Author Topic: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...talked to PI, post 22  (Read 9249 times)

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Mikayla

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^On this, I don't think it's quite that simple.

I might be tempted to agree if there was an indication that the more mundane aspects of the job got glossed over, but I didn't see that.  In fact, it seemed to be the opposite. 

Also, it was nice that he apologized and explained his thought process.  But I think the more appropriate time to do so was when he actually quit and sent the first email, rather than wait for the PI to respond that he'd like to know why.  That just seems like common courtesy, especially after all the time shopaholic had spent with him.

June24

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I'm not sure it's entirely fair to be so hard on the UG.  He was clearly overwhelmed and discovered the project wasn't what he thought it would be.  There's no shame in realizing that, withdrawing from the program and basically taking all or most of the blame.

OP didn't do anything wrong, but I don't think what UG did was unforgivable either.  He had an expectation, it wasn't met, he was overwhelmed, and he got out.  I don't see the big deal.

I agree with this. OP, it sounds like the student was expecting something different, and once you discussed the actual project with him, it took him a couple days to figure out it wasn't really what he wanted. He definitely should have handled quitting more politely - by coming to you and telling you. But by your own admission, you are "not the nicest person". Not sure what this means, but as a student, if after a couple of days of looking at the reading material and going into the lab I didn't like the project, I would probably quit. Especially if the person I was expected to work with was "not the nicest person". There are many labs where the work is interesting and the people are nice - I've worked in several of them. If your PI says that you should be nicer, you should work on that. I don't think that expecting him to read was at all unreasonable, but there may have been other things about your demeanor that turned him off the lab. I think you can learn more from this by focusing on your behavior. If your PI thinks you could be nicer (she sees you, while we don't), maybe she has a point. Also, she may have given the student a different idea of what the work in the lab would entail, and once you explained the project to the student, it took him a little while to make the decision to quit. Not unreasonable, IMO.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2012, 04:46:56 PM by June24 »

Petticoats

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Re: When someone you are mentoring quits after two hours...
« Reply #32 on: August 15, 2012, 05:03:41 PM »
Also, I'd bet you any money that:

He replied that he thought we would write it together.

actually meant that he thought you'd write it for him / hold his hand the entire way through, telling him what to put.

That was my first thought as well. As for the meeting with PI... this may be a leap, but OP, am I correct in thinking that you are female and PI is male? Because that guff about your needing to work on being nicer and more approachable and handling the students with more TLC sounds like sexist nonsense.  I would be happy to be mistaken, but I know that attitude still prevails in many places, and academic settings can be pretty hidebound in some ways.

kglory

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I'm not sure it's entirely fair to be so hard on the UG.  He was clearly overwhelmed and discovered the project wasn't what he thought it would be.  There's no shame in realizing that, withdrawing from the program and basically taking all or most of the blame.

OP didn't do anything wrong, but I don't think what UG did was unforgivable either.  He had an expectation, it wasn't met, he was overwhelmed, and he got out.  I don't see the big deal.

I don't think the student was wrong for quitting if he realized the project was not for him.  (This is based on the fact that it seems the project is just for the student's benefit -- I'd have a different opinion if the whole lab was counting on him for his piece of it.)

But he went about it in entirely the wrong way.  In the OP it says: 

Quote
I told him that I would show him how to do it, explained each stage, and when we finish he can do it on his own again to practice. He agreed.  Part of the process requires some waiting. He got bored, and told me he was going and would be back later. He never returned.   (......) This afternoon my PI comes and asks me if something happened with UG, because apparently he sent him an email that he quit! PI doesn't really know why, but he sent UG a letter that he would be happy to meet with him to understand why.

That is an immature and unprofessional way to go about things. You can't just walk off in the middle of a project because you are bored (or because it's not what you thought it would be) and not even tell your boss where you are going and why.  The right thing to do would have been to finish that day's work, and then at the end of the day, tell or email the OP or her boss that he is reconsidering.  Some kids would be shy about saying this face to face, so I don't blame him for the email as opposed to a direct conversation, but I do think it's wrong that he just up and left without warning in the middle of an assignment.

Moray

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I'm not sure it's entirely fair to be so hard on the UG.  He was clearly overwhelmed and discovered the project wasn't what he thought it would be.  There's no shame in realizing that, withdrawing from the program and basically taking all or most of the blame.

