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    Vivek Verma said:

    Hi Julie, the approach and assessment of the situation is very crucial in dealing with your co workers, especially if they belong to the same lab and of course same supervisor. In my case once I had to face a similar situation at my current workplace. Being an ‘outsider’ I was not supposed to raise voice against any wrong doing by my ‘insider’ colleague. Having confronted him directly on one-to-one basis did not change anything. It was taking so much of my energy that ultimately I had to take the matter to our mentor. Very subtly I had to explain to him the problem I was facing, an ultimately I had to name the person responsible for my distress. Seeing the merit in my complain he intervened and I never faced a problem in the lab again. Point here is that suffering quietly and taking all the blame in hope that things would set themselves on right track does not help. Proaction is required. Another important point to mention here is the way you put your point forth. I have realized delineating the issue via e-mail is much more effective than verbal communication as all the points come ‘on paper’ and one can go over them time and again, if required.

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    Deepak Dhingra said:

    Thanks for sharing. Its is very relevant to the current state of affairs with people from different cultures and therefore different personal preferences sharing work spaces. The idea of Ombuds Office is perhaps the least problematic and likely most helpful since you can take the liberty of talking it out without being concerned about how you will be perceived. It is a confidential discussion.

    Also, these people are trained to resolve such conflicts. The only sad part, at least in my experience, is that that students at times don’t even know about it. Even worst is the case where Ombudsperson is not officially available for resolving graduate student issues. Its time that the universities take a serious note of this and make students aware about this avenue. In my case, I had an opportunity to attend a talk on “How to have a difficult conversation?”. Events like these could be good ice-breakers and may help in starting a dialogue, getting perspectives and ultimately lead to possible solutions.

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    Yoshimi Rii said:

    Hi Vivek and Deepak, thank you so much for your comments. Your insights raise many valid and important points.

    Vivek, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m wondering, how is your interaction with your lab mate after your supervisor intervened? Is everything back to normal? For me, my office mate’s supervisor is different from my supervisor, and both were inclined to protect their own grad student, which made the resolution complicated. I do believe, however, that the relationship between my office mate and I remained intact because I confronted him directly and didn’t “tell on” him behind his back.

    This, I believe, is definitely where an Ombudsperson would be useful, and Deepak, I agree with you that many students are not aware of these offices or staff. We also tend to shy away from going to an official office, afraid that by taking that action we are “making a big deal” out of the situation. I think it is a great idea to have a talk on “How to have a difficult conversation”! We all get lab safety training but perhaps a basic teamwork/human resources training should be included for any new person that comes into the university.

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    mat glyn said:

    Hi Shimi, you were fortunate. Resolution of any conflict in the work place is at least as dependent on the environment as on one’s own approach and especially on “the boss’ or “supervisor”. Not only that, there are always lab/ office politics in any work place. If the individual causing the problem is the supervisor’s favourite then you are onto a lose-lose situation. Often your work mates will know this and just put up with problem as best they can. Even in a relatively liberal UK university, the “Ombudsman” or “Students Rights Office” may not always be what it purports to be. In my case I was told that the “Students Rights Office” would help with difficulties outside the academic arena – trouble over minor civil infringements involving the police etc. I was also advised that I ran the risk of the academics closing ranks and criticizing my work as incompetent if I persisted with my complaint. The individual’s threatening behavior “altered” after I approached our joint supervisor but the relationship with the supervisor was irreparably damaged. He is now a “Fellow of the Royal Society”. I did complete my PhD but I could never use my supervisor as an employment referee.

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      Yoshimi Rii said:

      Hi mat glyn, you hit the nail on the head with regards to the environment’s role in conflict resolution. I believe that each environment has its own unique relationships, quirks, and alliances that impede or in some cases, help in resolving these conflicts. I’m sorry to hear about your irreparable relationship; I was definitely aware of these potential consequences and thus treaded lightly in my path for resolution. Yes, I was extremely lucky. What do you think would have made it better for you? If you are in a similar situation in the future, but in a supervisory role, what steps would you take to do things differently?