|Communication and Difficult Conversations|
Communication and difficult conversations is a topic not include among the standard nine education areas recommended by the Office of Research Integrity. Nevertheless, it is a topic of particular importance for postdocs whose position at any institution is one with little official status often requiring that postdocs rely upon persuasion and goodwill to navigate some aspects of the research environment. In particular, a postdoc’s sole reliance upon his or her supervisor for resources, support, approval, and future job recommendations means that communication is a critical skill as is diplomacy when conversations turn towards difficult or sensitive topics. These skills are doubly important for international postdocs who come from a different cultural perspective, with different norms and assumptions, and may have to have these difficult conversations in a second language.
Communication for Difficult Situations
Dealing with people in any environment can lead to difficult situations, and the research environment is no different. Despite the “scholar in an ivory tower” allusions, research requires significant collaboration and people management skills. Postdocs have the disadvantage of having little status or power within their institution, which can create additional difficulties. Thus communication in such situations can be the key to amicable resolutions
High Conflict People in Legal Disputes by Bill Eddy.
“Dealing with Difficult People and Difficult Situations” by Dale Cameron
Lab Dynamics: Management Skills for Scientists by Carl M. Cohen and Suzanne L. Cohen
“Dealing with Conflict” by Carl Cohen
Influence Without Authority by Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
“Obtaining and Negotiating a Faculty Position” and
Having a complete set of management skills should help postdocs to avoid conflict, but when conflict does arise, the postdoc should be prepared to seek an amicable resolution with the parties involved. Given the highly competitive nature of scientific research, and the increasing trend toward team science, postdocs will need training in conflict resolution. Because postdocs have very little status or power within an institution, training in this area should emphasize how to avoid conflict by clearly communicating expectations, concerns, and questions in a forthright and respectful manner. Building on the negotiation skills addressed in the previous section will be helpful in this regard.
There are numerous workshops, articles and other resources available on this topic: