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You must remember that while there are many people that have been educated in tolerance and are able to see others’ conditions without making assumptions about their character, it is true that there are also too many others that have refused to or did not have the chance to learn it. Therefore, not everyone is able to understand words such as “ill”, “trauma” and “health scare”, and think those can be indeed debilitating (and last for more than a weekend), and not the case of a kid that doesn’t want to get out of bed to go to school in the morning. These people are also probably the ones who did use fake “sick” excuses to not go to class and go play elsewhere. Even if you didn’t use such excuses, and knowing that it may be misinterpreted, you must be aware that some people will understand your silence as aggression because of such ideas, and this does not depend on age.

Such situation makes any person uneasy about others’ thoughts, especially if it is a colleague. However, just because your colleague does not understand, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your path to well-being and go back to ground zero, change your priorities to meet their – likely arbitrary – deadline. You know you will do what you have committed to, but you should not do that at the expense of your own capacity: do not keep forcing a piece of broken equipment to be used until it is completely useless; do not ignore cracks at the foundation. However, always keep the resolution that even if your limits are low, you must try to reach them, and not give up; reaching and expanding them is the only way you can see if you are improving.

As such person is unable to understand illness as a cause for not working on the project they want you to prioritize (which you must question, if you have indeed committed to give such priority), it will be only to your disadvantage to show yourself or your work at any of the “recovery” stages, that is. A friend may understand a bad appearance, such colleague won’t. Yes, a lack of certain kinds of vanity is tolerable and even praised in certain work environments, but you will find that this is not as common. Some colleagues may be able to follow your reasoning in an experiment you haven’t finished, but not such colleague. Therefore, calm down, and keep on, for your best results, and not for fear or uneasiness caused by others.

 

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Before answering an inappropriate email from a PI or collaborator, think the following.

Is this person worth replying to? For it is known that many academics, especially the ones that pride themselves to be “on top”, match criteria for personality disorders that predict they will not read your reply, and no matter how serious the circumstances you faced were or how extensively illustrated and explained they are, they will still be dismissed as “excuses”.
It is also known that although a person may not fit such criteria, they may have absorbed such behavior as a side effect of their work environment, which means the net result is still that your reply will not be read.

Consider first if the issue is due to the other site in reality not being able to read your information, if you have made it available for them in the past. Even if you did send them your work, it may have been misplaced, corrupted, or otherwise lost. If the request concerns information that has been produced in the past, but it is not immediately available to you (because a long time has past, because you left the project, or you have archived it for whatever reason), your situation is the same as having a request for incomplete work, because now you have to go back and retrieve it and what I say next applies all the same.

If this person is requesting data that is not completely processed, or not yet in conditions to be presented, two things can happen:
a) they will get the attachment, and put your data in a folder that will not be touched for months, and sleep soundly because they broke you to the point you gave them what you could and what you couldn’t, or
b) they will look at it, and dismiss your work (and possibly you) for doing substandard work.
In either situation, a reply is therefore a waste of time. To some, they will send substandard information as in A, regardless, and this is not without consequence to a third party: as the unrealistic request has been done to you, it has likely been done to other co-workers too, and if you are told something is “ready” and you “just have to go and use it” in a very large project, you may be caught by surprise by the fact that it is not: people will have told this person things were ready because they did not want to deal with a temper tantrum, and knew the data would not be vouched.

If, due to personal commitment, you feel you should send any information that is still not available, let it be for yourself and your own peace of mind, and not because there is someone pressing you. For while some people think things will only be produced as a result of aggressiveness, you do not want to reinforce this thought. Notwithstanding your effort, it is very unlikely that the person will change their belief, though, and therefore you have no control over it. One does have control over first, the impact of such a request on your own health (and priority queue), and second, whether you should spend time questioning the fairness of such request, for people who send aggressive requests with unrealistic deadlines do not set those same standards for themselves.

If a request is made for raw data that can be answered in a few days more with a journal-formatted attachment, it is better to go for the second, since in the vision of such a person, they often are unable to put pieces together and see a paper is ready when it is not in journal format. By formatting your own work, you ensure your remaining in the authorship line (in a fair world).

As a last resource, consider also that some difficulties may be so common they may even be acknowledged by HR , and therefore there are official policies in place which may prevent you from falling victim to retaliation. You should consider that because collaborators that make such requests often engage in unprofessional behavior, and will not hold themselves to the same standards they expect from you.