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[personal profile] nclean
I discussed with my supervisor, who happens to be the undergraduate studies coordinator (and so, at 32, is doing a stellar job of his academic career) about my problems with the amount of group work, and the problems therein.  He was largely sympathetic, took some points on board, but reminded me that the world sucks this way.

More significantly, he advised me that it's generally important that even though I might never choose to work with these teammates again, I should generally try to act (write my e-mails) in a way that they would want to work with me again.  He is a communication enthusiast, but says "I still haven't quite figured out how to write: 'thank you for your e-mail.  You are an arsehole.' "

Anyway, I'm not sure how my communications of last night will be taken:

Dear colleague and team-mate,

When quoting someone else's work, you need to cite it appropriately.  I don't want our team to get busted for plagiarism


Your colleague,


Date: 2010-05-28 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Some time I'll share with you my enggy team assignment horror stories.
On another note though, your lecturer is quite right. It's an important skill in the workplace (and academia) to be able to write the "thank you for your response, you dickhead" emails. I can recomend some books that will help you with this skill if you feel so inclined.

Date: 2010-05-28 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't think I've ever mastered those emails either, and can never figure out why it's an important skill to have. I'd also be interested in books on the topic.

Date: 2010-05-28 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Okay, I'm going to start you off with "Advice to Rocket Scientists: A Career Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers" by Longuski. That will help explain why it's an important skill to have.

In a nutshell though, Mr NcLean here has given us a lovely example of "while you may be right, the way you've expressed yourself will not lead to the result you want." So getting the result you want is more important that venting your frustrations. This is why it is an important skill to be able to express yourself so that you move the other person to your point of view. This requires a certain amount of self-awareness, restraint and understanding of human reactions to stress/confrontation.

In Mr NcLean's example above, the recipient of the email is unlikely to take away from this that NcLean's motivation is the protection of the group and the group achieving academic success. What the receipient will likely feel is "OMG what a rude bastard NcLean is. He think's I'm an idiot." This won't leave them in a pliable and agreeable state where NcLean can give them further input.

As further reading, you might also want to check out "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" and "Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High".

Date: 2010-05-28 03:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks. It irks me how often people make comments about how "it's not rocket science" and to me whatever they are talking about is comparitavely more challenging. It's nice to see there's a book that directly addresses the disparity between technical and social issues and the variance in relative expertise.

Date: 2010-05-28 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In my company one of the catch phrases is "career limiting move". Sending snott-o-gram or blast-o-gram emails can definately be career limiting.
One of the really hard things for certain people to get their heads around (particularly women and generally geeks, she say speaking as both *grin*) is that working hard and being good at your job is not the same as being perceived as a valuable employee and someone who is key to the organisation. The latter requires people skills, political awareness and self-awareness.
The good news is that there are lots of people who've been where you are now. Some of them have even writen books about it! S

Date: 2010-05-28 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I just realised who you are. Nice meeting you last week at the PCP.

I may have mentioned when I met you how I recently quit my job, that was based around people skills, and am now writing a book. It won't be like the books you've mentioned, but it will include a mix of geeky stuff and "people skills, political awareness and self-awareness". I have been able to develop people skills over the years, and consider myself fairly adept at conflict resolution, but it's not something I find intuitive - it's always so tiring and not my preferred role.

Date: 2010-05-28 02:18 pm (UTC)
ext_1788: Photo of Lirael from the Garth Nix book of the same name, with the text 'dzurlady' (Default)
From: [identity profile]
In a nutshell though, Mr NcLean here has given us a lovely example of "while you may be right, the way you've expressed yourself will not lead to the result you want." So getting the result you want is more important that venting your frustrations.
Exactly! I have had this conversation with several people and I find it very frustrating. My perspective is that getting the result I want is the most important part, rather than expressing what I actually feel about something. If someone is doing something you don't want them to do, it's more satisfying in the long run to fix the problem rather than to do some short term venting at them.

Also, at work you may well be in the position where you can't just be blunt/rude to them. Aside from it looking unprofessional (and showing a lack of communication skills) if you do it to colleagues or people you're managing (which is destructive for future interactions and can make your life even harder), you really can't do it to your bosses. Knowing how to politely influence someone senior to you to do something you want is a really useful skill! (I have had it described to me as part of 'managing upwards'.)
Edited Date: 2010-05-28 02:19 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-05-28 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*grin* Yeah, good old "Thanks, buddy! You're a moron! Great working with you!" emails. I'm...not those.

Date: 2010-05-28 01:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Commiserations on the groupwork. It is really trying for those who are conscientious and achievement-oriented. I hated it. One group member doing something stupid like the above and it can wreck your academic career without it being your fault.

Date: 2010-05-28 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ha! My strategy with group asignments in the past has often been to volunteer to do the printing and submission of the assignment, and then re-write the really horrible bits before I submit. Because I suck at confrontations, and would rather be diplomatic and do all the work than tell my team mates I think they're all dickheads. Both of these approaches are flawed!! Perhaps there's a happy medium?

Date: 2010-05-28 05:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You could always try to cultivate the speech patterns of a Victorian era gentleman, for whom phrases like "good day, sir, I said, good day!" are incredibly offensive. (-8}

Or just be more long-suffering. Put simply - some of us are just smarter (or of more cultivated scholarly practice) than others and we have to live with that. In the quote above the first line would probably suffice.


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