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I asked a colleague to give me a short tour of their lab to see how they have established it. Later, I followed up saying I was still interested in visiting their lab. They told me that they would reach out with a date later after their major deadline. It's been a while since that deadline passed and I have not been invited until now. My colleague gave a similar tour to another person after the above-mentioned deadline passed yet I was not invited. So, I assume my colleague was not interested in giving me the tour. I thought it was okay--even though I felt bad--since it's up to them to decide whom to invite or not invite.

Later, the same colleague asked me for a favor to do a task that was up to them to complete. The task requires a qualified person who is good enough to make intellectual judgments. So they may be asking me to do the task because 1) I am one of the qualified persons and 2) it may not necessarily be a good use of their time or fun to do the task.

Officially, neither I nor my colleague have obligations/incentives to work together with or fulfill requests from each other. I am in a transitional job in my current position. The only incentive for me to accept their request is to maintain a good working relationship if I accept a long-term position in my current office--an option I consider a possibility for now.

Personally, I don't want to refuse their request because I like helping people. Helping them with the requested task may not be necessarily a good use of my time and beneficial for me. But I don't mind fulfilling someone's request if they ask and I can help. But, I am also not happy that they silently refused my request earlier and now asking for a favor which is also not a good use of my time either.

I don't want to say "You rejected my request earlier and now you are requesting a favor which is not a good use of my time either" directly or indirectly. But I want to make them realize that mutual respect is important in a collegial relationship. How should I do that?

Note: this happened in academia. So, I posted here.

Update: I asked in workplace and interpersonal skills. But was not well received in both platforms. People in both platforms suggested this post does not belong there.

Update: I accepted help request made by my colleague and I will fulfill what I promised. But it’s almost clear that acting busy is mostly a matter of priority. I know there are kind people around. But I am writing this update so other people like me will not just think someone is super busy when they are just pretending being busy with a motive of not honoring the request.

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    This sounds like it might fit better at interpersonal.stackexchange.com. Nov 15, 2023 at 18:00
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    To be honest, it sounds more like they may have forgotten about your request rather than an intentional passive-aggressive plot of promising to get back to you with no intention of ever doing so (which would be a slightly weird thing to do imo). Have you simply tried emailing them again to remind them instead of hypothesizing about what their thought process might or might not have been? Nov 15, 2023 at 18:09
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    You may still want to ask in Interpersonal. Please don't take that as a brush-off, but rather as advice to help you get to the best answer.
    – Anonymous
    Nov 15, 2023 at 18:22
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    "So, I assume" well, there's your problem!
    – GammaGames
    Nov 15, 2023 at 18:24
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    Beside Interpersonal.SE, this is also on-topic in Workplace.SE : workplace.stackexchange.com
    – Evargalo
    Nov 17, 2023 at 13:55

1 Answer 1

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I strongly suggest that you happily agree to the favor. Happily. It is "in your lane". Every one will benefit.

And, you can also say that you are still interested in visiting their lab when it is possible.

DON'T make one contingent on the other. Don't say or imply that. That would be unfriendly, and, frankly, dumb.

How would you have reacted if the original situation were reversed and you were in the middle of important work with impending deadlines? My guess is that you would have done just as they did and then forgotten about it unless and until reminded.

Please, it is in your own best interest. Long term.


Let me expand a bit.

Helping them out with their problem might actually let you learn something you don't already know. That would be a mutual benefit, perhaps as great as visiting their lab. I can't guarantee it, but such things happen.

I'll also note that "ignored" might be too strong. I can't promise that it is, but your description seems to not suggest that, but rather someone who is (too) focused on their own work and frantic about deadlines. It is all to easy to forget everything else. Earlier this year I was involved in a project that consumed me entirely. Couldn't sleep (brain too active), couldn't reliably do certain "habitual" tasks. There are people who are sort of always in that state and hard to get through to. Some are "on the spectrum" actually and just don't react "properly" in situations such as you suggest. They can be nice people, though they don't project that.

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    How does this "make them realize that mutual respect is important"?
    – quantacad
    Nov 16, 2023 at 17:34
  • As someone working on their first CV, I’m wondering if the asker might be able to add the work done for the favor to their CV, right? Basically free growth opportunity? Nov 16, 2023 at 20:59
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    This is such a good answer. Some suggested additions: 1. GK Chesterton and others have been paraphrased "Never attribute to malice what is as easily explained by stupidity." OP asked for a favor and didn't receive it. But they shouldn't assume that was rude when it may have just been dumb; 2. OP wants collegial relationships, including with this person. That comes from being collegial. Should so here, without getting hung up on the past. MANY relationships that start on bad footing became valuable; 3. Starting from cost/benefit is probably the wrong calculus in human relationships.
    – Matt
    Nov 16, 2023 at 23:05
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    "My guess is that you would have done just as they did and then forgotten about it unless and until reminded. - That was my first and second thought. OP expressed a mild interest and was mildly rebuffed, then his mild request was forgotten about.
    – Valorum
    Nov 17, 2023 at 19:10
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    +1, but I feel like this is missing a caveat: while the OP's colleague is probably just busy or inattentive or missing emotional cues, it's also possible that they're really as self-centered or exploitative as the OP seems to assume. They could even be all of these things at once. I agree that the OP should not assume malice where none likely exists, but they should also watch and see if the pattern (of only paying attention to the OP when they have a favor to ask) persists. If it does, at some point the correct answer to the colleague's requests becomes "no, sorry, I'm busy." Nov 17, 2023 at 22:37

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