Thursday, September 29, 2005

Grouchy lab members & lab etiquette

So I am having one of those days where one bad encounter has my pulse racing with the 'fight! fight!' instinct going loud and clear.

This week I needed to get some commonly used cells from a few different places, so this involved asking around. One person said yeah, no problem, and pointed me to the right person. That person was kind of gruff, but ultimately gave me what I needed on time and with no hassle. Such is life with antisocial scientists. But I really don't mind, as long as I get what I need.

The other person said there is someone in particular who handles that stuff, but instead of just introducing me to that person so I could ask myself, acted really weird and instead relayed the request indirectly, like I was some kind of interloper. Anyway I thought that was a very strange way to handle it, and kind of rude, since sharing is just part of the business and shouldn't be a big production of tip-toeing around and being hypersensitive. I said so, more or less, but then I just let it go. I don't have time for people's weirdnesses and it's not a big deal.

But then she came to my office and bitched at me, head & neck side-to-side with the whole angry sistah thing (and she's white, so I thought it was pretty funny). Apparently I started some kind of huge argument by reacting to her behavior the way I did.

I thought I liked this person, partly because she is pretty blunt about stuff and I usually like that, but now I think she just needs to learn some communication skills... and maybe I was expecting her to be more mature than she actually is. So I'm trying to figure out how to diffuse the situation. I haven't run into anyone who was such a hothead in a long time, besides myself, and I think I'm mostly on good behavior these days, so I'm quelling my instinct to go in there and bitch her out in front of her whole lab.

Which is worse, picking a fight in public or cornering someone in their office to bitch at them?

So I'm thinking, what do you do?

I already tried to ask if she wanted to get together and talk, but she just acted like I was nuts. I'm guessing she needs some more time to cool off and deal with whatever else is up her butt today. I hate it when people are in a bad mood and taking it out on you for something totally unrelated.

The typical girl thang is to just wait and pretend like it never happened, all the while reserving some judgment to see whether this has any hope of being a friendship.

I could send some kind of sarcastic e-card, I was thinking something along the lines of "sorry you're feeling bitchy today", but I don't know if she'd think that was funny or if it would just piss her off even more. I'm guessing the latter since we're not close friends.

I hate it when other people's insecurities get me all riled up. I really don't have time to worry about this, but when you work with people this much, they're like your roommates. You don't want to let it get bad early on, or it's only going to get worse.

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At 3:53 PM, Blogger GrrlScientist said...

What do you hope to accomplish by picking a fight with her in front of her lab? What will be the ultimate result of cornering her and telling her off? People like that tend to be passive-aggressive and that can really cause you trouble in the future if your reaction makes her feel embarassed/humiliated/socially threatened. When someone treats me like that, I tend to ask mutual associates about the situation to learn what is this person's problem, or is this person always like this (and I somehow failed to notice it). After I learn more about the other person's situation, I then make a decision about how to deal with it. Nonetheless, I am sure you can figure it out without any help.


At 3:58 PM, Blogger John said...

I agree with Hedwig, figure out what you want to accomplish, and I doubt a public argument will help things.

One lesson I've taken from 25 years in science is revenge is never a good motive, and I've mostly given up lecturing anyone less than 10 years younger than me due to the utter lack of noticeable improvement in their behavior.

At 8:12 AM, Blogger vivienne said...

Yeah.. Hedwig and John are right and I completely agree with the passive-agressive bit that she mentioned. To be honest, I don't think you want to end up getting spit in your PCR tubes/reagents and having all sort of weird bands come up on your gel. *grin*

At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be truthfull. Be brutally so. But don't go out of your way to do it. If you and she can work alongside and not have a problem, let it pass. If she gets all bitchy again for no apparent reason, tell her what you think. Don't get riled up about it though. There's no reason to.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Joolya said...

Being in a lab is like having 5-25 sisters and brothers. Or maybe it's like summer camp. You essentially live with these random people, youhave no privacy (you have an office?! Wow!!!) and usually the only thing you can agree aboutis that your PI (mom/dad/counselor) is crazy.
Since I was an only child I tend to look grumpy enough that people will leave me alone when I don't want to talk to them, so I may not have anything constructive to say.
However, there's no point starting a fight - I'd let her cool off and then be really nice to her until she's too embarassed to be bitchy anymore. Passive agressive, yes, but effective.
Or you could send an email to the whole lab about how common reagents are common, blah blah blah. That's what my lab does.


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