Creating Positive Work Environments in Academia

There’s a difference between a challenging and a traumatic work environment in academia, Kathryn R. Wedemeyer-Strombel, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental science at the University of Texas at El Paso, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, writes in a recent post on the Chronicle Vitae blog. In the post, Wedemeyer-Strombel details the characteristics that create a positive work environment and an abusive work environment for graduate students. These qualities could also apply to work environments for postdocs and faculty. A challenging work environment could include failing at a task but being encouraged to keep going and to ask for help, and having a healthy debate about differing opinions. A toxic work environment could include being yelled at, dreading going to meetings with colleagues, and having a supervisor who promotes extreme competition among colleagues. Supervisors can promote a healthy environment in their department by encouraging colleagues and students to pursue extracurricular interests, providing graduate students, postdocs, and colleagues with access to campus counseling services, and encouraging reasonable work hours.