In assessing my mental state over the 8 months that I have been in this new postdoc position, I have observed a trend. It’s not good.
I spend a great deal of mental energy — from the time I drop off my kid at daycare to the time I pick him up — thinking about whether my time is being well spent. Primarily, imagining how frequently my boss entertains the idea that I am not worth the 15% of my salary that she pays for.
The goals of a postdoc position are not well defined. How you spend your time is pretty open ended. We are categorized as “exempt” under the Federal Standards of Labor Act. The singular unifying benchmark we have to assess our efforts is publication. So… there is a lot of wiggle room as to how work hours are spent, and what kind of work is done “after hours”.
I spend about 60% of my time in lab (over 8 months of failed or delayed experiments), 40% time in the fellowship training that pays my salary, and only work 40-45 hours a week. I find it challenging to justify how I juggle my time to a boss who expects people to be in the lab 110% of the work day and use extracurricular hours to fulfill professional development training.
Maybe it’s a desire to have a more professional framework to my work life, maybe it’s having started a family a year ago, or impostor syndrome, or maybe I’m just not cut out for this work environment anymore. But either my perspective or my work needs to change, because I now have enough data for an evidence-based conclusion: this trend is unhealthy.
How much energy do you use justifying how you spend your working hours? Do you ever even feel like your work hours are being wasted? Is this just me?
I feel like I get most frustrated regarding wasting time at work when a superior insists that I do an experiment that I think is meaningless, or makes me use expired reagents or degraded samples that I know won’t work. Such a waste of my time, and when I had my own funding to pay my salary these things happened all the time because essentially the PI wasn’t paying for my time, but did have to pay for the reagents, so they didn’t care about wasting my time/energy but did care about having to pay as little as possible for materials and reagents.
I feel like I work really hard at work, so I don’t think I feel the need to justify how I spend my time when I’m here… but I do feel a ton of pressure to spend MORE time at work, which I just can’t do since becoming a mother!