FSP posted recently about the relationships between trainees and advisors, and whether or not those should affect the work relationship. I always find these discussions interesting because many PIs draw lines in the sand and take a rather righteous stand in doing so. PIs are teh BOSSEZ! Others claim to have no overlapping interests with their students and not even be comfortable around them outside of the hallowed halls.
Everyone has their style, but I seem to notice that the most strident of opinions from the Employer/Employee camp are almost always people who do exclusively lab-based work. That's fine and the model works in that environment, but must we paint all of science with the same brush? Is there A model for how the PI/trainee relationship works or, just like in the real world, is it always faulty logic to employ a single model, based on one set of conditions, to a diverse landscape?
For labs that have a field component to their work, there is a very different dynamic to interactions because so many hours are spent outside the office. Maybe you're on a boat for three months with your lab or in a tent for two weeks, it doesn't really matter. The point is that when you spend long hours in one-on-one situations with trainees under varying conditions, there is a different dynamic that develops between people. In some cases you might be literally entrusting your safety to a trainee or PI you are with. The typical "me boss, you trainee" model just doesn't translate to these conditions.
I'm not trying to justify a relationship lacking in clear distinctions as to where the buck stops, but I do think there is room to know the people in the lab in a broader context than their existence in said lab without it turning into a managerial disaster. The PI needs to be able to make hard decisions based on the performance of the lab peeps, and those can't be clouded too heavily by personal interactions, but anyone who tells you that they can judge all of their peeps completely objectively is full of
In the end, the person in charge is responsible for maintaining boundaries that allow them to keep the lab functioning the way they need it to. People in the lab are not confidants, party buddies or there to fill some social void in your life. Some of them will want to share things about their lives and others will not, and it shouldn't matter one way or another. But I firmly believe that there is a balance that can be reached between Boss and Person when it comes to mentoring.