Thursday, July 16, 2009

The worst kind of colleague

I'm on this project alluded to earlier that I realize is so canonical as to be a stereotype.

Senior faculty member gets a grant, gets some wheels moving, and passes it to junior faculty member. Junior faculty member works on it enough to do one of the objectives of the grant, presents them at one or two conferences, and sits on the project.

Senior faculty talks up the project to postdoc (me). Postdoc contacts the junior faculty member in September, October, November, finally gets an appointment, goes to appointment (90 minutes round trip), and finally finds out about the project sometime in the middle of the winter, but nothing is ready to be passed on at that point. Makes another appointment, remembers the appointment just in time to make the appointment if it were in the same building or even campus but it's an unpredictable as much as an hour away, so emails just before scheduled appointment time. Meeting rescheduled after 3 weeks.

Postdoc tells senior faculty member that she will be applying to present the work at a conference and senior faculty member says "Great! Let me know what I can do." Postdoc rushes to write abstract draft in record time, asks many questions including "Whose names go on this?", and gets no response. Abstract is necessarily vague because project has not yet been started. Junior faculty member gets wind of the abstract and asks to see it. Only emailed comment on abstract is about the positioning of authors' names. Names changed. Revision sent. Remember this abstract is based only on the grant application because project has not yet been started.

In the early spring, postdoc finally meets with junior faculty member (baked goods in hand as apology) to get started on the project. Junior faculty member is not in office. Postdoc waits and eventually leaves baked goods on desk with a note. Junior faculty member comes eventually, abstractly thanks postdoc for the baked goods, mentions that abstract was read and commented on, but "It must have been thrown away or lost." I'm not making this up.

Junior faculty member selectively gives some of the materials to postdoc, but not all materials. Postdoc asks for materials used to do earlier work, as well as the presentations that the work was presented in, but junior faculty member will not give them.

Postdoc finally starts project, rushes to get enough work done on project to present at a conference, gets most of the necessary work done, and presents.

After months without contact, senior faculty member emails "research group" during the conference and says they need to meet soon because an MD grad student, referred to in email as Dr. FirstName, is joining the project. Perhaps tomorrow.

Meeting is set for after the conference. Postdoc, remembering earlier missed meeting with junior faculty, dresses carefully in the morning, thinks about meeting all morning, arrives at the distant office 45 minutes early. 10 minutes after meeting start time, junior person arrives. Senior faculty member is called and is at home due to a scheduled-well-in-advance medical procedure. 30 minutes after meeting, Dr. Grad Student arrives. Postdoc reports on conference. Senior faculty asks postdoc to spent 2 days a week with Dr. Grad Student getting him up to speed. Postdoc stupidly says that she doesn't have that much time right away, rather than just agreeing.

Postdoc spends time with grad student and gives much more to grad student than junior faculty gave postdoc originally, emails project to report that. Postdoc notes that grad student will have easier time getting up to speed than postdoc originally did because he has all materials that the postdoc has, so in theory can get going right away. Passive aggressiveness is apparently contagious.

After meeting, junior faculty member emails (Cc: senior) and asks again for conference abstract, whether the abstract was sent to any other conferences. Postdoc says this was the only conference, forwards original draft to demonstrate all of this was discussed months ago. Junior faculty member rehashes argument about name order and again asks whether abstract sent anywhere else. Postdoc reminds junior faculty that name thing was already discussed, repeats that it was not sent elsewhere, and in addition forwards 2 additional emails, documenting what was sent to the conference, and last night's email that it was not sent anywhere else. And then wastes part of morning writing bitchy blog entry about this dysfunction.

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