In part 1 we began to discuss the importance of organization in a laboratory and provided some tips regarding large orders and consumables. Today we continue discussing how you can effectively manage a large laboratory.
The more difficult and time-consuming aspect of a manager’s job can be dealing with personnel, particularly in the area of conflict resolution. This is where Griffith applies a universal mantra to being a good lab manager: “Any person you deal with, internally or externally, can be the most important person to your lab’s function at any given time. So you treat every single person with respect as opposed to a ‘I’m in charge, do what I say’ attitude.” If the lab’s air supply is shut down, the HVAC tech is the most important person to the lab. People respond well to acknowledgement of their concerns and advice even if you don’t think it’s important, and scientists are no different. Taking the time to listen to lab members engenders trust and the feeling that you are on their side. This is especially important advice when there are lab conflicts. If a lab member comes to the manager with a concern, the manager should allow the individual to articulate their concerns, which usually highlights the roots of the real problem and also leads to a compromise solution. Likewise, if there is a rule-breaker in the lab, especially if the violation has to be reported, it is important to support the lab member and talk through what happened and why. The hope is that the next time they want to try a new experiment or something outside of a protocol, that they will trust the manager enough to come to them before a rule is violated.