwed up the day before by using an apparatus that he knew was already in use by someone else. After screwing up someone else's experiment because you broke the rules, it shouldn't be surprising when that person takes extra steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. So, the next day, when that same person told him directly that the apparatus was still in use despite the fact that she was not going to be physically present for a while, it shouldn't be much of a stretch to realize why she's mentioning it.

If he grasped what they told him yesterday, then he should be thinking "Apparatus is in use --> I won't touch anything."
If he doesn't need the apparatus that day anyway, "Apparatus is in use + I don't need it --> I won't touch anything."
If he does need the apparatus that day, "Apparatus is in use + I need to work on it soon --> I won't touch anything."
I.e., it doesn't matter whether he needs it or not because the result is completely the same.

The fact that his immediate reaction was "Okay, I don't need it" instead of, e.g., "Okay, I won't touch it" or even just "Okay" implies to me that he thinks whether he needs the apparatus makes a difference. If his labmates are ever going to be able to trust him to work in the lab unsupervised, then he not only needs to get that idea out of his head ASAP, but he also needs to make it clear to his labmates that he understands the rules and is going to follow them.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Surianne on November 02, 2012, 08:05:11 PM
Personally, if I were asked a simple question, I wouldn't have time to put that much thought into it, and consider all of the possible responses and scenarios that they would imply before replying.  With that amount of delay I'd imagine the OP would get pretty annoyed and assume I wasn't even listening! 

So I'd likely reply "No worries, I don't even need it today" and think that was acceptable and that it didn't imply anything more than assurance that I wouldn't be using the apparatus during her break. 

If he messes up again, then yes, it's a major problem.  But there's no reason to analyze every word he speaks as to how much it differs from the perfect answer.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Mental Magpie on November 03, 2012, 02:35:29 AM
I don't know, if I screwed up the day before and if the person whose experiment I screwed up said something to me, I would be going out of my way to show that person that I would not screw up again.  That means I would say more than, "I don't need it today anyway."  I would probably say, "I won't touch anything."  I would want to show that person I was competent and just had a really stupid and dangerous lack of judgment the day before. 
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Shopaholic on November 03, 2012, 02:55:27 AM
Thanks for arguing my side, Onyx - I had to go before I could address David's question last night.

It is highly unusual for anybody to point out that they are on a break while using Apparatus (or any other thing, for that matter). For one, it is very clear that it is in use because it is on, and there are things scattered around in it.
Second, it is in the interest of someone wanting to use Apparatus to inquire if it is free.
However, Barney has shown that our regular practices don't apply to him so I went out of my way and somewhat sarcastically pointed out that I was still working, despite it being blatantly obvious.

What I expected is "I understand I was wrong yesterday.I won't do that again" Or at least a normal human facial expression expressing contriteness or shame. I know if a senior member of my lab had said something to me like that after having screwed up, I would be completely red-faced. (Exactly what you wrote, Mental Magpie)
Instead, he acted as if I was doing him a courtesy.
It's not as if I expected an "I'm so sorry I put you, your fetus and every other person in the lab at risk."

David, Barney was there. He knew exactly what happened. He didn't need the context of my OP.
There was no miscommunication. I asked him if he knew I was working, he replied "yes", then tried to blame Maddie.
If he had asked "why are you telling me this?" - it doesn't necessarily have to be snarky - I would have replied "because your actions yesterday demonstrate that you don't know the proper lab protocol for shared equipment."

FWIW, the whiteboard sign-up for apparatus is right next to Apparatus.

When I mentor a new student, I explain what we are doing, then detail the hazards we may be working with. I explain the precautions we will take and why we take them. My method is usually "You watch me do this once (or as many times as you need), I watch you do it once - or as many times as you need until you feel confident enough to do things independently. Then, I will be in the area for any and all questions you may have"

Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: DavidH on November 04, 2012, 07:16:11 PM
I'll try it this way.  You didn't ask the question you wanted the answer to.  You sarcastically told him you were taking a break and then didn't like his response. 

The normal response to I'm taking a break just isn't "I understand I was wrong yesterday, I won't do it again", so expecting that answer to a sarcastic comment is unreasonable. 

If you want that response, then you need to say something like, "I'm still annoyed about yesterday, have you now learned what you did wrong and do you now know how to correct it."

Being worried is still fine, wanting reassurance that he now understands is still fine, expecting that reassurance as a response to a sarcastic comment, just isn't reasonable.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Mental Magpie on November 04, 2012, 08:49:12 PM
I'll try it this way.  You didn't ask the question you wanted the answer to.  You sarcastically told him you were taking a break and then didn't like his response. 

The normal response to I'm taking a break just isn't "I understand I was wrong yesterday, I won't do it again", so expecting that answer to a sarcastic comment is unreasonable. 

If you want that response, then you need to say something like, "I'm still annoyed about yesterday, have you now learned what you did wrong and do you now know how to correct it."

Being worried is still fine, wanting reassurance that he now understands is still fine, expecting that reassurance as a response to a sarcastic comment, just isn't reasonable.

