Receiving training on interpersonal behavior

Jul 20 2015 Published by under Academia, industry, life in the office, new job, training

We just got back from vacation and during those two weeks of chilling on the beach (read: making sure our two kids didn't drown), I even had enough time to read all the books I brought and some of the internet. On the internet, we had:
lots of debate about post-doc pay, overtime, etc (start here for more background),
and a new blog here at Scientopia.

But what I want to talk about today is some of the training I receive in industry that wasn't aware of when I was a post-doc.
A lot of the reasons why I have cried in the lab are because of interpersonal relationships: what do you do when your advisor doesn't have your back in a meeting? What do you say when you receive feedback? How do you deal with complicated collaborations?

When I moved to industry, I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the newcomers received a full day of training on interpersonal behavior. Not unsurprisingly, the trainer told us a lot of things that are extremely obvious (don't be an asshole to other people basically), but I still I found it a very useful training. First, we went over the types of behaviors that are appreciated, like being open to each other, trust people and give them authority when appropriate, etc. Again, these are all things that seem very obvious, but to me it was nice to have them summarized and presented like this. Then, we did the most useful part of the training, which was to go through imaginary scenarios pf interactions between colleagues and talk about how those scenarios affect all the people involved and how people could have altered their behavior to improve the situation (i.e. give feedback to your manager when you're unsatisfied with something instead of internalize your anger and only complain to your husband about it). The trainer also challenged us to make a similar evaluation of our own interactions with people around us.

As I said, a lot of this is common sense, but it was nice to have it summarized and to see that there are simple rules for some things. Like when giving feedback when something has happened that upsets you, say: "I noticed you did xyz, which made me feel such and such, and in the future I would appreciate this and that." Simple, clean and when you say it shortly after something has upset you, it limits the necessity for crying a lot of the times. Obviously, it also helps to work in an environment where many people have followed a similar training, as opposed to an environment where a PI thinks the best way to deal with disagreement is to stop communicating altogether... And the nicest thing to follow a training like this with fellow scientists, is when a trainer describes a situation and asks if you've observed a certain behavior and someone answers:"I can't tell, because there are no available data".

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