Every year around Christmas, I marvel at how quickly time had passed by. Is it really another year already? As morbid as it is, I can’t help but want to make sure my time is well spent.
Earlier this month, I started receiving emails, tweets, LinkedIn messages, and even Facebook messages from my former lab coworkers. Every day they bombarded me with requests to sign off on some forms to authorize publication of a paper that I was apparently listed on ass an author. This was stuff I had worked on maybe 4 or 5 years ago. Each day I would receive another bombardment of messages from people who had not spoken to me in over three years. They literally did not even give me a day to reply.
I was conflicted – I had no part in writing this paper, had never seen or approved the manuscript, and really wanted nothing to do with my previous career any more. Plus, I was getting annoyed at being harassed everyday when I had just finished moving. We still didn’t have internet hooked up.
I had left that job and that career path years ago for this very reason. The PI would make demands on his employees and expect them to execute them immediately, no matter what. When the lab didn’t produce results that he wanted, months of work might be scrapped. One post-doc was at the lab for FOUR years and was never permitted to publish a paper because his results contradicted the PI’s previous work. So I wondered – why the hell should I go out of my way to do then any favors, when all they have ever done is taken advantage of me and other employees? This was the workplace that laughed and told me to not bother learning any new skills “because you’ll still always just be a tech.”
But Brian urged me not to be pretty. And I had stupidly accepted a LinkedIn request from one of those former colleagues. So I sucked up my pride and filled n the forms to authorize my name on a paper I hadn’t even known existed till a week ago.
And lo and behold, what happened? I got yet another text a few days later insisting that I “had” to email the lab immediately or else they would need to resubmit the paper. Oh, you mean the paper that I didn’t know about and didn’t ask to be put on? I sent back a tweet explaining that I had already filled out the forms as requested, and that I wouldn’t be doing any more for them because it wasn’t my concern.
In response, I received a nasty, semi-threatening tweet which remarked that I should be glad to be in a field “that didn’t need networking” and “good luck with that”. Thanks, miss you too! After that exchange, I became very stressed out, my chest hurt, and I was angry.
The point is, when you engage with toxic people, even if you are just trying to be nice or fair, they will always ask more from you. And when they do not get it, they will show their true colors. I ended up deleting everyone from that workplace from my social networks.
In my case, I should have stuck to my convictions and remembered that I did not owe these people anything. I quit years ago, gave them full notice, and did not even ask to be on this paper. Hell, no one even told me I was on the paper until they needed something from me! Instead, by trying to do something nice, I wasted my own life energy and caused myself a shitload of stress.
As the year comes to an end, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we have a limited time on this world. Don’t waste it on people who drain your life energy with their own selfishness. They are toxic! Get rid of them, as quickly as you can and devote yourself to the people who are actually important.