How was her comment at all sarcastic?  Sure, it wasn't a straightforward comment, but I just don't get how it was sarcastic.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: rashea on November 05, 2012, 09:10:43 AM
I'll try it this way.  You didn't ask the question you wanted the answer to.  You sarcastically told him you were taking a break and then didn't like his response. 

The normal response to I'm taking a break just isn't "I understand I was wrong yesterday, I won't do it again", so expecting that answer to a sarcastic comment is unreasonable. 

If you want that response, then you need to say something like, "I'm still annoyed about yesterday, have you now learned what you did wrong and do you now know how to correct it."

Being worried is still fine, wanting reassurance that he now understands is still fine, expecting that reassurance as a response to a sarcastic comment, just isn't reasonable.

How was her comment at all sarcastic?  Sure, it wasn't a straightforward comment, but I just don't get how it was sarcastic.

She just said it was sarcastic:
so I went out of my way and somewhat sarcastically pointed out that I was still working, despite it being blatantly obvious.

OP, I get why you are upset. But, he's been talked to. I think at this point you need to decide what would make you feel okay with this situation enough to move on. Then, go after that. If what you want is for him to say, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have put you at risk without your knowledge, and I should have asked you before touching the apparatus" then go talk to him or his mentor and say that. That's a reasonable request. What's not reasonable is throwing out a PA comment and hoping to get that back.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Mental Magpie on November 05, 2012, 01:39:56 PM
 :-[ :-[ :-[ I thought I was in a different thread...my apologies.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: rashea on November 05, 2012, 02:26:25 PM
:-[ :-[ :-[ I thought I was in a different thread...my apologies.

That explains it. You're usually so careful to read everything. I thought it was a bit odd.  :)
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Mental Magpie on November 05, 2012, 06:50:37 PM
:-[ :-[ :-[ I thought I was in a different thread...my apologies.

That explains it. You're usually so careful to read everything. I thought it was a bit odd.  :)

Haha, this is the second time in a month or so (I recently did it to Twik); maybe I need to get myself checked!  I blame it on basic training frying my brain  ;D
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Shopaholic on November 06, 2012, 07:38:59 AM
If what you want is for him to say, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have put you at risk without your knowledge, and I should have asked you before touching the apparatus" then go talk to him or his mentor and say that. That's a reasonable request. What's not reasonable is throwing out a PA comment and hoping to get that back.

That isn't what I expect him to say.
I expect him to show some inclination that he understood what he did was wrong, if not by actually stating it (it might be too much to ask) then by body language.
His body language showed no sense of "I did wrong."

Yesterday he came in early, didn't say a word to anyone and set up an experiment. After an hour he noticed his experiment doesn't work. Who does he call? Me.
"Shopaholic, why won't my experiment work?"
"I don't know."
"The equipment is giving me an error message. What does it mean?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know??"
"No, look it up in the manual."
Apparently in Barney's world an electrical circuit doesn't need to be closed for there to be a current running...

I then chewed him out for leaving a sensitive piece of equipment where it could be easily damaged.

Today he insists on working on my bench despite the fact that a bench has been allocated for him to share with another student.
I warned him that I was working on something sensitive, and actually had to put a masking tape line down the bench to mark where he shouldn't cross. I feel like in grade school.
Next time I'm going to tell him that he ruined my experiment and there is no way he is getting near my stuff again, I was just too angry today for it to come out in an effective manner.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Mental Magpie on November 06, 2012, 07:47:28 AM
Honestly, let that original one go, and here's why.  You obviously already don't like him, and I have a feeling he's going to start picking up on that.  Every time he does something wrong that can't just be overlooked, tell him, but do so calmly.  Let that first one go, it's too late (simply because he's made a myriad of other mistakes since then), and focus on what he's doing now.  Allocated to another bench to share?  Remind him.  Leaving out sensitive equipment?  "You know not to do that."  Keep your voice calm, level, but firm.  He'll eventually get it (hopefully).
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Judah on November 06, 2012, 10:02:00 AM
Today when I was working in Apparatus, I told Barney that I had a short break, but that I am still working in it. He didn't get it, just said nonchalantly that he didn't need it.

Today he insists on working on my bench despite the fact that a bench has been allocated for him to share with another student.
I warned him that I was working on something sensitive, and actually had to put a masking tape line down the bench to mark where he shouldn't cross. I feel like in grade school.
Next time I'm going to tell him that he ruined my experiment and there is no way he is getting near my stuff again, I was just too angry today for it to come out in an effective manner.

What I'm getting from your posts is that for some reason you seem to dance around an issue without directly addressing it, then get upset when Barney doesn't respond the way you want him to. In the first quote, I would have said, "I'm taking a break. That doesn't mean you can use the apparatus' it's still unavailable to you. This is just a break."

In the second quote you "warned him that I was working on something sensitive", but you didn't say, "You need to use the bench that was allocated for your use. You may not use my bench to work on as I am working on something sensitive."

Please be direct, it's the only way Barney's going to understand what you want.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Shoo on November 06, 2012, 10:56:30 AM
Today when I was working in Apparatus, I told Barney that I had a short break, but that I am still working in it. He didn't get it, just said nonchalantly that he didn't need it.