OP didn't do anything wrong, but I don't think what UG did was unforgivable either.  He had an expectation, it wasn't met, he was overwhelmed, and he got out.  I don't see the big deal.

I agree with this. OP, it sounds like the student was expecting something different, and once you discussed the actual project with him, it took him a couple days to figure out it wasn't really what he wanted. He definitely should have handled quitting more politely - by coming to you and telling you. But by your own admission, you are "not the nicest person". Not sure what this means, but as a student, if after a couple of days of looking at the reading material and going into the lab I didn't like the project, I would probably quit. Especially if the person I was expected to work with was "not the nicest person". There are many labs where the work is interesting and the people are nice - I've worked in several of them. If your PI says that you should be nicer, you should work on that. I don't think that expecting him to read was at all unreasonable, but there may have been other things about your demeanor that turned him off the lab. I think you can learn more from this by focusing on your behavior. If your PI thinks you could be nicer (she sees you, while we don't), maybe she has a point. Also, she may have given the student a different idea of what the work in the lab would entail, and once you explained the project to the student, it took him a little while to make the decision to quit. Not unreasonable, IMO.

His whining, procrastinating, and acting entitled was incredibly unreasonable.

OP, maybe you can clarify, but when you say "not the nicest person", I read that as you saying you're task-oriented and don't coddle your undergrads, is that right? If so, good for you! Not being "the nicest" isn't the same as being mean or rude; not by a long shot.
Utah

blarg314

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One thing that occurs to me is that summer internships are often highly sought after. So someone who applies for and accepts and internships, but quits on the first day, has prevented someone else who was qualified and a lot more practical/eager/willing to work from getting the position.  By that point, it's generally too late to give the position to someone else.

If it were a more normal job situation, quitting on the first day because it didn't suit you would be more acceptable, even though I'd still regard it as pretty immature. But for either an internship or a regular job, walking out on the first day without actually telling your supervisor that you are quitting is definitely *not* okay. The only way that would be acceptable is if you came to a job and found out that the environment was unsafe or abusive - and you'd still have to phone in to let them know that you've quit.

In the future, what I would suggest is that prospective interns get sent a short but accurate description of their duties - including the boring stuff. That might filter out some of the really clueless ones.

Shopaholic

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OP, maybe you can clarify, but when you say "not the nicest person", I read that as you saying you're task-oriented and don't coddle your undergrads, is that right? If so, good for you! Not being "the nicest" isn't the same as being mean or rude; not by a long shot.

This is part of it. I know how to separate the professional from the social, even in a very casual work environment like we have in the lab.
I'm not on the best of terms with everybody - I can get impatient, I can be cynical and when someone annoys me I can find it very hard to hide.

But UG did not experience any of it. I didn't invite him to my house for coffee, but I did invite him to join the lab members for lunch, and in our initial conversation I tried to keep it light, adding a few details about myself. I asked him some run of the mill personal questions about himself (do you live nearby?) but he wasn't interested in that line of conversation, and he didn't respond to my attempts at making jokes. So I let it go, not everyone has the same sense of humor.
I kept reassuring him that it's normal to feel overhelmed at this point, that I remember when I was at that point in my career and offered him a lot of advice to make his work easier.

There is a saying in Hebrew that I haven't encountered in English, and it's called "having a small/big head". Someone who has a small head only does what he needs do, shows no initiative and takes on no extra responsibilities. Someone with a big head is someone who shows commitment, goes beyond what is expected of him, doesn't fear taking on additional work or responsibilities and tries to see beyond the exact requirements of his job.
If you want to be a researcher, you need to have "a big head". You need to show initiative, you need to expand your interests and think outside of the box.

Research is 99% perspiration. You go backwards more than you go forwards, and many times you feel like you're banging your head against a wall. In the end, if you are successful, you contribute a tiny little piece to total human knowledge.

When someone gives up after two hours, having not even picked up a test tube, that doesn't bode well for their future career.

I actually saw UG this week, looks like he got a project in another lab. I wonder if he had two options from the beginning and just wanted to try them out (or, who would do more of his work for him).

The high school student I have been mentoring part-time came to say good bye and thank you, and gave me a lovely note thanking me for being a source of knowledge and inspiration for her. Made my day :)