A few months ago I wrote about a student I had who was a great student but has since become lazy and unproductive. After some helpful advice here and talking to other colleagues and my department head I had a stern talking with him. I tried my hardest to figure out what happened, but he’s just become complacent and distant from everyone in the lab-though incredibly chummy with a neighboring lab. So I gave him a couple months to shape up and NOTHING has happened. I talked with the PI who’s students are seemingly his friends and he has space in his lab and said he would be willing to take him on. Then we talked about my student’s work ethic and the other PI wasn’t on board anymore. I talked to the department head and we have decided to give him notice that he will be leaving with an MS in the Spring unless he finds another lab. I’ll have to pay for another semester for the student, but he won’t be allowed in the lab. He’ll be writing his thesis, which he’ll defend in a few months then be gone if he hasn’t found another PI.
So this brings me to yesterday. I finally told him that he hasn’t turned around and this is his last chance to make an excuse. He gave me nothing. So I let him know that I can’t justify funding him using tax-payer dollars when he’s not going to produce results in exchange for the tax dollars. This is where I notified him that his work is complete and he should begin writing a thesis or find another PI. I notified him I would pay his stipend/tuition for one last semester to allow him to write and look for a job and that would be it. I know, firing someone right before Christmas is very GM-ey of me, but I wanted to give him as much of a heads-up as possible.
He said (yelled) that I’m a horrible person and that everyone only pretends to like me, and that I need to be put in my place (whatever that means). Then he told me he has a job lined up! I just calmly told him that’s great, and does he want to rush through the thesis to at least get the MS so he can have it when he starts his job. He’s one short thesis away from finishing it, after all. He said he’s not interested and he’ll be gone. So I guess his laziness in my lab kind of won out, after all? I would have gladly rushed through it to get the credentials, but whatever, he’s gone, and I get to save some cash and headaches.
3 thoughts on “Bye bye slacker”
Good for you! One of the hardest things I had to learn as a PI was to let people go sooner rather later. Managing unproductive and unmotivated people is one of the worst parts of the job for me and I am much more selective now about the students I take into my lab than I used to be.
Yep! I would have done the same. I have a written policy (aka slides) that I give every new student. Where it explains a bunch of stuff: what I expect of them, what can they expect of me, an initial timeline towards graduation, and how I will asses and fire them if needed. Just so they know ahead of time and can have time to improve.
That’s brilliant! I will definitely create an expectations policy!