Today he insists on working on my bench despite the fact that a bench has been allocated for him to share with another student.
I warned him that I was working on something sensitive, and actually had to put a masking tape line down the bench to mark where he shouldn't cross. I feel like in grade school.
Next time I'm going to tell him that he ruined my experiment and there is no way he is getting near my stuff again, I was just too angry today for it to come out in an effective manner.

What I'm getting from your posts is that for some reason you seem to dance around an issue without directly addressing it, then get upset when Barney doesn't respond the way you want him to. In the first quote, I would have said, "I'm taking a break. That doesn't mean you can use the apparatus' it's still unavailable to you. This is just a break."

In the second quote you "warned him that I was working on something sensitive", but you didn't say, "You need to use the bench that was allocated for your use. You may not use my bench to work on as I am working on something sensitive."

Please be direct, it's the only way Barney's going to understand what you want.

I agree with this.

Just TELL him.  Don't hint at it.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Shopaholic on November 06, 2012, 11:01:49 AM
^You are both right. It is time that I let go of the original incident.

Update:
I had a talk with my PI today about work. My experiment from last week failed. He asked me why I thought that was, and I listed a number of reasons, among them I said there was an unfortunate incident when someone took over Apparatus, and due to the hazard extra cleaning was necessary and the experiment was delayed. I didn't name names, but I did say that was the reason I asked him to refresh the regulations during the group meeting.

PI told me that I have complete authority to throw something at someone when something like that happens, and acknowledged also the hazard. He gave a cute armed forces analogy about me being the commander of my project and having the authority to put someone in his/her place when I see they are jeopardizing the advancement of my research.

I told PI I looked for the most efficient way to get the point accross, but that next time I will indeed throw something.
PI replied "...and call me to throw things with you when that happens."

One of my favorite things about my PI is that he always has my back :).
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: Marguette on November 06, 2012, 12:15:55 PM
I assume you meant it light-heartedly, but throwing something is just hinting around too. If Annoying Coworker is clueless enough to mess in your space and your equipment, throwing something will tell him you’re upset and annoyed, but it still won’t tell him what he’s doing wrong. Like Shoo said, I encourage you to use your words. And not just to tell him what not to do, but tell him what to do (the “herding toddlers” principle). I.e., not just “don’t work on my bench,” but “that bench over there is your bench. You need to work there, not here.”
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: Deetee on November 06, 2012, 12:57:38 PM
Quote
In the second quote you "warned him that I was working on something sensitive", but you didn't say, "You need to use the bench that was allocated for your use. You may not use my bench to work on as I am working on something sensitive."

Please be direct, it's the only way Barney's going to understand what you want.

I agree with this.

Just TELL him.  Don't hint at it.

I also agree.
He is being annoying and dangerous and going against lab protocols (I worked in a lab for years and years-the guy is a menace)

But WHY let him stay on your bench? In my lab, bench space (and equipment) was inviolate. If some undergrad or new student had started using my space, I would have told them that he could not. I would have done it nicely-I would have asked if they were assigned a space and then helped them reconfigure the space or asked their supervising student to help with any deficiencies, but they do NOT get my space.

He isn't getting it because you aren't telling him (AND he is dense) Some people require more directness than others. He is one of them.

I did work with one guy who was pushy and a bit dense (super smart but clueless). However, I just decided he had Aspergers and was much more direct, almost rude, to him and we started to get along great after that because I didn't expect him to understand things unless I was blunt and direct (and once I was, he was very considerate).
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: DavidH on November 06, 2012, 01:29:43 PM
You said he insists on working on your bench.  Can we define "insists"? 

Did you ever say to him, not hint, but actually say, "This is my bench, the one assigned to you is over there.  You need to conduct your experiment there, not here?"

What is your role in the lab compared to his?  Are you his supervisor, mentor, colleague? 

The way to get what you want is to tell him, not hint, not put tape on your bench, not chew him out, just tell him what he should be doing. 

Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: O'Dell on November 06, 2012, 01:30:20 PM
Whatever, I told him to get his stuff out NOW because Apparatus needed to be sterilized and I needed to use it in 10 minutes. He said OK, but continued working for another 10 minutes.

How much more explicit does the OP need to be?  ???
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: DavidH on November 06, 2012, 01:45:39 PM
Since you asked, here are some examples:

OP:  I told Barney that I had a short break, but that I am still working in it.
More explicit:  I'm still angry about yesterday, do you now understand what you did wrong and what the correct procedures are?

OP: I warned him that I was working on something sensitive, and actually had to put a masking tape line down the bench to mark where he shouldn't cross.
More explicit:  This is my bench, the one assigned to you is over there.  Please don't use my bench and use the one assigned to you instead.

Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: Deetee on November 06, 2012, 02:06:56 PM
Whatever, I told him to get his stuff out NOW because Apparatus needed to be sterilized and I needed to use it in 10 minutes. He said OK, but continued working for another 10 minutes.

How much more explicit does the OP need to be?  ???

