Could You Be the Worst Labmate in the World?

The bad news: like any work environment, labs are not exempt from employing the occasional pain-in-the-a–.  The good news: given the nature of the career path, even the worst of labmates will be moving on to annoy a new group of people in a few years.  The great news: even if you’re that stick-in-the-mud in your lab, it’s never too late to change your ways.

Of course after years in the lab, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees… So take a minute to make sure you’re not the one the rest of your labmates can’t wait to leave.

Select the answer that most accurately describes your life in the lab then score your quiz to see how you stack up.


1. If I’ve identified a potentially major flaw in a labmate’s project, I:

a. set up a time to talk with them and discuss my concerns with them privately.
b. bring it up in front of a number of labmates.
c. wait until group meeting to ask them in front of everyone, including the PI.


2. How many times in the last year did I use the last of a reagent and not reorder it?

a. None- I always reorder when I see something’s low.
b. A few times- I was too busy, but I always told someone else that we were low and asked them to reorder for me.
c. I have no idea- as long as I have enough for my experiment I don’t care.


3. If I estimated I might need to use a piece of heavily-used shared equipment for 2 hours, I’d reserve it for:

a. 2.5 hours- I’d build in a little cushion on either side so I don’t run into someone else’s time.
b. 5 hours- I’d block off either the entire morning or afternoon.
c. All day- I want to be sure it’s available whenever I need it.


4. If I’m placing an order with a commonly used vendor, I’ll:

a. see if we need any common supplies or if anyone else needs anything and include it in my order.
b. ask my baymate if they need something and include it in the order.
c. place my order without mentioning it to any labmates.


5. If I break something on an instrument while I’m using it I:

a. take full responsibility and get it fixed.
b. act like it was that way when you walked up, but take responsibility for getting it fixed.
c. walk away from the instrument and act like I didn’t see anything.


6. If someone is making a point that I disagree with, I:

a. listen to their reasoning then wait for them to completely finish before making my point.
b. milliseconds after the last word exits their mouth I jump on them with my argument.
c. interrupt immediately to show them why they’re wrong, being sure to speak louder than them.


7. If I think of a really exciting experiment to try that’s part of someone else’s project I:

a. tell them about it and see if they need help.
b. keep it to myself and forget about it.
c. secretly do the experiment myself.


8. If I’m playing music and someone asks me to turn it down I:

a. immediately turn it down and make sure it’s not still disrupting them.
b. tell them ‘this is my favorite song and I’ll turn it down in a few minutes’.
c. remind them that it’s my bench and my radio, so if they don’t like it they should go back to their bench and play something else.


9. When I get a personal call on my cell phone in lab, I:

a. step outside of the lab and answer it.
b. answer it in lab but try to keep it short and to keep my voice low.
c. answer the call in lab and talk like normal.


10. I usually arrive to group meeting:

a. A few minutes before it begins.
b. A few minutes after it begins.
c. Ten (or more) minutes after it begins.





Each (a)=1 point; (b)=2 points; (c)=3 points.  Sum points for all ten questions.


9 < total < 13 ; You’re a dream to work with and you deserve a hug.  And a raise.
13 < total < 19 ; Hey, nobody’s perfect (except for those who got < 13) – we’d be happy to call you a labmate.
19 < total < 24 ; You’re probably wearing thin on everyone’s nerves so tread lightly. Very lightly.
24 < total < 31 ; Nobody likes you. Seriously.  Chevy Chase was probably talking about you here.




Do you know any “30”s? Or better yet, any “10”s?



4 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. @deray28

    wrote on April 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I'm an 11 ;-) but we do have a 30 in the lab, who doesn't right?

  2. @the_phillas

    wrote on April 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Being neat in the lab and conscientious with your coworkers gets you further in the long run. Coworkers who notice you cleaning up, fixing broken equipment, or assisting others ads to your integrity. Even for purely selfish reasons, this helps for future opportunities if past/present colleagues view you positively.
    (On a good day, I'm an 11. On a bad day, I'm a 14.)

  3. Bob Nudell

    wrote on April 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Did Sheldon Cooper write this?

  4. Giovanni A. Larama Denis

    wrote on May 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    12, i always forget to reorder reagents, but i do when it's low and i need to use ._.

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