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Bipolar scientists August 13, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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I have observed repeatedly, too many times to even estimate, a duality-split personality that a lot of scientists have. Their work persona and away-from-work (AFW, private or personal or whatever you might call it) are strikingly different. What are the patterns I see?

The work persona is much more focus on self than the AFW one. Tasks on one’s to do lists are paramount. Interactions with coworkers are limited and often curt. “Get the work done!” is the primary theme. The intensity of this dominates to such a degree that personal interactions can have the minimum of courtesy and politeness. The focused introvert becomes the main image.

THis colder, more distant seeming attitude may be common. In fact it would appear that a person living it is unaware of it in herself or himself, but notices it in the others around. If the work situation is a grad school laboratory, this gets mitigated by the social interactions away from the lab. The same people become both coworkers and friends. (The lone exception is the professor, who has other outlets for personal interactions, but must still be aware that cold and aloof are not positive attributes.)

Once grad school is over, though, and the bulk of scientists go off to work in government labs or in indidustry, the dynamics change. Most people disperse from work and live a separate life. They have family, neighbors, and friends with little overlap with the work environment. This leads to that duality being lived day in and day out. You work, interact moderately with coworkers. You are courtious and affable to a modest degree, what is needed to not be too unfriendly. But you do not have the time to link well with your coworkers much.

The consequences? You really do not build members of a network, future supporters when you might need them. You do not build the image of offering that to others. You lose all advantages thatr might arise from good relationships.

If you are promoted to be a supervisor, you might even set yourself up to be a bad boss. Not a terrible boss (that toxic individual that nobody wants to work with or for), but one whose team seems to think is obtuse and oblivious to problems, who is unapproachable, who is indifferent to their ccareers and job issues. THat boss who might be a good person, but a lousy supervisor.

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