"I don't think you understand. I need to run my experiment RIGHT NOW. Get your stuff out of the way now before I need to throw it all away myself."
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: Shopaholic on November 07, 2012, 09:06:01 AM
I read all of your posts. I do have a problem with being direct because I very often come off abrasive. I'm not good at confrontation.
I am the PhD student who has been in the lab longest. Maddie and I share a bench, and we get along well.

This morning I told Barney I needed to talk to him, and in a calm, quiet voice told him the following:
"Please take your things and move to other bench. I'm asking you to do this for two reasons: one, the bench is becoming very crowded and two, I am not at ease working next to you.
I am still angry about what happened last week. Your behaviour was unprofessional, irresponsible and frankly, rude..."

At this point Barney interjected with "But I apologized for that!"

I continued, in the same calm, quiet voice:
"Actually, no you didn't and please let me finish what I have to say. I don't know what you were thinking when you decided to work in Apparatus when you knew perfectly well I was in the middle of working there. That kind of behaviour is not acceptable in our lab, and cannot repeat itself. You endangered me, yourself and the rest of the people in the lab by not following regulations. If you are unsure of how to work with something, ask someone to help you or to supervise you as you work. Now, please take your things and move to the other bench you will be more comfortable there."

He kept nodding and saying "OK, OK, OK." I normally doubt people actually understand when they reply like that, but here's hoping.

He has been avoiding me all day since. Maddie thinks he is afraid to come near our part of the lab.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
Post by: artk2002 on November 07, 2012, 10:37:58 AM
Today he insists on working on my bench despite the fact that a bench has been allocated for him to share with another student.
I warned him that I was working on something sensitive, and actually had to put a masking tape line down the bench to mark where he shouldn't cross. I feel like in grade school.
Next time I'm going to tell him that he ruined my experiment and there is no way he is getting near my stuff again, I was just too angry today for it to come out in an effective manner.

You need to understand why is his "insist" was more powerful than yours.

He's doing dominance moves here. If he were a dog he'd be peeing all over your work space. By compromising and not pushing back, hard, you're telling him that he has a right to dominate you. Is that what you want?

I read all of your posts. I do have a problem with being direct because I very often come off abrasive. I'm not good at confrontation.

Abrasive isn't always bad. You don't need Barney to like you, you need him to respect you. And remember, too, that there are times that accusations of "abrasive" or "unfriendly" are just defenses from someone who is in the wrong. They attack the messenger because they don't want to accept the message.

Quote
I am the PhD student who has been in the lab longest. Maddie and I share a bench, and we get along well.

What did I say about you having the seniority? Use it. He tries peeing on your desk again, whack him on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. (Please... it's an analogy, not pet-training advice.)

Quote
This morning I told Barney I needed to talk to him, and in a calm, quiet voice told him the following:
"Please take your things and move to other bench. I'm asking you to do this for two reasons: one, the bench is becoming very crowded and two, I am not at ease working next to you.
I am still angry about what happened last week. Your behaviour was unprofessional, irresponsible and frankly, rude..."

Great start!

Quote
At this point Barney interjected with "But I apologized for that!"

The defense mechanisms kick in. It's an attempt to turn the issue around on you. He's fine, so you must be the person in the wrong.

Quote
I continued, in the same calm, quiet voice:
"Actually, no you didn't and please let me finish what I have to say. I don't know what you were thinking when you decided to work in Apparatus when you knew perfectly well I was in the middle of working there. That kind of behaviour is not acceptable in our lab, and cannot repeat itself. You endangered me, yourself and the rest of the people in the lab by not following regulations. If you are unsure of how to work with something, ask someone to help you or to supervise you as you work. Now, please take your things and move to the other bench you will be more comfortable there."

He kept nodding and saying "OK, OK, OK." I normally doubt people actually understand when they reply like that, but here's hoping.

It's possible that he'll get it, but I think a few more "bad dogs" will be necessary.

Quote
He has been avoiding me all day since. Maddie thinks he is afraid to come near our part of the lab.

At this point, fear is good. Someone who works with hazardous materials and procedures needs a little bit of fear in them.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: rashea on November 07, 2012, 11:49:16 AM
I am the PhD student who has been in the lab longest.  I take this to mean you have no authority over him?

This morning I told Barney I needed to talk to him, and in a calm, quiet voice told him the following:
"Please take your things and move to other bench. This sounds like an order? Is there a rule that he's breaking? Or just your preference? I'm asking you to do this for two reasons: one, the bench is becoming very crowded and two, I am not at ease working next to you.
I am still angry about what happened last week. This is good Your behaviour was unprofessional, irresponsible and frankly, rude..." I think you went a bit far here. You're scolding him. That's something that should be left for his superiors.

At this point Barney interjected with "But I apologized for that!"

I continued, in the same calm, quiet voice:
"Actually, no you didn't and please let me finish what I have to say. I don't know what you were thinking when you decided to work in Apparatus when you knew perfectly well I was in the middle of working there.Good That kind of behaviour is not acceptable in our lab, and cannot repeat itself. Again, this is acceptable if you are in a position of authority in the lab/over him. If not, I think you went too farYou endangered me, yourself and the rest of the people in the lab by not following regulations. If you are unsure of how to work with something, ask someone to help you or to supervise you as you work. Now, please take your things and move to the other bench you will be more comfortable there."

