Feb 20 2017 Published by under Careers, Life

We all like some. Admit it. You like it when people positively acknowledge something you've done, especially something you've poured your heart and soul into. This is something I've been thinking about for a while. A recent post by In Baby Attach Mode prompted me to put some of those thoughts down here.

As noted in the above mentioned post by IBAM, you don't go the extra mile in science for the recognition. That way lies disappointment. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't receive it.

Or give it.

Especially give it. You want the best out of your lab personnel? Make them feel like a valued part of your team. Give recognition when they excel. When they put in extra effort.* Even if the experiment fails.

You may think this is all fluffy stuff,** but the power of recognition has been noted in business for some time. Ever thought about why businesses hold family picnics? Have employee of the month awards? Organize employee discounts at other businesses etc.? The underlying premise is making employees feel valued leads to happier employees which in turn leads to more invested, productive employees.*** In academia, we have a tendency to immediately dismiss "business practices" on the grounds that academia is not, and should not be run as, a business. That's a pity, because businesses deal with many of the same issues we do daily.

Giving recognition does have to involve awards or the monetary outlay associated with meals. A simple verbal recognition works.

Already giving recognition within your group? Great! Now go further. What about that grad student in the lab next door who just published a paper? The colleague who landed a grant? Or, for that matter, managed to get a score on an NIH proposal?

How about the staff in your department? They get precious little in the way of positive feedback. All too often they're on the receiving end of faculty ire. Usually undeservedly.

Our world could use a bit more positive recognition.



* Not to be confused with requiring them to work insane hours and not have a life outside the lab. AKA k3rning. Or being poo3d.

** Or just common sense. But apparently common sense isn't all that common.

*** Surprise! Simply providing salary and benefits is not sufficient to get the best out of people.


7 responses so far

  • Postdocin it says:

    And if the "it's the right thing to do" argument isn't grabbing you, reread the *** footnote. Recognizing others (legitimately, not throwing it around all the time) is an easy way to make friends, earn favors, and generally improve someone's attitude toward you. It works on me, and I've seen it work on the surliest student.

  • Namaste_ish says:

    Stickers! Stickers on lab notebooks FTW. Also, I had no idea you were nice. Mind blown.

  • Nat says:

    The care taken to nurture the overall "work well-being" of the team is definitely one of the best aspects of moving to industry and away from academia. It makes things a hell of a lot more fun, and helps support productivity which makes people feel good.

    Academics are free to rail against what they see as business practices, and in so doing ignore the scholarship underlying these practices. Similar to the way they ignore the scholarship showing that productivity declines with excessive hours worked.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    A significant part of the PI job description includes cheerleading. Which means praise for hard work, celebration for science successes, and pep rallies for the setbacks.

    Celebrating the successes of your colleagues down the hall is a great point! This is something that great departments do and dysfunctional departments do not.

    • EPJ says:

      I think sincere recognition of the situation is good, but somehow in the obvious cases in which harsh or irrelevant or self-defeating comments take place you have to wonder about the reason and cause of that. And the options for actions will depend on the hypothesis, just as analysis in science is supposed to be carried on.