After a joining a new workplace, I am trying to familiarize myself with everything around in the lab and I am getting my experienced seniors to help me out with every experiment or lab instrument.

Now I appreciate their support and help but they have tendency to go very fast about explaining the whole thing without giving me anytime to imbibe all the info. Furthermore, I find it highly annoying when they will step on my toes when the instructor had directly asked me to do the experiment.

How do I politely tell them to shoo away and let me do the work my way regardless it being slow and doing it differently than them (please note that I am not wrong but just doing it in a different way)?

How do I tell them that I have a different way of organizing my work without sounding like a "rebel" who doesn't like to do things the conventional way?

I would like them to give me suggestions and constructive criticisms/improvisation but not force me to adopt their way of doing things.

  • 2
    Are you delaying the whole work-flow by being slow? Do others have to wait for your results to proceed with their work?
    – PM 77-1
    Jan 30, 2016 at 17:34
  • 1
    Have you been given a chance to shadow the members of the lab to get a grip on the best way to perform the protocols before getting tossed into the technical work? There's no real nice way to tell someone to give you space as a trainee without looking like you're difficult to work with, IMO. Just show enthusiasm for the work, let them step in when they do, and just ask to perform a technique solo if you feel up to it. TL;DR let them know you're gleaning the right knowledge from the senior staff so that they have confidence in you.
    – CKM
    Jan 30, 2016 at 17:55
  • 2
    What is the role of this "instructor" in your "workplace"?
    – Kent A.
    Jan 30, 2016 at 17:55
  • 1
    How can you feel it is reasonable to ask for suggestions from people with more experience than you have, but only for suggestions that you want to hear?
    – Kent A.
    Jan 30, 2016 at 17:57
  • @PM77-1 No, not really. My work is independent of others. It would have absolutely no effect on other's work. Feb 1, 2016 at 13:13

3 Answers 3


As a new employee you have to remember, companies have their own way of doing things (some good, some bad, and some totally backa**ed). Moving into a new company a good approach to solve your problem is to do the following:

Listen to what they say and ask questions in a suggestive format (ie "Would doing it X way work too?") and maybe add a small amount of self depreciation in there too (ie "I know this is a stupid question, but ..." or "... or am I just an idiot for thinking that"). This way you will be seen from a humble point of view and making suggestions/questions rather than demanding or telling. Be careful of using to much self depreciation as then you could be seen as thinking you yourself think you can't do the job.

If you are told to do something and someone interferes and does it themselves then try the following:

"Oh ok, thanks so much. Can I try it (or a similar situation) to see if I understood how to do it correctly? I just want to make sure I am getting it right."

This way you are seen as accepting their advice and method whilst also asking to be "tested" and see if you get it. Keep in mind, after some time people will bug off and let you do things your own sort of way.

Also, get a feel of what personalities you are working with. Are your coworkers tight and high strung (ie rigid in doing things a certain way), are they bitter cynics who you can joke around with, are they toxic to each other or new people, are they open to new ways to do things? Also, consider what you hired to do, was it to be done a specific way or did they want someone to come in and innovate things slightly?

  • I would say that "or is that a dumb idea" is better than "or am I an idiot". Every rock star has dumb ideas. They're just better than average at letting them go and looking for something better.
    – BobRodes
    Jan 31, 2016 at 6:07
  • Whichever the OP or reader feels comfortable with. Just don't do it excessively or it will look as if you think you yourself are too incompetent to do the job.
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 1, 2016 at 23:53
  • @B1313 Tried and this definitely worked :) Feb 7, 2016 at 13:17
  • Glad I could help! Best of luck in your new job! :)
    – G.T.D.
    Feb 8, 2016 at 1:07

It sounds like you have some familiarity with the work and instrumentation but need some amount of orientation and time to get up to speed.

That is totally normal. Unfortunately, it is also quite common to find yourself in an environment where senior workers are profoundly unskilled at knowledge transfer, or worse, actively resistant to it.

The reason these senior folks are stepping in on you and doing the work you were assigned is that they don't yet feel confident that you can do the work. They may not explicitly say that but that is what their actions indicate.

The best thing you can do is to take responsibility for your learning. When engaged with a senior who is instructing you, take careful and organized notes. In a laboratory, writing in a notebook is a UNIVERSAL signal that something important is happening. It subtly communicates that you are taking the other person seriously and encourages them to be accurate and complete. Follow up with pointed questions after reviewing your notes. Then, when you use the instruments, take note of any discrepancies in your understanding of what is going on and discuss them with the person who instructed you.

Doing things your "own way" does NOT create a feeling of confidence amongst folks who have been there longer than you. If you first develop their trust by demonstrating skill and understanding in how things are currently done, you will eventually be able to prove out some of your own ideas.


Read the article about the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition and sift through some of the references.

People with different skills operate at different levels and it should not be disrespectful to point out that someone isn't being helpful with how they are conveying knowledge to your or that you feel that it would be best for you to explore on your own to uncover the extremity of your own inadequacies.

Use the model as a formal tool to communicate what you feel would be a more adequate reproach for someone of your skill and experience to progress further on.

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