Monday, November 15, 2004

You can't touch this

A famous victory but a strangely hollow feeling afterwards. I wonder if it is a case of winning the first battle in a long siege. We had a meeting of senior staff today to try and sort out how we are going cram people from two locations into one. Essentially there is a conflict between MC, who has his own selfish agenda to nick as much space as possible, and the people (like me) who already occupy the space, who want to minimize space allocated to him, so that he won't take up permanent residence. Petty? Yes! Immature? Yes! What do you expect? Scientific training tends to select those that are socially inept. The HOD decided not to decide, preferring to let us squabble while he took cold medication.

The first strike from MC last week, when he moved some equipment into our lab space without any consulation. This was followed by a rather blunt email from a colleague over the weekend, who asked him what changes he was planning to OUR lab space and stressing that relocation of people had to be agreed rather than dictated.

At the meeting he was asked directly about his plans. After the usual diversionary waffle he outlined how he was going to create two new laboratories on our floor by moving our equipment out. Of course he left it to us to find space for the evicted equipment elsewhere on the floor. Fortunately he was outmanoevured. His main reasoning for this considerate move was that it would be less disruptive to us! His people would not have to share lab space so would not interrupt our work! However he was dumbfounded when all the senior staff on the floor volunteered to give up space to share with his group. It would involve splitting his group between different benches, but it was pointed out that it would promote interaction between junior staff and facilitate a collegiate atmosphere. He could not argue with this, but accused of us (in a roundabout way) of being stupid by risking disruption to our own research.His concern had me welling up.

He tried an alternative argument that we should make sure that rooms containing equipment were used for lab work, otherwise they would be seen as vacant space. This would be taken away from us by our enemies outside the department. You have to admire his paranoid creativity, but we were more worried about the enemy within the department! This argument also failed because we pointed out that we were underutilising lab space anyway, and it was better to fill up existing labs than to create new ones. The HOD who was complaining about having a bad cold, and had been silent throughout this session of Jackanory, finally decided in our favour. Silent cheers all round. MC was not a happy bunny and kept on mumbling about how irrational we were being. It was quite obvious as we left the room that he was not going to accept this unconditionally. He has a rather fearsome female technician who is known to explode (and reassemble) with rage. Bruce Banner has nothing on this lady. I suspect he is exposing her to gamma rays and feeding her raw meat even as we speak.


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