realworld PhDs

A resource for job hunting PhDs.

Consideration and scheduling

So this is going to be less a post about what constitutes good professional behavior, and more something I’d like to suggest as a new standard for good professional behavior - namely, that when someone is scheduling a meeting with several people, you should respond with your availability ASAP.

One of my least favorite job tasks is scheduling meetings for the various lab groups that make up our research center.  It’s not that it’s a difficult task - there are plenty of good, free programs available to help with scheduling - doodle polls, whenistgood, etc. - but they all require people to answer a poll with their availability.  I can certainly see why so many businesses have just gone over to requiring everyone to share their calendar through Google or Outlook, but for this to work, everyone has to be conscientious in updating their calendar, including both work-related and personal appointments.  It also doesn’t work for scheduling meetings with people outside of your organization, and since science is a collaborative effort, that’s almost always true for our groups.

In my experience, our collaborators are all pretty flexible when it comes to setting up one-on-one meetings, but when it comes to setting up group meetings, inevitably the same thing happens - half the people respond immediately and the other half don’t respond at all.  I then have to spend days or weeks chasing the remaining people, by which time, many of the first half’s schedules have changed, not surprisingly.  Even when people do respond, they’re strangely unhelpful - again, most of our collaborators will usually respond to a request for a one-on-one meeting with several options or blocks of time, but when it comes to group meetings, it feels like they end up being as stingy and unaccommodating as possible, despite the obvious fact that it’s easier to find times where two people are available than when ten people are.

I think the resistance is really resistance to the meetings themselves - maybe our researchers feel like these meetings aren’t productive, or that they’re not worth the loss time out of the office and lab.  However, these are problems with the meetings themselves, not scheduling them.  So I’m going to suggest a new system - again, please respond ASAP to requests for availability, and if you think the the meetings themselves are unproductive, please bring that up in the meeting itself.