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controlling my temper

Marilyn Walker Marilyn.Walker at colorado.edu
Tue Feb 28 16:48:52 EST 1995

In article <3ivhdi$ead at niven.ksc.nasa.gov> RuffeL,
RuffeL at bonsmtp.ksc.nasa.gov writes:
>I work at Kennedy Space Center, doing hydroponic research, 
>I have to deal with ego's that are unbelieveable.
>How does one cope with PhD's egos and the way they
> want everything done is a weird ways.
> I have a BS degree in Horticulture,
> I also work with a few people who have there Masters degree, They are a 
>fantastic to work with. 
>The project that I am working is called CELSS. 
>There are about 25 people on this p
>project 4 women and the rest are men. Pretty bad odds.
>It's so hard to gain respect 
>from them, They feel that they know more
>and That we should just tend to the plants. when one of us does speak
>out then we are considered BITCHS or just hard to work with. NO winning. 
>How does one deal with this EGO trip they are on.....????!!!

This is probably not what you wanted to hear, but...how about starting by
you treating them as fellow human beings?  OK, so maybe they are human
beings with large egos, and for some reason that bothers you.  What I
read in your letter is lots of "us versus them" language (PhD vs. BS,
women vs. men, etc), rather than a statement of what specific problems
you are having.  I'd suggest first identifying a specific problem (it
sounds like there may be some kind of conflict over how to care for the
plants, and you feel you are being ignored?  Just a guess).  Try to see
it as simply a conflict, not as an indictment of someone as a person
(even though you may feel that is deserved).  Keep it on an impersonal
level, that is, deal with the conflict and not the personalities, unless
indeed someone has said something to you that was inappropriately
personal.  In that case, tell him that it was inappropriate and why, and
if you don't get satisfaction go to his supervisor.  

Some food for thought, contrast the following statements:

"BSs in horticulture have such GIANT egos!  How do I get that little twit
to listen to me and follow the experimental protocol?  She thinks she
learned everything there was to know at that college!"

"I keep asking X to add 5 ml of nutrient solution to those plants, which
is the protocol that we need to follow.  I *think* she is doing it, but
she keeps trying to tell me that it will kill the plants.  That makes me
not trust her.  She also glares at me whenever I walk into the room, and
I'm feeling pretty ___ at being treated that way by her."

OK, I'm not suggesting we're all perfect, never lose it, and are 100% in
touch with our deepest feelings, but I have found that if I can step back
from a situation and try to describe it as in the second case, I am much
more likely to find a real outcome, rather than just escalate a battle. 
It may also help to realize that research settings in most cases are
strongly hierarchical - the PhDs carry the ultimate responsibility for
getting the funded and for a successful outcome, and therefore they also
carry most of the power.  And that situation is ripe for conflict.

Best of luck,

Marilyn Walker

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