Some relationships just don't work out

Jan 26 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Relationships are a lot of work if you want to keep them healthy and productive, no matter whether they are personal or professional. At times I have under-appreciated this in a professional capacity and let things slide. In a lot of cases the consequences are minimal, as the parties gradually drift in different directions, but in other cases there is more at stake and the relationship needs to be maintained or ended, with no gray zone.

I don't consider myself overly conflict averse but I think, like most people, I have a tendency to push addressing a conflict off when I am overwhelmed with other issues. It's not the right strategy because the conflict looms and rarely resolves itself when ignored, but it's easy to say "I can't deal with that right now". Eventually, however, the situation while rear its ugly head and often need to be dealt with at the least convenient time possible.

One thing I feel I really need to work on as a PI is recognizing bad relationships early on and dealing with them at that time. While it sucks to professionally "break-up" with someone, it ends up being infinitely better for both parties in the end, rather than dragging out some extended and overly dramatic crawl to the inevitable.

Sometimes a relationship just isn't good for two parties and it's time to move on.

And it doesn't even have to be because someone is ill and you have a younger model waiting in the wings.

7 responses so far

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Serial collaboration is *okay* in science, Prof-Like Gingrich!

  • odyssey says:

    In some fields serial collaboration has become essential for survival.

  • CoR says:

    Oh noes, I'm in the shit-house, aren't I?

  • Anon2 says:

    I'm in the process of establishing a collaboration with someone who I can tell is going to be difficult for me to work with. However, I really need someone with this expertise for several grant applications on a new project and we've had enough back and forth that I'm not comfortable dumping this person and finding someone else with that expertise at this stage of the game. Is it horrible to start a collaboration knowing full well that I may end up dumping this collaborator for a younger, hotter model? On the other hand, it may be that we're just hitting a few start-up snags and once we get more used to each others work styles, we may really mesh. Only time will tell.

    I also have a well-established, productive collaboration that seems to be drifting a bit right now. I feel like our collaboration has become somewhat one-sided (all taking and little giving on my part). Thanks for the reminder to nurture these relationships; I don't want to break up this, my first collaboration, just yet. Like high school sweethearts, we were meant to be together. I'm hoping that, unlike high school sweethearts, he won't dump me for the first cute college girl to come along.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I'm all for collaboration, but recognizing a bad professional relationship early on saves a ridiculous amount of time, energy and resources down the road.

  • I was in the early stages of a collaboration with someone I knew somewhat well, and liked personally. It quickly became clear that we would not work well together professionally.

    He wrote me a long letter at one point when I'd gotten annoyed with him for something. It was the type of letter you'd write a friend or a significant other when you realize there are problems in the relationship and you want to stop dancing around and firmly but lovingly deal with it. I was very grateful to him for taking that step early in the collaboration. It ended the project but saved the friendship. I've taken his correspondence style as a means for direct communication with others in contentious situations.

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