He kept nodding and saying "OK, OK, OK." I normally doubt people actually understand when they reply like that, but here's hoping.

He has been avoiding me all day since. Maddie thinks he is afraid to come near our part of the lab.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: Deetee on November 07, 2012, 12:15:29 PM

He has been avoiding me all day since. Maddie thinks he is afraid to come near our part of the lab.

Good. You have taught him what should be obvious. There are people that you value the opinion of and care about. This person is not someone that you want to "like" you (a little like elephantchild's neighbour actually) as the only way they will "like" you is if you are a complete doormat.

Respect tinged with fear is what you want.

When I used to teach, for the first few classess I was very strict and a bit "mean". It worked much better because I am naturally superhelpful. But if I started off "mean" the students were grateful for my help instead of taking it for granted.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: artk2002 on November 07, 2012, 01:07:29 PM
I am the PhD student who has been in the lab longest.  I take this to mean you have no authority over him?

This morning I told Barney I needed to talk to him, and in a calm, quiet voice told him the following:
"Please take your things and move to other bench. This sounds like an order? Is there a rule that he's breaking? Or just your preference? I'm asking you to do this for two reasons: one, the bench is becoming very crowded and two, I am not at ease working next to you.
I am still angry about what happened last week. This is good Your behaviour was unprofessional, irresponsible and frankly, rude..." I think you went a bit far here. You're scolding him. That's something that should be left for his superiors.

At this point Barney interjected with "But I apologized for that!"

I continued, in the same calm, quiet voice:
"Actually, no you didn't and please let me finish what I have to say. I don't know what you were thinking when you decided to work in Apparatus when you knew perfectly well I was in the middle of working there.Good That kind of behaviour is not acceptable in our lab, and cannot repeat itself. Again, this is acceptable if you are in a position of authority in the lab/over him. If not, I think you went too farYou endangered me, yourself and the rest of the people in the lab by not following regulations. If you are unsure of how to work with something, ask someone to help you or to supervise you as you work. Now, please take your things and move to the other bench you will be more comfortable there."

He kept nodding and saying "OK, OK, OK." I normally doubt people actually understand when they reply like that, but here's hoping.

He has been avoiding me all day since. Maddie thinks he is afraid to come near our part of the lab.

There's "authority" and then there's "authority."  Shopaholic may not be in a line management position above Barney on an org chart, but that doesn't mean that she doesn't have authority. As the senior PhD in the lab she's got plenty of authority over a new Master's student (i.e. someone with an undergrad degree and no real experience.)  A formal, documented hierarchy is not the only way that authority works.

In a lot of situations, it was the OP's right and responsibility to do the scolding. I know that if I were the lab manager or PI I would expect my senior PhD to put the guy in his place and not bring issues like that to me.

I don't have direct-line authority over the developers on my project. I report directly to the Director of Engineering and they report up through someone else who reports to the DoE. I can guarantee you that none of them would ever get away with refusing to do what I told them, based on "you're not the boss of meeeeeee." Both officially and unofficially, the DoE and the development manager have delegated their authority to me in certain matters. Even more importantly, they do what I ask because I'm the senior, most experienced person there. My authority comes more from who I am and less where I show up in an org chart. I've worked in many places where there were people who had no titular authority, but nevertheless had tremendous influence. Ignoring them would be extremely foolish.

Barney's making the classic blunder of someone new to the workforce: He's failing to assess the whole workplace. Assuming that someone doesn't have authority simply because they lack a title is a very, very bad mistake. Witness the PI telling Shopaholic that she can tell Barney what to do and where to go and the PI will back her up. The last thing a newbie should do is annoy someone and then find out that they've got the bosses ear. Trying to dominate someone without understanding the whole environment can lead to much worse than the "bad dog" he got. Again, from my own experience, I get asked frequently to assess people who don't report directly to me. Annoying me could result in a bad review, failure to renew a contract or a lukewarm recommendation. Even if I don't have the final say, if I said "fire them," I know that would be given a lot of weight.

I realize that lots of people work in very structured, hierarchical environments, where if someone isn't explicitly higher than them on the food chain then they have no authority. There are many people who prefer that kind of environment. The rest of us work in messier places where lines of authority aren't so clearly drawn.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: bloo on November 07, 2012, 01:28:53 PM

He has been avoiding me all day since. Maddie thinks he is afraid to come near our part of the lab.

Good. You have taught him what should be obvious. There are people that you value the opinion of and care about. This person is not someone that you want to "like" you (a little like elephantchild's neighbour actually) as the only way they will "like" you is if you are a complete doormat.

Respect tinged with fear is what you want.

When I used to teach, for the first few classess I was very strict and a bit "mean". It worked much better because I am naturally superhelpful. But if I started off "mean" the students were grateful for my help instead of taking it for granted.

Totally agree with artk2002 (great breakdown, btw!) but also PODing DeeTee because this is EXACTLY what I was thinking when reading the end of your post, Shopaholic.

