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I was part of a small group preparing an overview paper for a special issue, and we missed a final deadline. All except one of us completed our assigned tasks; the last person had not touched her files for months and was frequently unresponsive with no explanation. To complicate matters, she is a senior member of the community; I'm a mere postdoc, and other members are somewhere in between.

I'm confident I did everything I could to see this paper completed on time, as well as the rest of the cooperative group members. I've mostly accepted the pending consequences with the journal and my reputation. I'm also determined to not work with this senior member again. But should I express my disappointment with her directly, or just cut my losses and move on?

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    I could be they are going through personal problems, that you would not be privy to. It may not be something done on purpose, or because they don't care. Things happen. – Andrés E. Caicedo Jan 30 at 20:20
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    What would you hope to accomplish? – Buffy Jan 30 at 20:24
  • @AndrésE.Caicedo I'm quite certain it's a personal problem that I'm not privy to, but she hasn't even said, "Sorry guys, something difficult happened, and I dropped the ball." You don't have to divulge personal details to communicate or to back away from responsibilities. – user108403 Jan 31 at 7:17
  • @Buffy I guess that's the point, isn't it? As I said in another comment, I would hope that such feedback causes her to treat future collaborations differently. I get the impression that people don't express their disappointment to her often, because of her seniority, and maybe the simple fact I say something could have an effect. – user108403 Jan 31 at 7:20
  • Seems a bit doubtful. Seems more than a bit risky. – Buffy Jan 31 at 10:44
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From your description ("final deadline") it sounds as though there is no way to fix the situation with the paper. Moreover, you say have decided not to work with this person again (which seems reasonable).

So there is most likely no benefit to be had from expressing your disappointment directly. Frustrating as it may be, cutting your losses and moving on is the better option.

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  • I agree there would likely be no benefit to me. But perhaps if I say something, it could benefit a future collaborator of this person? Or do you think not? – user108403 Jan 30 at 17:56
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    @artificial_moonlet You'd be better off warning potential collaborators directly instead of trying to get people to change their ways. Unsolicited feedback rarely works. – Akshat Mahajan Jan 30 at 22:04
  • Sure, it's possible that your message could lead the collaborator to "change their ways". But realistically, I would guess this person already knows their behaviour was damaging to you and other collaborators; I don't think your message will change much in that regard. Meanwhile, the episode has already cost you a great deal of time and effort. – Lazzaro Campeotti Jan 31 at 11:21
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I guess it depends on whether the person knows about how you (and others) feel about their behavior or not.

Case A) You are not sure.

When it can't harm you in the future I don't see a reason why you should not provide feedback.

As you said in one of your comments yourself: it could help others who have to work with this person.

Case B) The person is aware (but does not care to share a "sorry guys")

In this case I don't see how expressing your feelings can change anything to the good (e.g. for others).

The person already seem to have a strong opinion about this and got all the information required to understand the situation and say sorry if the person cares enough (or has the guts to do so).

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