H/T to Adam Kucharski
My advice to junior researchers: get some management and supervision training. You'll take on these roles sooner than you think. https://t.co/NuMCjA5UmV
— Adam Kucharski (@AdamJKucharski) July 28, 2017
So let's look at a bunch of things.
Firstly, Adam is right. You may think you don't need that "leadership training", because you're not going to run for public office. But you do. There will be at least something worthwhile in terms of dealing with problematic students, techs, trainees and most likely Chairs-from-Hell. In the world of cost/benefit decisions, the immediate benefit may not seem so large, but it can be. It sure beats the school of hard knocks.
But secondly. Oye. This article was not going to convince me that I should get training, let alone work towards being a better human being. The sub-headline on the article is:
My supervisor’s high standards and cold manner made me feel inadequate. If only he had been taught how to encourage me.
WTF? Somehow the mentor is responsible for making someone feel inadequate? This is how legends of snowflakes rise. Reading on, the first part of the article is a litany of how bad the trainee felt. All the horrible and terrible and discouraging things that happened to her that were the mentor's fault. There was not one whit of self-introspection in the article.
Yes, it would be lovely if we all could be Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangeroo, or some wonderful grandmotherly figure (i.e., true, real life course evaluation: Dr. Theron is insufficiently nurturing to be a good teacher". That's not real life. But lots of us are Tony Stark, but without the money and nifty electronic things.
Yes, I do think its worthwhile shopping around for a good mentor. Let me put the list from that post here:
- Look for individuals as mentors who enjoy their roles and responsibilities
- Look for individuals as your mentors who are experienced yet willing to listen to your concerns and needs
- Look for individual mentors with whom you can build a relationship on trust, mutual respect and confidentiality
- Consider any personal and/or professional biases that they may bring to your mentoring relationship
But, in The Guardian article, the writer put the blame for failure on someone else's (lack of) people skills. Yeah, the mentor was a jerk. No, he wasn't encouraging, and perhaps did cross the line "between constructive criticism and cruelty". Yes, it would be great if every mentor was a psychiatrist and counselor and Buddhist spiritual guide. But they're not. They are human beings with the whole range of problems that human beings bring to the table that is human interactions.
The article concludes with the suggestion that
Academic institutions should develop and require mentorship training for staff at all levels, not just those who are early in their careers.
Let me suggest that this would have exactly no influence on the jerk who was so discouraging. Let me suggest that senior people are pretty damn resentful of being required to take training. Let me suggest that this is the suggestion of someone who is not mentoring or supervising or more importantly swimming as hard as they can to stay afloat in the competitive world of academia. This doesn't mean that such training wouldn't have the potential to help. Go see the first para of this post. But by and large, the BSD's of this world who might need this, if they went, which is unlikely to start with, would go with a phone or laptop full of Other Things To Do. Required touchy feely seminars and workshops are not the way to change the system.
So grow up. If you want to do science, take some responsibility for finding the people who can help. The writer says she went looking for help and everyone turned her down. Really? She could not find a single person to help mentor her? A single friend, even outside of academia to help her with the confidence issues? I do not have much faith that this person will last long in any endevour. Find what you need. No one is going to hand it to you on a silver platter.