Author Topic: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4  (Read 16733 times)

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Shopaholic

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Many of you might remember my threads about my annoying coworker.
(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!
« Last Edit: November 22, 2012, 03:08:45 PM by Shopaholic »

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2012, 02:23:58 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.
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NyaChan

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2012, 02:29:44 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. 

Hmmmmm

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 02:33:24 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? 

Shopaholic

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2012, 02:41:01 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.

DavidH

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2012, 04:57:56 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.


JoyinVirginia

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2012, 08:01:07 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.

Twik

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2012, 09:19:54 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.
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Hillia

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2012, 09:44:42 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.

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JoyinVirginia

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 10:09:49 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.

Dr. F.

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2012, 11:02:11 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.

DavidH

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2012, 11:39:57 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. 

rain

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2012, 11:46:36 AM »
IMHO you need to be blunt with him - if something happens again.  Frequently guys don't get "hints" - straight talk is best.
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Shopaholic

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2012, 12:45:43 PM »
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.

Onyx_TKD

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Re: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced! (epic length)
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2012, 12:48:25 PM »
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.