The Training Page


Training to Work Well with Others

According to the book Lab Dynamics (1), nearly two-thirds of scientists surveyed reported that interpersonal conflict had hampered progress on a scientific project one to five times in their career. So how can we make sure that we train scientists to work well with others and manage conflicts in order to accomplish more science? After extensive discussions with mentors, trainees, students, fellows, career counselors, and experts in leadership development, the OITE developed workshops to provide an education in leadership and management.

The resulting Workplace Dynamics series ( focuses on increased awareness of self and others using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI; 2, 3); communication styles and influencing others; conflict dynamics; team theory; and diversity training. Our goal is to help participants gain self-awareness and an appreciation that others may tackle problems and approach conflict and group work differently. We augment the content and examples with lab-based examples, which resonate better with scientists. To date we have had about 500 trainees participate in the series, and we have begun offering the training at national meetings such as Experimental Biology. Some of our NIDDK and NHLBI fellows have described their experiences with the series in their institute newsletters.

One thing we have learned is that our trainees appreciate workshops but also like to receive information on resources on management topics. Many of these resources are available in the OITE Career Library on the second floor of Building 2 on the Bethesda campus (and many are also available in the libraries of satellite campuses).

Resources Used in the Series
There are a variety of personality assessments that can be used in leadership and management training, but we use the MBTI because it is widely used in academic and industry settings; we find that “Type Talk at Work” (4) is a good fit for scientists looking for more information on the MBTI.

Conflict is perhaps the most stressful topic, with many trainees feeling they lack resources for dealing with and defusing conflict in the workplace. We use the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode instrument (5, 6) to help participants identify the conflict style they use and the styles they struggle with. Other resources on conflict management include Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader (7), which provides a way to explore the triggers that cause conflict and guidelines for approaching the conflict constructively instead of destructively; Crucial Confrontations (8), which provides tips on preparing for difficult conversations and tense negotiations; and the Center for Creative Leadership’s method, “Situation, Behavior and Impact,” to provide specific feedback to both the giver and the receiver (9).

We also include an introduction to diversity and difference because we believe we all have a responsibility to develop a scientific workforce that is diverse and welcoming. In-depth materials on diversity can be found in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, Third Edition (10).

For trainees looking at an academic faculty job, there are even specific resources for them. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Making the Right Moves (11) and Kathy Barker’s At the Helm (12) both offer practical advice on becoming a new faculty member, including how to manage your staff.

We don’t mean to imply that the material we use or the books we recommend are the best out there, but only that they have been helpful to us. Let us know if you have seen a book that you would recommend.


1. C. Cohen and S. Cohen, Lab Dynamics: Management Skills for Scientists (Cold Spring Harbor Press, New York, 2005)
2. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator:
3. Bibliography of more than 12,000 articles on the use of the MBTI:
4. O. Kroeger, J.M. Thuesen, and H. Rutledge, Type Talk at Work (Revised): How the 16 Personality Types Determine Your Success on the Job (Dell, New York, 2002)
5. Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (Xicom, Tuxedo, N.Y., 1974).
6. CPP Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument product page:
7. C.E. Runde and T.A. Flanagan, Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader: How You and Your Organization Can Manage Conflict Effectively (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2006)
8. K. Patterson, J. Grenny, R. McMillan, and A. Switzler, Crucial Confrontations (McGraw-Hill, New York, 2004)
9. Center for Creative Leadership and S. Weitzel, Feedback That Works: How to Build and Deliver Your Message (Pfeifer, Somerset, N.J., 2007);
10. M. Adams, W. Blumenfeld, C. Castaneda, and H.W. Hackman, Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, Third Edition (Routledge, New York, 2013)
11. Burroughs Wellcome Fund and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientifıc Management for Postdocs and New Faculty (Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Research Triangle Park, N.C., 2006), available at
12. K. Barker, At the Helm (Cold Spring Harbor Press, New York, 2010)