Toxic Environments

And I’m not talking about this literally. But, about environments that just become bad for your mental health if you stay in them.

I generally like my research group. I think there are a lot of positives that can come out of being involved in a research group. I know I’ve written about my group before and how we have weekly meetings. I’ve raved about how the environment can be beneficial. But, I want to point out, that this isn’t always the case.

Now, I’m not saying that my group has become toxic. It hasn’t. Or, at least not completely. But I do know that my interactions with one member in the group are toxic. I leave every interaction at the very least annoyed and more often frustrated and angry. An encounter can leave me fuming and ruin my whole day. Which, when combined with the other stress that comes from being grad school, just isn’t worth it.

I’ve taken the simple steps. I don’t work in the same lab as this person unless necessary. I don’t place myself into situations where I know I’ll have to interact with this person. And I go out of my way to be as polite and friendly as I can be, in hopes of preventing the above frustration and anger from happening (although it doesn’t seem to do anything).

If you have someone in your life like this, I do recommend taking these simple steps first. But I’ll also nod in agreement with you if you say they don’t work. Because they may not.

I took a new step this week. And I’m sure someone who reads this will think I was being whiny and petty and a tattle-tale. But, I knew that I needed to raise this issue with someone who might have a chance of doing something about it. Who did I talk to? My supervisor. I went in with a specific list of issues that I wanted to mention (not long, just a few) and the reasons as to why I found them frustrating. I have a feeling that the fact that this student and I have been butting heads for years ( a fact that has been apparent to many other people) has gone overlooked by him.

I also was ready and prepared with a couple of easy suggestions on how my supervisor could help out in this situation. I don’t want to him in the middle – playing mediator or anything like that. I just wanted to make it clear to him, how some of his past actions have been making this problem worse, and what he could do.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I don’t think this will have solved all my problems. And I’m sure I’m going to walk away from my next encounter grinding my teeth. But, it did give some relief to just point out what was going on. To let someone else have some knowledge about the situation. I’m not sure what, if anything, my supervisor will end up doing. Hopefully he’ll think about my suggestions and maybe act on at least one of them. At the very least, I’m hoping it’ll open his eyes a bit to what’s been going on in and out of the meetings.

And maybe make it a little more clear as to why I avoid the lab.


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