When your Principal Investigator, Chair of the Department, or Director has something written in their research plan or grant budget that is illegal, unethical, or even questionable—how do you deal with the situation?

Often managing up in research administration comes in the form of a:

  1. New upper management or a new boss
  2. A PI that you don’t see face-to-face
  3. Early career PIs that may be insecure
  4. An all-knowing established career PI
  5. A manager who gives conflicting signals

No matter what type of situation you are dealing with, there are skills you can leverage to make your team more successful. Here are some basic tips to dealing with a difficult boss or PI.

  1. Double-check the facts and know your stuff.
  2. Develop a positive relationship with your superiors.
  3. Understand the goals of the project from an institutional and personal viewpoint.
  4. Anticipate the needs of each PI for each proposal.
  5. Never let your PI get blindsided by regulations.
  6. Do your job well each and every day.
  7. Disagree politely, respectfully, and in a productive way.
  8. Earn trust by repeatedly demonstrating a good work ethic.
  9. Earn trust by sacrificing personal benefit when stakes are high.
  10. When you have to carry out a decision you don’t agree with, put yourself in the shoes of someone who believes deeply in the decision that was made.

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