managing people

guenzel at guenzel at
Wed Jan 24 02:45:19 EST 1996

Last time I visited GB, I bought a book called "How to get a 
PhD. A handbook for students and their supervisors" by E. 
Phillips & D. Pugh which I found quite helpful for some basic 
things. Although most of it is written for the PhD students 
rather than for the supervisors, I found it quite helpful, as, 
in some parts I found described exactly what happened to me 
during my PhD and it "opened my eyes" as to how I might 
"manage" my students better.
At the moment I am responsible for two PhD-students, two 
students doing a one year research project and one technican. I 
try to create a harmonic atmosphere which most of the time is 
easy enough, because they usually get on with each other very 
well. Yet, I wouldn't like to have it too personal, i.e. 
"expecting" them to discuss personal problems in the lab (I 
myself always prefered to have other friends outside University 
or at least from other Departments and to separate private 
things from work). This doesn't mean I wouldn't listen if any 
of them asked me to, or wouldn't occationally go out with them 
in the evening.
As to the technican, I think I treat her rather the 
same as the students, especially as she is the same age or even 
younger than the students in the lab. When I first started 
working with her, I was extremely nervous about how I would 
manage to have her continuously occupied. I was frightened, 
that at one time I'd have too much work for her to do and at 
other times I would have to say: go and have a coffee for the 
next 45 min... It never happened, of course, and now, after 
about a year, we are an excellent team.
What I find most difficult at the moment is that one of the 
students who just started his project in our lab, is confined 
to an electric wheel chair. Although he manages the experiments 
well, he needs help eg for making solutions etc. That wouldn't 
be a problem, if he would simply tell us what he needed. But he 
always seems to think that he is asking for a great favour. 
Even if he simply needs having something handed down, it is not 
"can you please pass me the..." but "It would be very nice if 
you could maybe give me the ..., but only if you have got the 
time just now...". As this is quite getting on the nerves of 
the other students, I have tried to talk to him, but he doesn't 
seem to understand what I mean and why the others think there 
is a problem. Although this probably sounds like something 
which is easy to solve I find it pretty hard because we are 
(over?)-cautious not to hurt his feelings and he is cautious 
not to be in our way and I don't know how to get the whole 
group to relax a bit.
I would be quite happy if anyone has faced a similar situation 
and can give me some advice.

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