I'd be whistling and purring in contentment that he's avoiding you. You'll have to keep it up to ensure he knows he a 'beta' dog and not the 'alpha'.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: DavidH on November 07, 2012, 01:56:51 PM
I think this was a great solution, it has been clearly laid out and there was no way to misunderstand.  With any luck, the lesson will stick. 
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: NyaChan on November 07, 2012, 01:59:14 PM
I think you did a good job of speaking your mind.  And really, it is almost impossible to perfectly express everything, so if a few things were a little much or not quite on, I don't think it is a huge deal.  You were clear as to what you you were thinking and what you expected.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: Mental Magpie on November 07, 2012, 07:17:29 PM
I think you did very well and echo artk2002's sentiment.  My only advice is to take this step from the start in the future, especially now that you know you can do it!  :D
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: Shopaholic on November 08, 2012, 09:53:36 AM
Thank you, artk2002! That was an excellent explanation.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: JoyinVirginia on November 08, 2012, 10:51:16 AM
Hooray for shopaholic! Continue to be very direct and abrasive with new guy. He sounds like a friend of mine from college, nice guy but thought he knew everything when he got to grad school. I tried to give him advice to tone it down. We are in different fields but were at same university for different programs. His tales of work included some faux paus that were obvious to me but not him. He needed to get smacked down by coworkers several times before it started to sink in. he was in a program that sounds similar to yours.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: Shopaholic on November 22, 2012, 02:08:03 PM
So, Barney decided to quit.
He told PI this week, citing "social reasons". He may have said something about "bad interpersonal relationships" in the lab.

PI asked me what happened. I told him in a nutshell that I calmly spoke to him about moving benches and about what had happened. PI said he backed me up, will always back me up but to please try to be more attentive to people's sensitivities in the future. (This is the second time this has happened recently - see here: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=119439.0 (http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=119439.0))

Anyway, I said I'm sorry it worked out that way, and promised PI I wouldn't talk to Master's students any more.

From what I gather, he isn't too upset about Barney leaving. PI believes that the science should come first, before all social aspects of lab work and that people who are genuinely focused and driven would not quit the first time they are faced with some criticism from their peers. I think he's somewhat relieved this came out sooner rather than later.
(Other than an "excuse me" I did not speak to Barney for better or for worse since asking him to move benches.)

Lesson learned: it is probably better to yell and scream at a person when he messes up than quietly and calmly explain why you are upset a week later.

Amusingly, PI talked to me about this when we were walking through campus, when a bird decided to poop all over me. I guess the universe agrees I have poor people skills.
Considering what's been falling out of the sky in Israel this week, I think I got off pretty cheap...

Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: figee on November 22, 2012, 03:55:37 PM
As this is the second time this has happened, I think you need to think VERY carefully about how you relate to others and particularly students.  As you work in an environment which relies on teamwork and you will be attempting to get a job in a competitive context, being seen to not possess the necessary people skills to manage students and others within the lab.  To butcher Oscar Wilde 'To lose one student is unfortunate; to lose too is careless.'

Keep in mind that I speak as someone who is an academic and who regularly deals with large numbers of 'special' students.  It is easier to support people who don't seem to have a repeating pattern of behaviour (such as students leaving the lab) over and over again around them.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: FauxFoodist on November 23, 2012, 03:23:32 AM
PI asked me what happened. I told him in a nutshell that I calmly spoke to him about moving benches and about what had happened. PI said he backed me up, will always back me up but to please try to be more attentive to people's sensitivities in the future. (This is the second time this has happened recently - see here: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=119439.0 (http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=119439.0))

After reading your most recent post and reviewing the other thread, I guess I'd be in the same boat as you because I don't see what you did wrong.  To me, the other two individuals are being overly sensitive because they are bumbleheads who, likely, have been enabled in the past.  Actually, I don't see it as them being "sensitive."  I see it as their "defense mechanisms" kicking in because someone (you) won't let them get away with their SS behavior.  To me, I see them leaving as good riddance.  However, I don't have the experience of figee so I'd have to defer to her response to you as the correct one for your particular setting (in my dept, refusing to follow proper procedures could compromise patient care so addressing that wins out any day over someone's "sensitivities"; in fact, earlier this year, a new hire was let go after just a few months because she a) refused to correct what she was doing wrong which resulted in her continuing to make med errors and b) kept ruffling the feathers of her coworkers and wouldn't correct those actions either).
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: figee on November 23, 2012, 05:11:05 AM
Allow me to clarify. What the op said or did isn't wrong per se but if her supervisor has had that chat, I'd be treading carefully. Because two students leaving the lab indicates that they weren't cut out BUT if their leaving was connected with interactions with the same person, then it also speaks to her ability to manage different personalities and situations in the lab. And as her supervisor is be assessing that as well as her work in relation to positions of authority and leadership, opportunities to work with others or references.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: O'Dell on November 23, 2012, 02:46:03 PM
So, Barney decided to quit.
He told PI this week, citing "social reasons". He may have said something about "bad interpersonal relationships" in the lab.

PI asked me what happened. I told him in a nutshell that I calmly spoke to him about moving benches and about what had happened. PI said he backed me up, will always back me up but to please try to be more attentive to people's sensitivities in the future. (This is the second time this has happened recently - see here: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=119439.0 (http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=119439.0))

Anyway, I said I'm sorry it worked out that way, and promised PI I wouldn't talk to Master's students any more.

