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Messy people - How to deal with? (Aug/11/2008 )

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I am a complete organization and cleanliness freak. Turns out that my boss' wife works with me. She is the messiest person I've ever met before. She leaves doors open (including the ice machine lid, the incubator door and microwave's door). She leaves unused machines on, drawers open... ohhh I am going crazy!!!!

The worst part is that she also lazy, so whenever she needs a reagent she takes my stuff (never anyone else's), never put it back where it was before and I have to waste time looking for my own reagents or even, my pipetmans!!!!! (She has her own pipetmans, but for some reason she loves taking my stuff and make it disappear in her bermuda's triangle-like bench). She can have 3 or 4 of the same pipett tips open and "in-use" on her bench (making more autoclaving needed!). I have to prepare reagents that I haven't really being using because she uses mine and don't make more. Leaves reagents that are supposed to be at 4 degrees outside on her bench.... which is not bad if it is her own stuff, but usually are common use things! I never know where the protocol booklets are, or the casting trays are...........GGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

I was having contamination problems and I think that her habit of using my reagents and my pipetmans could be a potential source (or the fact that I've found atibiotics sitting on her bench overnight). I came here on a weekend just to find her youngest little girl who must be around 2 or 3 years old playing with my bench stuff!!! (regardless the potential source of contamination a kid is, I think a lab bench is NOT a playground!! Any mother should know that!!).

I can keep up with my complaining list, but I don't want to get you bored. There are 3 more students here and we are all very organized and clean, but after she came everything is just a mess and we don't think there's something we can do about it. We can't go and complain to our boss about her wife!

Any suggestion of how to approach this? or should I just try to keep myself calmed down and accept this for as long as I have to be in this lab?


Absolutely not.

Here's what I would do. First, I would inquire to my colleagues to know if her behavior is disturbing them also. If so, I would first try to talk with her, and try to expose my point of view with gentle words, very kindly. This approach often clears out the problem.

But if she denies the facts, and you can prove that she really is the one who is messy, I would then go to my boss. If a one on one encounter scares you, try bringing your colleagues. And once again, explain the situation with care. The fact that she's his wife do not gives her the right to mess with your things. Your property should be taken into consideration.

As for the child in the lab.. it kind of show what kind of person she is.. I would never bring a child into a lab.


There's no point in making a scene, because she will just feel offended and still do nothing about it. Instead, try to train her the pavlovian way - saying "please close the door" etc., each time you see her doing something, just to be sure she does it. For a certain time, it will be annoying, but over time, she will make a routine of it, and be - well, not clean and organized - but not hijacking other's work.
Her bench is her story. Maybe, disorganised and forgetful as she is, she still makes results at the end?
A forgetful person doesn't really SEE that she's forgetful. If you will say to her that she is messy, she won't know what you mean. If you mention all her faults at once, she will just notice the litany and get offended, because it will be too much at the same time.
Keep it simple, civilised, and don't make it a conflict. Keep your cool. And your phrases simple. Think she's a kid (in a way that she has to learn).
Make her know your - and hers - working teritory.
About the reagents, it works well in case of students - code them. This way she won't know what is what.
The cleanness freakiness is a bit too much, too. Obviously you're on the opposite sides on the scale. Life is easier when you keep to the middle grounds, or at least tolerate those in people.
It never occured to you that she takes your reagents because:
a) she likes you
b] she trusts your skill
c) you have never refused or asserted yourself?


QUOTE (bacterie @ Aug 11 2008, 01:41 PM)
We can't go and complain to our boss about her wife!

maybe he complains about his wife himself laugh.gif

i like telomerase's point of view, what if she knows you're a good worker and that's why she likes taking your stuff. i'm almost certain you could reach a good agreement where both are ok with it. good luck


I think you should make it known that personal reagents and pipettes should not be shared. Everybody should have their own reagents. Help her get her own set and make sure she knows how to make more of her own reagents. Set some round rules.

Explain to her it helps cuts down on cross contamination. Your work from contaminating hers and vise verse.

Keep cool. Talk to her about this. She probably thinks that you are nice person, allowing her to use your stuff.


may be her husband has to close the fridge's and microwave's doors at home everyday.

may be her husband has to tidy up "her bermuda's triangle-like (kitchen) bench" at home... or else no dinner

may be her husband has to eat melted ice cream at home... left it out on the kitchen bench overnight.

Just curious...
How old is this women?

-Minnie Mouse-

Thanks everyone for the advice! I will certainly address this in a very polite form. Probably one thing at a time, I don't want to overwhelm her with a litany of complains.

Actually she is very nice to me all the time and yes, I think she is extremely forgetful and she does not know or just don't think that can be an issue to anybody else.

Hopefully I will be able to manage this without involving my boss.

My labmates feel almost the same but they don't have the inconvenience of having their reagents or pippets used. She only uses mine. Probably Telomerase is right and she uses my stuff out of a very positive perception of me.

I really had a good laugh out of Minnie Mouse post! I am not so sure her age, but she should be in her early 40s to say the most.


Do not label your reagent bottles. Put code on them that only you understand. tongue.gif

-Bungalow Boy-

QUOTE (Bungalow Boy @ Aug 12 2008, 03:15 AM)
Do not label your reagent bottles. Put code on them that only you understand. tongue.gif

A friend of mine forgot to check the pH of a buffer, she prepared for herself. When she realized it, she had already made frozen aliquots of the buffer. So she decided to adjust it every time when she needs to use it.
And then some of her aliquots disappeared....and some experiments of some lab mates didn't work.... rolleyes.gif

I share everything of my stuff without hesitating - but I want to be asked before it is used.

Tell us, how she reacts.


I used to write my name on my reagents and label them "Don't touch"


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