How should I work with lab member who has mental issue?

19-Jun-20, 22:15
by Tapa
Avatar for Tapa
posted about 3 weeks ago
Dear all,

How should I work with a person who has mental issue? I don't want to hurt anybody. But at the same time, I also don't want to get hurt by stupid things done by this person.

I have been working in a new lab for 2 months. This girl is from India. She did many things that I think extremely rude, although she is very nice and friendly. I had a talk with her about that. She cried and said she has some mental problems, she felt that I was sometimes angry to her. I did get angry with her 2-3 times within these 2 months. However, she made me angry at least twice a week, about which I tried not to get angry and maintained my calm.

After the talk, she meant I was the person who did all wrong and she did nothing wrong. Here are some examples:

She used the flask which has my name. I She asked me if I need to use it. Of course I wanted to use it, that was why I prepared it. I told her to use other flasks prepared by the technician. She told me that she wanted to use my flask because it had the size she wanted. I fed up with her stupid argument and didn't want any discussion. So I told her to use mine. I save more energy and time. And she didn't even prepare a new one for me.During the talk, she blamed me for saying "yes" to her. She said: "If you say no, I would have used other flasks with bigger size." I think this is extremely rude.

2. I asked her how to send the plasmid for sequencing 3-4 times. Each day she came, told me that she would help and then quickly left the lab for home. At first, I thought she forgot. So I mentioned again. Next day, she left early, I thought maybe she had an appointment. 3rd time, I thought she was feeling unwell. After 2 weeks, I got mad.During the talk, I told her that I felt very bad that I had to asked her 4-5 times. She told me that it is ok for her, that I SHOULD remind her of it ??? If she doesn't feel bad, I feel bad.

3. She always made us wait 30 mins to 2hrs. It happened more than 10 times.

She blamed everything on the medication.
22-Jun-20, 18:17
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
Hmm, this sounds very tricky. How about starting an informal discussion with the whole group and suggesting the idea of having some ground rules for the lab? If your supervisor can be present and also think it is a good idea, and you all come up with them together, then this could work - and also should be less embarrassing for the girl who is the main culprit. Rules could include things about if you use another person's flask you must prepare another one for them / leave as found... if you agree to meet in the lab try and be timely and considerate of others... etc. Maybe you could suggest something fun too - like a kitty bag to buy treats every month which you all can take from any time. Or some socially distanced team building activity - a fun game or something. You don't want to come across as bossy though. So if you have a good relationship with the supervisor, maybe talk to him in private and ask him to suggest it to the group.
23-Jun-20, 10:42
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 weeks ago
This is a very tricky situation. You have to believe someone if they say they are meds for mental health issues as you don't wanted to be accused of being uncaring. However you can try and distance themselves as much a possible.

I know this might sound crazy but I know there were 2 PhD students in the same lab area that absolutely hated each other in the chemistry department. They agreed a rota were one of them works like 8am-2pm and the other 2pm-8pm, it is completely crazy but they avoid seeing each other. You don't have to go that extreme but you can try to become completely independent of her in the lab. Arrange two glass cupboards, your own stash of consumables, your own little space. If she asks you for something agree and be nice but play dumb and be unhelpful. If you stop facilitating them they will eventually stop bothering you.

About the equipment, does anyone else in another lab know how to use it? It avoids the hassle and you might meet new people in other labs.
28-Jun-20, 12:22
Avatar for Walter_Opera
posted about 1 week ago
Sounds like she's trying to sabotage you, plain and simple. One of the most common "mental issues" in academia. Don't be fooled by her later attempts to be nice or explain her own behavior away. Is she some sort of tutor or supervisor for you? If not, stay away from her if at all possible. You say she has attendance issues anyway? Then the answer is simple - try to be in the lab when she isn't. Problem solved.
28-Jun-20, 20:49
edited about 24 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
Tapa, At this stage I would find someone else who could show me the plasmid sequence etc. If there was nobody else, I'd stand at her desk and tell her to show me the procedure right now. You can be assertive about it rather than aggressive but I wouldn't leave her desk until she told me. "I'm sorry but this really needs done now. It won't take long, let's get it out of the way".

As for using my glassware, I'd tell her forcefully not to touch my stuff again without cleaning it unless she wanted to suffer the consequences of pissing me off.
I'd also try to get everyone together to sort out the running of the lab with the aim of getting agreement on rotas etc.
I'm a bit too old now to be putting up with all that shit. Sometimes you just need to confront people directly rather than let people get into a disruptive routine.
In my PhD, my pet peeve was people wearing headphones with blaring music. I always immediately asked them to turn it down a little. If you do it properly you'll find almost everyone will be fine about it.


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