From what I gather, he isn't too upset about Barney leaving. PI believes that the science should come first, before all social aspects of lab work and that people who are genuinely focused and driven would not quit the first time they are faced with some criticism from their peers. I think he's somewhat relieved this came out sooner rather than later.
(Other than an "excuse me" I did not speak to Barney for better or for worse since asking him to move benches.)

Lesson learned: it is probably better to yell and scream at a person when he messes up than quietly and calmly explain why you are upset a week later.

Amusingly, PI talked to me about this when we were walking through campus, when a bird decided to poop all over me. I guess the universe agrees I have poor people skills.
Considering what's been falling out of the sky in Israel this week, I think I got off pretty cheap...

Perhaps the lesson is to speak up "in the moment" but do so in a calm manner. It doesn't have to be a choice between 2 extremes.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: MyFamily on November 24, 2012, 10:02:46 PM
I was agreeing with the advice here until I remembered something and I double checked to make sure I'm right - the OP is in Israel.  These college students are most likely coming to university after a few years serving in the military.  They didn't get their hands held in the military, they were told to jump and they didn't ask how high, they just jumped.  I think the OP would be correct in being more forceful in her interactions with these students and while she doesn't have to yell, she does need to say 'no, you are not using this machine' or 'no, you are not sitting at this bench, your assigned bench is over there' and be specific and forceful in what she says. These students should know how to follow directions and they shouldn't need their hands held.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: TootsNYC on November 25, 2012, 07:58:24 PM
Whatever, I told him to get his stuff out NOW because Apparatus needed to be sterilized and I needed to use it in 10 minutes. He said OK, but continued working for another 10 minutes.

How much more explicit does the OP need to be?  ???

Well, at 9 minutes to go, she needed to say, "Pick up your stuff now or I'll do it for you. Now."

And if she needed to sterilize it, did she move immediately to do so, or did she wait for him to get out of the way? She's going to need to treat this guy the way you do a telemarketer. You just issue orders, and you do not wait for him to agree and acquiesce. (You don't wait for a telemarketer's permission to hang up, right? So you don't wait for this guy to agree.)

Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: anonymousmac on November 25, 2012, 08:53:31 PM
I hate to suggest this, but are you female, and were both of these "sensitive" students male?  Is it possible that they had a problem accepting your authority, and expected you to coddle and support them instead of acting like a fellow scientist?

From what you posted I think you were fine, and that they were behaving completely unprofessionally.  Unfortunately, the way they behaved feels familiar to me from situations I've sometimes observed, of men who expected all women to be support staff, or mother hens, and couldn't handle treating them as professional equals or superiors.

I may be completely wrong, and I hope that's not the case.  But if these "sensitive" men were getting upset because you didn't behave according to their gender/cultural/etc. expectations, then that's really their problem, and the in my opinion best thing you could do would be to continue behaving completely professionally, as you are, rather than doing anything to bend over backwards to accommodate their incorrect expectations.  Especially if your boss supports you.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: LEMon on November 25, 2012, 09:35:23 PM
Are there other people who have been around during these times?  I'm wondering if there are people who observed the situations whose opinion you might ask.  The students are biased and it doen't sound like the boss is in the lab.  It might be good to get a neutral opinion.

I have to admit from how you described both students, it sounded more like their problem than yours.  But it never hurts to get more input.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: DavidH on November 25, 2012, 10:28:15 PM
It is rarely better to yell and scream, another lesson you might consider is that it is better to clearly describe what the issue is when it occurs and be direct rather than assume they will take hints. 

It is easy to say it's men who can't deal with women in authority, but it's not 1955 and if these are students then they are probably young enough to have grown up with women in postions of authority.

If there are other Master's students you work with well, I'd take this as two cases of things don't always work out, but if these are the first two students you've worked with, then it might be time to consider what role you may play in this.

As a manager, when two employees don't get along, you don't always know who is the source of the problem and you may choose to split them up.  If one of them gets along well with their next coworker and the other doesn't, it is the beginning of a pattern.  If it happens a third time, then the pattern is getting more clear.

Since you say that you have poor people skills, and the PI suggested you be more attentive to people's sensitivities, it is a great opportunity to ask the PI for some pointers on that.  It will show you took the comments to heart and are interested in improving, which is almost always a good thing.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic) - update p.3
Post by: O'Dell on November 26, 2012, 06:44:06 AM
Whatever, I told him to get his stuff out NOW because Apparatus needed to be sterilized and I needed to use it in 10 minutes. He said OK, but continued working for another 10 minutes.

How much more explicit does the OP need to be?  ???

Well, at 9 minutes to go, she needed to say, "Pick up your stuff now or I'll do it for you. Now."

And if she needed to sterilize it, did she move immediately to do so, or did she wait for him to get out of the way? She's going to need to treat this guy the way you do a telemarketer. You just issue orders, and you do not wait for him to agree and acquiesce. (You don't wait for a telemarketer's permission to hang up, right? So you don't wait for this guy to agree.)

