Wednesday, March 15, 2006

dead weight

Brian has had his own lab for about a .... year? or more? I don't remember. Anyhow, when you're a scientist you get thrown into this land of managing people with very little experience. His first tech was okay, but he was only there for a few months before he followed his girlfriend when she moved away. It took a little while before he hired another person, but when he got his R01 funded he had the cash to do so. He hired a research analyst, which is a higher level position requiring a number of years of experience and thus gets paid more, because he had the funds and he didn't want to waste too much time training.

This girl was a piece of work. She was constantly suffering from 'migranes', and would sit at her desk wearing sunglasses and holding an ice pack to her head. When Brian would ask her to do something, she would sometimes say something like 'do you really think thats a good idea in my current condition?' I do understand that people have migranes. One of the girls in my lab in Boston did. I would say she got one every month or two, and when it happened she was completely laid up. However, I suspect that Brian's tech maybe was not having actual migranes. One incident that tipped me off was when she was sitting there in the lab doing the sunglasses/icepack/laying head on desk thing, and told Brian that she was waiting for the emergency room to call her back to let her know whether they had a bed available, so that she could come over and get treated for her terrible migrane. Okay. A migrane which is so bad that it requires an emergency room visit. Again, I've never had migranes, so I don't know whether this is really something you would do or not. A little while later she was still sitting there waiting and Brian came by and said he had just been to a product show. For you non-scientists out there who get wooed by companies with actually cool stuff, scientists are easy and we will flock to anywhere that there are a) free pens, b) free food or c) free t-shirts (the best). He mentioned that there had been free pizza at the product show. She immediately perked up and said 'Oh really? Free pizza? Well, maybe I'll just head over there while I'm waiting for the hospital to call me back.'

So - emergency-room-requiring migrane can instantly be cured upon the mention of free pizza. Hm.

There were loads of other indications that the illnesses were not always as bad as she made them out to be. One day she came into his office doing charades with a note that said she had laryngitis and couldn't talk. She spent the rest of the day trying to ask him questions by acting things out or writing them down. However, later that day he came into the lab unnoticed and she was talking on the phone. One day I had stopped by the lab to pick something up from Brian, and while we were sitting there talking I kept hearing this dinging noise. I thought she was playing computer games, but no - she was clicking around a pair of those worry balls that had chimes in them. I finally said 'What in the HELL is that noise??' and she was all 'oh! I have to do this all the time, for my wrist.' Uh huh. I had trouble with tendonitis or carpal tunnel in my wrists when I was in high school and college (from all the musical instruments) but you know, I did my physical therapy AT HOME.

This would all have been bad enough, but she was also really crap at lab work. She screwed everything up, all the time. Even very very simple things. It was really setting him back, both time-wise and money-wise.

Anyhow, after going through a long and arduous process, he fired her yesterday. She totally knew it was coming - she had already packed up her stuff. We went to the Mellow Mushroom to celebrate. I'm so very very happy, because now we don't have to deal with this crap anymore. Although the stories were always funny.

Brian has learned many things from this experience, most importantly: LISTEN TO WHAT THE REFERENCES SAY ABOUT A PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE. There were hints in her references that there had been some problems like these, but Brian didn't really pay that much attention to them (of course, the referees don't come right out and say it, so they were being a little vague, and he wasn't sure how much to believe them).


Heidi Ellis said...

Oh that's awesome for Brian. I have heard about this employee for quite some time. I'm glad she's out of his hair now.

How did he fire her? Did he just say "you know what I'm about to say so let's just say good-bye"? LOL.

Special K said...

Migraine studies is one of my major duties at the hospital. this girl did not have migraines, all she had was a bad case of the crazies. good thing he got rid of her.

patientgrl said...


Keith said...

I am totally applying for a job with Brian. If someone is going to take advantage of him it should be a friend.

Heidi has a good guestion, How did Brian survive that much confrontation?

Karl Broman said...

Congratulations to Brian.

People providing references should be a bit more forthcoming. You know those academics that constantly move from university to university, with their salary increasing each time? Many of them totally suck, but their previous colleagues will write great references in order to ensure their departure.

Lisa said...

It is true that Brian is the most "british" of the British in terms of conflict avoidance, which is partially why it took him so long to do something about this. He got a lot of help from human resources and from the administration in his department, as they know what the hell they are doing. But once he started telling her that there were problems, he was okay and looking forward to it being over. He was nervous that she would put up a big fight at the end (we thought she was totally going to ask for medical leave or something) but she didn't. He just said that he had decided to terminate her and she was like, yeah, ok.

regarding references, my dad the buiness guy said that when someone says something slightly negative in a reference, that usually signals that the problem is much much worse. now we know!