“The more open the dialogue between a postdoc and the PI can be, the better.”
Prof Carsten Welsch, Head of Department of Physics, University of Liverpool. “
“My advice to a PI who’s managing their first postdoc is; talk to them a lot! It goes back to this old adage; you don’t need to be friends to be colleagues. But I think it helps if you have trust and you have an openness in that relationship that allows you to talk about both professional and personal goals and professional and personal challenges.
“They are not disconnected, they can both negatively and positively impact each other. So that would probably be the tip I would give a new PI; is to kind of talk to your postdoc about what professionally… I think the professional thing is easier to do because you can say, ‘Firstly, where do you want to be in two, three years or ten years or whatever? What can I do to help you get there how would we manage this together?’
“The personal stuff is harder to approach because some personal stuff is personal and some people find that harder to talk about. Equally make it clear that there are opportunities, as much as you can as a PI and you’re willing to talk about personal things, you don’t have to disclose anything about yourself of course. To make it clear to a postdoc that we are humans and there are personal factors at play.
“I think the automaton approach of just a very robotic, ‘I am just here to do this bit of science’, that instantly shuts down a conversation that the postdoc might want to have with you about something which is making their technical work suboptimal. I think then that becomes your problem as a PI.
“If you have done that and then the work is suffering but you’ve made it really difficult to unpick that and make the work progress again because you’ve said, ‘I don’t care about your personal life and what’s going on at home; all I care about is whether you can do this thing.’”
Prof Christopher Jackson, Chair in Sustainable Geoscience, University of Manchester.
“I try and develop a dialogical relationship with them. I like them to know what I think, but I also like to know what they think and I like to have an exchange and a dialogue develop. I would say to someone, well, this is the kind of relationship that I'm able to have that I think the postdocs value, I certainly value and they've worked for me. I think I'd share that experience without saying, this is what you should be doing. It's what's worked for me and I wouldn't want to do it any other way.”
Prof Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy, University of Bristol.
I would say you need to be talking with the postdoc and having that conversation with them and very much saying, well, what do you want to get out of this and what would suit you in terms of how I can help you and how our relationship can work, and working it out together. You might get things wrong and you might have to then change how you do it, but it's better to do it while having that conversation with each other, and quite often, to work out how you can both improve. Rather than not discussing how best to do it with the actual postdoc and instead, taking advice from other academics who might tell you things that have worked for them and their postdoc, but might be completely wrong for you and yours.”
Dr Tom Hasell, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Department of Chemistry, University of Liverpool.