I was troubled by Liane Reif-Lehrer's suggestion that discussing a student's personal problems is an example of "urgent trivia" (The Scientist, Feb. 19, 1990, page 24).

My observations as a graduate student suggest that senior investigators much too eagerly sacrifice good long-term relationships with their staffs at the altar of short-term pressures. While discussing a staff member's personal problems is not very "productive," it demonstrates a proper sense of priorities. I sincerely hope that when I have a lab to run, developing a caring attitude toward my staff will come ahead of enhancing my reputation, obtaining tenure, or getting that big grant. It's not just that people who are well treated do better work, but that a person's worth transcends their utility as an employee. A student, postdoc, or technician is not a pair of hands, an entity on the same level as instruments and equipment.


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