Avoiding and resolving negative vibes

Our lab moved to the Institute last Fall. Actually, the entire floor did. Which of course means that everybody is looking for everything and nobody knows what goes where. This is slowly getting better.

Somehow, our lab managed to quickly gain the reputation of messy lab. Which I find kind of annoying, as I always try to be considerate and keep the communal areas clean. No matter how chaotic my bench and fridge spaces always are;  I keep the shared spaces tidy. There are a number of people in our lab though who see that differently…

Me, together with two colleagues, have been tidying up after them for a while. But at the time pointing that out to them – asking them if maybe they didn’t know where to get rid of certain chemicals and that’s why they didn’t do it? Turns out that that was too optimistic. They keep doing what they want whenever they want; leaving a trail of things for others to deal with.

In meantime, I’ve managed to get on pretty good speaking terms with all of the labs we share spaces with. And they somehow keep complaining to me about those colleagues. For a while, I apologised for them and kind of joined in the gossip how annoying behaviour X is. Last Tuesday, I somehow decided I’m fed up with this nonsense.

The main problem is, in my opinion, that we don’t have rules for cleaning our facilities. So nobody cleans anything. Which means we had some fungi growing in our sterile (!) workspace. A girl of one of the other labs sent an email she’s going to clean and looking for help; would be good if the person currently using the space could help. Turns out to be one from our lab, who goes there, collects his experiment, and takes off. Without offering to help. I again apologised for his behaviour, even though I guess I shouldn’t.

Our boss hates cleaning schedules, which is one of the reasons we don’t have one yet. The boss of the other lab, who also happens to be our bosses boss and our institute’s director, only said he will accommodate whatever the lab wants. Knowing that he will support his people, that they want a cleaning schedule and so do I, I sent out an email to them and to my lab to discuss things informally over a cup of coffee.

It was so embarrassing! The entire director’s lab turned up! And from my lab only one besides me… They just don’t care! But anyway, the others are happy I at least acknowledge the problem and took the initiative to solve it. We discussed what exactly the problems are and how we think we can solve them – without being able to change people (who of course did not attend this meeting…). Written up some minutes of the “meeting”. And guess what? Two days later, the rooms are already better.

Our lab manager sent me an email to say that this has been the most productive meeting so far (without disagreeing bosses…) and that he’s really happy to implement the changes we proposed. Especially because he also knows our own boss is against it, but knowing that we have the director’s support, our boss won’t complain. Hopefully, this will do our reputation some good and will give the others less cause to complain about us…

So yeah… What I basically want to say: if there’s something that’s annoying you, stop talking about it but try to change it. Don’t support the gossip but tackle the causes of the problems. Makes for a lot nicer environment 🙂 (although I still don’t know how to tackle the problem of the colleagues who think they’re living for themselves alone…)


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