reaction!, and managerial style

Pamela Norton pnorton at
Mon Jan 22 18:03:12 EST 1996

In article <Pine.SOL.3.91.960120162829.14445C-100000 at acsusun>,
p2158740 at ACSUSUN.ACSU.UNSW.EDU.AU (Marguerite Evans) wrote:

> In response to Pam Norton...
> > Sorry, Marguerite, for invading your thread with the one about which you
> > were complaining, but you failed to raise a new topic to distract our
> > attention.
> Seems I have upset a few people....perhaps I am not the kind of person 
> for such a newsgroup...but I shall persist a little longer.
> Apologies if my "complaining" bothered you in any way Pamela Norton...but 
> read again...I'm asking about women LIKE YOU and how you manage people.
> Would like to hear what you have to say...
> Marguerite.

Marguerite and others,

   Fair enough request, and good job on starting up a new thread.

   I've read several of the other postings on the "managerial styl" topic.
I believe it is important that everyone in the lab (two post-docs and two
techs and one very part-time high school student) be on reasonably
friendly terms, because they need to work together. I also try to organize
occasional outside socializing, because it helps us all to see new
dimensions of each other. I guess this falls short of the lab family idea
raised by Janet Mertz, but it works for me. I _might_ feel differently if
there were grad students in the lab.

   The most important thing I try to do for individuals in the lab is to
make sure that project boundaries don't get blurred. I've seen repeated
instances where several people contributed to a project, with subsequent
bitter disputes about credit, authorship, you name it. These generally
would have been preventable by early recognition that two or more people
were stepping on each others toes. I know other people who manage their
labs quite differently, and it can work out all right, but I prefer to
have people work on fairly well-defined, distinct projects or subprojects.

   On a related note, I think that pitting people against each other is
one of the most reprehensible things a PI/research advisor can do. I would
advise anyone to run not walk away from such labs; the "advisor" cares
nothing for the careers of the individuals. 

   What else? Sandy Weller mentioned that different students
(postdocs,etc) have different needs. I agree, and can add that several
colleagues have not only noted the same thing (makes sense) but also that
this can be one of the most difficult things about running a lab. Should
the lab head go chasing after everyone to hear about their experiments, or
should she wait for them to come to her? Some find the former situation
annoying ("give me some space") whereas others are more dependent on
frequent discussion. Conversly, some find the latter situation great,
others feel that the PI is not interested in their work.  (I'm drawing on
observations from labs in addition to my own here). Obviously there is
middle ground here, but it can be hard to strike the right balance. Thus,
you will probably be happiest in a lab where you and your advisor come
down in the same general direction (to oversimplify, less
independence/more contact vs. more independence/less contact). 

   This is long enough, but I'm happy to respond to anyone interested, and
hope this may have helped. 

      Pam Norton

Pamela A. Norton, Ph.D.          Assistant Professor of Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107           p_norton at

More information about the Womenbio mailing list