My comment was specifically focused on those saying she wasn't specific enough for the guy to understand that he needed to stop. There seemed to be a lot of excusing of his behavior. She was specific enough in her comments that she was working there, needed him to stop, and that the area needed to be sterilized.

She may not have been forceful enough or repetitive enough or demanding enough to get results with the guy, but she was specific enough that anyone who wanted to get it would have gotten it.

I'm on the fence as to what the problem is with people quitting. Personally I think it was a bad move to talk to the guy after reporting him. I think that's an either or thing over one early incident...report or give the person a talking to but not both. But that he quit because of that? Sounds like whoever is hiring is choosing some candidates who don't fit lab work well. Sometimes organizations get into a rut of hiring the same people with the same characteristics, leading to the same annoying behaviors across different employees. In your case, OP, appliance hogging and sensitivity to criticism.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: WillyNilly on November 26, 2012, 10:03:17 AM
Like many others I think this is a situation of "its them, not you" - while I don't think you handled this or your previous situation perfectly, I think handled them pretty darn OK, and the students handled them terribly.

However since you seem to want to improve your interpersonal communications and I certainly think its a valuable skill for everyone, I would suggest Dale Carnegie's courses or at least some of his books, such as the uber famous How to Win Friends and Influence People (which despite the word "friends" in the title is really mostly about professional relationships).
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! - final update p.3
Post by: Auntie Mame on November 26, 2012, 11:21:55 AM
I hate to suggest this, but are you female, and were both of these "sensitive" students male?  Is it possible that they had a problem accepting your authority, and expected you to coddle and support them instead of acting like a fellow scientist?


I had that exact same thought.  Wouldn't be the first time I've seen men balk at the idea that a woman could  and does know more than them. 
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: lollylegs on November 26, 2012, 06:20:47 PM
It is rarely better to yell and scream, another lesson you might consider is that it is better to clearly describe what the issue is when it occurs and be direct rather than assume they will take hints. 

It is easy to say it's men who can't deal with women in authority, but it's not 1955 and if these are students then they are probably young enough to have grown up with women in postions of authority.

If there are other Master's students you work with well, I'd take this as two cases of things don't always work out, but if these are the first two students you've worked with, then it might be time to consider what role you may play in this.

As a manager, when two employees don't get along, you don't always know who is the source of the problem and you may choose to split them up.  If one of them gets along well with their next coworker and the other doesn't, it is the beginning of a pattern.  If it happens a third time, then the pattern is getting more clear.

Since you say that you have poor people skills, and the PI suggested you be more attentive to people's sensitivities, it is a great opportunity to ask the PI for some pointers on that.  It will show you took the comments to heart and are interested in improving, which is almost always a good thing.

This. Everything about this.
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: Lynn2000 on November 26, 2012, 09:23:21 PM
Interesting thread, I've been following it as I also work in a lab. My boss is more accessible than the OP's but is frustratingly non-confrontational and doesn't leave a clear chain of authority, so it can be hard to get things done sometimes, and on occasion the wrong person has gotten blamed for things (in my opinion).

I think when it comes to lab policy, professional courtesy, and especially safety, one cannot be too clear or direct. I struggle with this myself, though, even with simple things that don't really involve someone doing something wrong.  ::)  Sometimes you just have to stand up and say, "NO, you DO NOT pour the liquid nitrogen that way. Put it down. NOW." I aim to take a matter-of-fact, but firm, approach, especially with new people. If they are mature and reasonable they will be apologetic or at least open to learning; if they are sullen or non-responsive, that is trouble.

Fortunately I work with a group of people who are pretty good overall, and we've never had some of the sneaky, competitive, malicious characters that I've heard about in some of my colleagues' labs...
Title: Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4
Post by: CatFanatic on November 27, 2012, 09:06:58 AM
OK, I'm going to go against consensus here, so I need to establish some credentials before anyone attacks: I have worked in research, medical and commerical labs for 15 years. I have a Ph.D. My country has some of the strictest OHS laboratory guidelines in the world, and I have completed myriad safety courses and handled safety breaches.

I think you could have handled this much better. You didn't say anything 'wrong', sure. But based on what you have presented here, you didn't say it well at all. You were firm when you needed to be (dealing with a hazard), so that was great. But the guy was new, he made a (big) mistake, the situation was dealt with (even if not to your exact specifics), so move on. Telling him later that he was, in essence, rude and incompetent and you didn't want him around you was (IMO) unprofessional and quite childish, no matter how calmly you said it.

A scientist who is strict about safety and protocol will always be respected. But a scientist who is strict about safety and protocol and is also able to interact well with others will be respected - and hired. Sorry, but its' the truth; I've known plenty of perfectly competent people who have been let go or passed over because of their poor personal skills. Your PI is telling you this too, albeit indirectly. Labs rely on postgrad researchers, as I am sure you know, so if you alienate enough people, the word will get out and you will be seen as the problem that needs to be addressed.

I feel like I've been very harsh in telling you not to be so harsh - its' just that in my experience, you don't need to act like this to ensure that the lab works efficiently and safely.