Most scientists have either witnessed or worked in an unhappy lab where demoralized students and employees dread coming to work in the morning, spend the day grousing and gossiping, and hurry home by 5:00 p.m. Creating a pleasant, productive environment is a challenge that eludes some of the brightest scientists. Authorities in laboratory management note that fostering a happy lab depends on choosing the right people, knitting together a cohesive group, and exercising an appropriate level of supervision.

"It's a tightrope," acknowledges Christopher P. Neck, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Some scientists prefer to manage their labs by keeping as far away as possible and giving their people the maximum amount of latitude. Others prefer to be at the bench from early in the morning until late at night, which allows for close supervision and instant feedback. Either kind of lab can be...

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