Thursday, January 03, 2008

Nudge - Push - Shove

A collaborator found something interesting on one of my patients. A not-terrible-but-definitely-not-good something. And it was previously unknown. So I talked to Quiet Mentor today and he doesn't believe it's anything. I think he's wrong. Which leaves me - in addition to being at the height of misery with this cold - very concerned.

"I don't know what to do." I told Tim as I stood in his office, staring at his computer screen with the realization that all my ideas for supporting evidence were coming up empty. "I think there's something there and I need another experiment to prove it."

We talked for a moment - I am very fond of Tim - and I finally closed my eyes and nodded.

"I'll have to ask the Supreme Polar Bear." I said heavily, my voice sounding even more morose thanks to all the congestion in my head. "I'll beg him to give me some time on his toys."

Tim nodded sympathetically. "Mention more funding opportunities." He suggested. "They like that over there."

So I returned to my desk, blew my nose and set about composing an email describing my problem and my need for this favor. I've yet to hear back. Thinking of the last time I begged SPB for something and never received it, I decided I was going to lean as hard as necessary to get his attention. I'll call his secretary next week if I don't hear from him. Then I'll start camping outside his office. This nudge is going to get more intense until I get what I want or hear an excellent reason why I can't.

This leads me to other stories quite nicely. Marlie has yet - after 4 months or so - to do an experiment. She's struggling to get settled and coming to me for help - since I know nothing of what she wants to do - is non-ideal. I sent an email to Dawn before and she responded politely but did not offer extensive advice. Now, I understand this. She quit because she couldn't deal with Evil Boss and I'm sure offering her help to the project isn't appealing. But given that she did deal with it extensively, Dawn knows information and people that Marlie should be familiar with. So when Marlie wrote and asked if I could discuss her experimental plan in detail tomorrow, I agreed.

Then I wrote another email to Dawn. I explained that I knew it was a large favor to ask, but I was very much out of my comfort zone on this particular project and was quite fond of Marlie. So I wondered if she would join us for lunch tomorrow - my treat - and talk about this project and meet Marlie and catch up with what's going on in general. (Dawn likes free food very much.) I'm coming to realize that Marlie's language problems are pretty extensive. Some of the documents she's sent me list information that is wrong. So I'll go and take notes and help Marlie figure things out.

The hell of it is that it's a complicated project! It's good - it could generate any number of papers and grants - but it's as ambitious as any I've seen at this institution and her support system is nonexistent. So I had to do something. I just hope this works. Because Boss, kind and wonderful as he is, will not be shoved regardless of how I try to make him help her.

Brute Force
I don't push hard very often. I will give persistent nudges or offer a few sharp pushes, but I don't often get mean enough to make demands. I'm hurt when people are annoyed with me so I try to finesse or act pathetic or present long-winded and emotion-filled arguments. That way usually works so I don't often have to debate putting all my weight behind a specific desire.

I want to interview for Industry Giant. I know the head of the department, but not the direct supervisor. My feeling after the last time was that they were testing me - seeing what kind of advocate I'd be for myself as a candidate to assess how strongly I'd argue for the company. I always regretted not being a bit more aggressive - finding the answers I needed to have as I continued my job search.

So I called today. Supervisor is out of town until next week, so I left a voice mail and will call back when he returns to the office. I was terribly nervous before I called - I don't like to bother people on the phone - and realized that if the job was full of calls like this to direct a team, perhaps I wasn't suited for it after all.

Summing Up
I continue to worry about Marlie. The one skill I've always had was sensing the boundaries. I quickly learn who needs to be nudged, who will get irritated with even an expectant glance and who will require multiple, mighty pushes. I can work from home a lot and not get in trouble. I end up getting the supplies I need, though the difficulty in that is part of why I want to leave so badly. But many of my regrets that linger around this time in my life involve being too passive. So I'm trying to identify resources and go after them a bit harder. And I sense that cultural and gender issues will make this even more difficult for Marlie than it is for me. So I fret. Perhaps I'll nudge her a bit tomorrow and see if that doesn't help her do the same to others.

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