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Motivation in demotivating environment

  1. Jun 26, 2012 #1
    Hello folks,

    I'm a postdoc in CS/Statistics in a small EU country, working in academia as a scientist, no teaching just research. The stupid thing is that our department is the second worst in the (otherwise prestigious) institute, as there are many lazy people around, just procrastinating, doing nothing. Even there are members who have no publications for years, but who are under protection of our chair (surprisingly unlike most active ones).

    I feel I'm loosing motivation to do anything. For instance, right now, I'm preparing a project proposal without any chance to be a PI - it will be one extremely lazy colleague with whom I've been working for two years on another project where *completely* all results were mine. However, he's older and he's preferred by the chair. Another example: I've submitted a paper to a prestigious conference and it was accepted with very nice reviews. However, the lack of money prevented me from going there, while another older and not very smart colleague with bad reviews and wrong results gained support from the department and will present results that were proved wrong a few days ago. Young people with early PhDs are leaving it here due to this bad situation. The very few who stay are either working with someone from outside the department or have very high frustration tollerance.

    The question is obvious - I don't know what to do. Leaving the institute is no go for me now, I have a family and two little babies. I'm trying to do my best, but the situation around me makes me loose motivation. For instance, I intend to extend the mentioned conference paper, but have no mental energy for it. I intend to study stochastic processes, stochastic integration and SDEs this summer, but the question why to do it is still with me (I often ask myself whether I'll have any chance to use it before I leave it here). And of course, I feel depressed and lost. I would be grateful for any recommendation and any new hint as they will be surely useful in my frequent brainstormings.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 27, 2012 #2
    You already know. IMO, you need to do what you don't want to do. Move on. Like many my age, I know the uncertain feeling of walking away from the "known" into the unknown, even when the known is bad. The kind of stress you are trying to accommodate will just eat away at you, and it already sounds like it is getting bad. Also, don't think your wife doesn't know your stress and stress her as well. Been there. 5 or 6 years ago, would have ever posted this in public? Probably not. Add wife and small children, which can have their own stresses, and it is a bad situation that will only get worse. Look around, find a position, and make a confident change knowing it will result in a better quality of life you and your family. FWIW, reason for leaving will never be "stated" as anything more than lack of opportunity to present the papers you publish or be the PI on the projects you develop. Never say anything bad about where you came from.

    I did what you are doing. It will get better. Leave. IMO, job changes are opportunities, not tragic events. Good luck.
  4. Jun 27, 2012 #3
    My 2c.

    If I was you, I would spend time applying to other jobs and then leave once I find one more suitable.
  5. Jun 27, 2012 #4


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    It sounds to me like you're paying a lot of attention to other people around you that maybe you don't need to be. You're making judgements on them and it's affecting your own morale. There are enough things in the world to worry about as it is. There's no point worrying more over those you can do nothing about.

    That's not to say some of the specific things don't warrant some change. Why are you doing all this work for someone else to get the credit? Have you voiced your concerns? I know that isn't always easy to do, but sometimes having those crucial conversations can eliminate all sorts of unnecessary stress. You can start by asking questions to generate some clear rules on who gets funding for what conferences.
  6. Jun 28, 2012 #5
    ThinkToday, thank you, most likely you are right. I've still some work to finish before any potential leave. I've thought much about it before the second child, now it is more complicated.

    I never do talk bad about talk bad about the dept. before other people from outside. Moreover, the institute is of superior quality and I'm proud to be there, the issue of the dept. people is not that of the whole institute.
  7. Jun 28, 2012 #6
    Thanks for your response, Choppy. I believe I'm not paying a lot of attention to other people around. What is bad is the way how things go. For instance, the last week, my very good colleague told me that he started to find another job, as he can't stand it there. In him, I'm going to lose a great potential collaborator (but still I'm doing my best to reason him to stay to pursue our future cooperation). And yes, I have voiced my concerns. And the result? The chair told me that the lazy colleague who got credit from my work lacks publications and I should write one, making him a coauthor. I refused, of course, but this is the way how it works there.
  8. Jun 28, 2012 #7
    I haven't got work experience so I might not be qualified to say this but I feel that if leaving this institute is really a no go as you said.
    In my opinion. your best bet is to seem like a better person, by that I mean instead of comparing with your lazy colleague just suck it up and chalk it under "life's not fair" and just try to appear positive without complaining(even justifiably). Generally, that's one thing I find a lot of people are attracted to.
  9. Jun 28, 2012 #8
    hqjb: I'm trying very hard to be positive, but when smart people around you are annoyed by those conditions, it's almost impossible to stay positive... Anyway, thank you for your idea, I take it seriously :-)
  10. Jun 28, 2012 #9


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    It's not complcated, it's very simple. You are in the wrong place, so move. "I've still some work to finish" is just an excuse for delay IMO. Stop planning the next 3 months of your life and start planning the next 30 years instead.

    The disruption to your kids will be bigger as they get older. Don't wait till they are old enough to start to understand what's going on, and have to change to a new school system using a new language, etc, etc.

    You said you are in an EU country, so you have the rigiht to move anywhere in the EU without any hassles about immigration, visas, etc. In most countries in the EU, you and your family won't finish up homeless or starving, whatever happens. What have you got to lose, in the long term?
  11. Jun 28, 2012 #10
    I misread thinking your were an employed professor. Why do you look at what others do? It should just motivate you to stand out and be the best. But if it is really bad and there is no one to compete with to keep you at your best, then it is best to move on.
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