Author Topic: Annoying Coworkers don't go away, they just get replaced!- the fat lady sings,p4  (Read 17345 times)

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LEMon

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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.

DavidH

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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.

O'Dell

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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.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
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WillyNilly

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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).

Auntie Mame

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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. 
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lollylegs

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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.

Lynn2000

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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...
~Lynn2000

CatFanatic

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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.