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10 Ways to Piss Off Your Co-Workers

Every day you go into the lab and you spend the 8-14 hours with the same group of people.

And when you spend that much time with people, bench to bench, for anywhere from 3-6 years, you really need to learn how to get along.

Usually, after some time, most people learn the rules of lab life and are anxious to become part of the group. When people don’t get along, there are usually specific reasons or actions of the offender that is causing the boat to rock. What are those things that can make everyone want to throw you off the ship? I came up with 10 ways people piss off their co-workers in the lab.

Feel free to add on some of your pet peeves of lab behavior.

1. Using up all of a common lab stock or
buffer and not replacing it or re-ordering it.
2. Using someone else’s reagents without asking. If you contaminate them, then you are in double trouble.
3. Not doing the dishes, or whatever lab chore you are assigned, when it is your turn (or doing a poor job of it).
4. Talking too much– especially when someone is setting up PCR or other reactions that requires focus. That person is wearing ear buds and an ipod for a reason!
5. Contaminating the lab. Repeatedly. Making a mistake once is one thing but if the lab is constantly needing to be wiped down of radioactivity or other hazardous chemicals, people will start to wonder if you are cut out for the lab.
6. Hogging a community computer– especially if you are not using it for work!
7. Coming in late and leaving early: Every day? This is surely only acceptable if you are writing your thesis.
8. Abuse of shared equipment– if someone screws up the only high speed centrifuge on the floor, no one can get anything done.
9. Not signing out shared equipment and then using it when it was signed out by someone else.
10. Not giving credit when it is due– or taking credit for someone else’s idea. In a lab meeting, if someone gave you a great experiment to try and it works, let everyone know. If you don’t, don’t expect anymore help from anyone else.

This is a short list of the ten peeves that came to mind first. What does your co-worker do that you wish they would not? What is your #1 lab rule?

10 Comments

  1. March - on August 6, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Someone who just store their things in the other freezer without informing others when they realized that there is something wrong with the current freezer.

  2. Suzanne Kennedy on August 5, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Especially if the email was complaining about your co-workers!

  3. chris w on August 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    -Talking to yourself all day
    -Accidentally emailing the entire lab instead of the PI hahah

  4. Suzanne on November 9, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Hi A.M.
    You are right. People should also give second chances and get over minor infractions. Everyone needs to get along in the lab.
    Why don’t you bake some cookies for that co-worker you upset and ask for a truce?

  5. A.M. on November 9, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    I used 2ml of Trizol from one technician and now I cant be forgiven by the whole group.
    When working in a team I think that people could be much more lenient, especially with everyday reagents!
    Well I must admit I also used a bit of chocolate from the “common” fridge…
    Anyway please be more merciful. Its a hard life in science!

  6. John Mackay on October 20, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Hmm. . I have to think back to my ‘shared’ lab days. But what about fellow labbies who:
    – leave the lab restriction enzymes on the bench to rapidly lose activity
    – pinch reagents is definitely a good one – I changed the name of my Terrific Broth because of that.
    – knowing that others are wrecking reagents, ordering new lab reagents and aliquoting some off before others realise they’ve arrived

    OK, the last one was me

  7. j kittle on October 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    the number one, number two and number three ways to pis people off are to

    1) leave your dishes in the common area sink
    2) spill coffee all over the place
    3) steal food out of the common fridge!

  8. Roberto on October 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Leaving the freezers open. That is, giving the door a push and walking away without checking if it’s closed. Oh gosh, I hate that so much.

  9. Ginny on October 20, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I have been out of the lab for awhile – but a resounding “Yes” to all of the above. Building on Bonnie’s comment – when you are training someone and they say “I know” to every sentence you utter. Really – you already know all of this – geez, we are both wasting our time, go do the experiment.

    AND
    – people who bad mouth everyone else (not present at the time) in the lab;
    – people that constantly talk about how busy they are while never observed doing anything (and interrupting you while working);
    – people that generally never clean up after themselves (not “contamination” per se – just mess);
    – and MOSTLY – PIs that condone/ignore/allow these behaviors to persist. Grow a “set” (man or woman) and take control of your lab culture to create respect for everyone.

  10. Bonnie on October 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    It bothers me when I’m training someone and they ask the same question over and over because they didn’t bother to write down the answer, or they don’t take notes during meetings and therefore don’t remember anything that was discussed.

    After the third time you have to ask the same question, you should write down the answer so you can remember it. That way you can spend your time asking interesting questions, instead of making me recite the recipe for your media every day.

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