Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Trainee Tuesday!

Today, I wanted to talk about the PI-mentee relationship. Whether you are a grad student, a postdoc, or another kind of trainee, this relationship is incredibly important to your own success and frankly your overall happiness as well. A strong PI-mentee relationship can lead to fantastic science and a solid foundation for your future science career.

However, just like any working relationship, there are going to be good and bad times. Managing these valleys and keeping a solid working relationship with your PI is of paramount importance. Here are some tips I have for dealing with the times your PI is driving you mad. Please do note that these are not for major issues between PIs and trainees (e.g., sexual harassment, data manipulation, discrimination, etc.). Those topics are incredibly serious and require a much more in-depth, nuanced post and discussion.

Sleep on it!

We all have received an email (usually at some awful hour) asking for an experiment or analysis to be run immediately. I think we all have had the urge to immediately fire a not-so-nice passive aggressive email back. Don’t do it! Whether through email or in person, take a breath and (if you can) sleep on it. Emotions and rashness are your enemies! Let your emotions run their course, and then let your ally logic start setting in again.

Evaluate your training priorities

Your boss has his or her own motives and priorities, usually centered on trying to build and maintain a productive lab. Guess what? You have your own priorities as well! Take a moment to reflect upon what skills you are trying to develop and projects you want to complete. If there is a way to twist whatever your PI is doing to annoy or hinder you to align with these priorities, then see what you can do. If not, taking some time to re-focus your priorities and motives can help you center yourself in the situation.

Is this a battle worth having?

Everyone in your life is going to rub you the wrong way at some point. Your parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers are all going to find a way to get under your skin. But, that doesn’t mean you have a full-on conversation about it. Is the situation worth starting a conversation with your PI? It very well may be, but it is worth taking a few seconds to ask yourself this quick question

Talk it out with labmates and friends

As mentioned in another blog post here, you have colleagues in your lab and department as well as outside friends. They have all been in situations where they have been less than pleased with their bosses and may even be in the same situation as you are in currently. Talk it out with them and you may be surprised by the insights you get.

Is there any reasoning behind your PI’s requests?

Now that you have gone over the situation from your own perspective, take a moment to put yourself in your PI’s point of view. Is there a secret reason why he or she is asking you to do whatever inane or annoying tasks you’ve been asked to do? Maybe there is some sort of training experience they may give you that you have not appreciated.

Plan out what points you want to get across

If you have gone through all of these steps and want to discuss the situation with your PI, don’t go in unprepared! Think out why the situation has upset you and what solutions you propose to remedy it. Be proactive and be logical!

Don’t be too intimidated to voice your opinion

Although many of the points may seem to argue against having a conversation with your PI, you should not be scared to talk to your PI if you truly believe that this situation should be directly addressed. The PI-trainee working relationship is a true partnership and not just a boss-worker relationship. Do not be intimidated! This is your career and training. If you feel this situation is hampering it, go have a professional discussion with your PI and come to reasonable solutions together!

Your working relationship with your PI is very important. We all hit rough patches in this working relationship. Take a breath. Most times these rough patches will smooth out in time. Do not act rashly and take great care in trying to keep it strong.

Thank you for stopping by Trainee Tuesday! What tips do you have for handling conflict with your PI? Comment below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you tomorrow!

-Dr. F

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