Monday, November 4, 2013
Just a few minutes before the next session resumed, my senior colleague called me aside in the hallway and began to tell me how disappointed he was with my presentation and that he believed the room was abuzz with dissatisfaction with my talk. As he was a full professor in my group and we shared a research grant, I did my best to hear him out. However, I knew that my talk was good and I had heard from more than a dozen folks who specifically told me that I had done a good job. Something wasn't right here. I wasn't until we got back home that I learned that the government agency that was considering our latest funding proposal had rated my part of the research proposal significantly above that portion proposed by my colleague. It seemed that his attack had nothing to do with my presentation, but was entirely associated with his bruised ego. He was aiming to try to put me "in my place".
There is an important lesson here for all of us when we move to have a serious talk with someone or to criticize their work or their effort. We all need to search our hearts to understand our motives. If we aim to have strong, frank words with someone, we had better be certain that they do not come from a place of selfishness, of envy, or of pettiness, else we become Godzilla. Ultimately my colleague and I learned how to work well with each other and, in fact, we still interact regularly on research more than 15 years after this episode.
Posted by Daniel