Conflict is inescapable. Even if you’re the least contentious person on the planet, disputes will arise – between you and other lab members, your adviser, your principal investigator, collaborators, co-authors. The list goes on.
Should you try to avoid conflict at all costs, or confront an uncomfortable situation head-on? It depends – but when your scientific reputation is on the line, it may help to head it off. If that’s not possible, you’ll need to tread lightly when you do address it. Have a look at how others have handled gnarly situations and what experts recommend.
When you can’t head off a hurdle or ignore it, you’ll have to deal with it. And sometimes the first go-round doesn’t work. One junior researcher who was having snags with a colleague realized belatedly that she should have taken a different tack.
Other times, it’s not possible to mend a broken relationship, especially if it’s between you and your principal investigator. Ultimately, your scientific reputation and professional future are at stake, and you must do what’s best for both. The same is true when it comes to co-authorship. Disputes over who’s named as first author are not uncommon – but can have lasting consequences if not resolved amicably.
Some believe that leadership training is key for defusing landmines in the lab. Even if you’re not a PI, it may well help you with developing a repertoire of strategies for dealing with tricky interpersonal challenges.
And when it seems like there is no solution and you just want to throw your hands up in the air or scream? Play our Lab Smash game. It won’t make the problem go away but you’ll feel a bit better.