Mad Hatter had a post yesterday about ‘fit’ of personnel hired into the lab on which I made a comment about a habit I have of sitting my employees down on the first day, and laying out a few of my expectations for professional behavior in the lab. A couple of people (CAE and Schlupp) wondered in the comments what I say during this meeting… hence this post…
Why do I do this? Well- I have found over my years as an employee and an employer that you just can’t assume that people who come to work for you (or with you) will behave like professionals, considerate human beings, and adults. I despise lab ‘drama’, and want my employees to know from the first day that they set foot in my lab that I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. Mental energy WASTED on lab drama takes away productive time and effort from actual science, and it is completely unnecessary to let this get started. I am equal opportunity- I do this regardless of whether or not I have just hired a postdoc or I am taking in an undergraduate to work for credit.
Here are, in no particular order, the points that cross my lips:
1. I expect you to work together well with the other members of the lab. Although we each have our own projects, we are a team. There will be times when you will be expected to help with larger experiments requiring multiple personnel. At these times we re-arrange what we are doing and all work together.
2. I expect you to treat each other and me with respect, and I will do the same. This does not mean that you must be best pals and drinking buddies with the remainder of the lab. This DOES mean that between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm (or whatever) we work together and treat each other with courtesy and respect.
3. Speaking of hours– I will generally not pay much attention to these (with the caveat that if you will miss whole days you should let me know where you are and why). I will, however, pay attention to whether or not work is getting done in a reasonable time frame and I will ask you about this if something seems off to me…
4. I expect that you will treat everyone equally, regardless of his or her job description and educational status. The student workers deserve the same courtesy as the postdocs and senior graduate students… I will not tolerate poor treatment of someone you perceive to be below your rank… I don’t want to see this in my group.
5. I expect you to be a good lab citizen– this means that you are considerate, you clean up after yourself, you refill common solutions that you have used, and you DO NOT leave messes that inconvenience others in the lab. This type of behavior from just one habitual offender can aggravate the entire rest of the group.
6. When someone goes to the trouble to teach you something, I expect you to take notes! Very detailed notes…(This is mostly for those with less laboratory experience). Sometimes I even show them the notes I took when I learned how to run an SDS gel as a rotating student … I can’t believe I still have those! I go so far as to give them a separate notebook (just a cheap composition notebook) for writing down the protocols they are learning…
7. I expect you to observe safety regulations in the lab (I lay those out as well, there is a whole separate safety briefing). It is part of my job to ensure the safety of ALL of my employees… and what you do in your work may endanger your safety and that of others in the group and in the building. If you are unsure of a safety procedure and a chemical- you must ASK for help… directly from me if necessary! And by the way- in NO lab that I have previously worked in has there been as direct a discussion about lab safety as I have with my people. We work with some incredibly dangerous chemicals- and other reagents and I would be horrified if someone got hurt.
8. If you need help I expect you to ask for it… – please, please, please- ask for it. There are several very experienced people in the lab (including me!), and we will drop whatever we are doing to make sure that that 30 day trial involving live animals doesn’t go awry on day 29 because you failed to ask for whatever you needed!
9. I expect your laboratory notebook to be orderly, complete and extremely detailed. Laboratory notebooks are the permanent record of your data- and she who writes the papers will have to decipher the details of your work… this is easier if the details are actually written down. Don’t have a bunch of little post it notes for your data…!!! And if you do- make sure they are PERMANENTLY pasted into the notebook..(For more junior people I actually go through the notebooks at the beginning as well).
10. I expect you to attend our weekly lab meetings, and my door is always open for your questions and exciting data! At these meetings we will review all of your data and I want to see all the nitty gritty details. The ugly blots, the actual numbers… etc. I love data and don’t get to make much with my own hands anymore… so show me yours!!! Also, I’m responsible for the integrity of said data… so I will keep a close watch on it.
11. And lastly… The radio. I don’t mind the radio on in the lab- but I kind of feel about the radio like I feel about smoking (just in general). If it’s bothering ONE person in the group- then I want the radio turned off. The bothered person should feel completely uninhibited about asking for the radio to be switched off (or just switching it off).
12. I lied… and lastly- Abel Pharmboy brought to my attention a comment I made over at his place of blog– and suggested I add it back here… so here goes slightly edited: I expect you value every person that makes this lab run (and indeed the institution!)- from the most gifted postdoc, to the hardworking people who run the building.. to the administrative staff that keep finances in order… all the way to the person who mops the floor. Learn their names of those more invisible (simply because you aren’t their supervisor), say good morning to them every day and make sure they know you value their help… I do this, and I expect you to as well!
I know that there are other things I say as well.. I just can’t think of them at this moment…. Maybe you have some suggestions?!