I am a second year graduate student collaborating with a postdoc who is not doing his part of the work.

He is always busy making posters for our supervisor or other documentation work that has nothing to do with our project. I have tried to talk to him to move a little quickly since my part is almost over. I feel he is waiting for me to step in and do all the work. This work is important to me. How do I handle this situation without complaining or worrying too much?

P.S.: He cannot be removed from the authorship as he got an M K Bhan fellowship on the same topic.

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    If your post-doc the MK Bhan fellow, supervisor and others in your lab read StackEx, and if your handle here is your real name, there's a good chance that you are "outed" so maybe they'll come and talk to you now.... But you need also to check the terms of reference - the rules of engagement so to speak- of the collaboration with the supervisor, to better understand the roles and responsibilities in the project: perhaps the post-doc doesn't know he is a collaborator?- maybe you're assuming more than is fact?
    – user95861
    Commented May 28 at 8:49
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    Related to understand what the situation may look like through the postdoc's eyes ;) academia.stackexchange.com/questions/102956/… Commented May 28 at 14:48
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    Why do you assert that he is your collaborator and you're collaborating if it seems you're not? In general, in academia collaboration is voluntary, and if it's not working out in a way that makes you happy, then don't collaborate with them.
    – Peteris
    Commented May 28 at 20:38
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    How is yours vs. "his part of the work" defined? When you discussed this with your supervisor, what did they say?
    – spuck
    Commented May 28 at 21:39

3 Answers 3


While unprofessional from them to not simply communicate their unavailability to you, it's also completely possible that your colleague as a postdoc is either overwhelmed with other responsibilities or is in a position in their career where this project is not as important to them professionally or personally. In my opinion, you need to do two things:

  1. You need to understand that you probably need this project more than your colleague does. So as unfair as it might be, you need to resign to the fact that you probably do need to step in and do all the work.

  2. Having accepted point 1 could happen, you should definitely approach your colleague and explain diplomatically what you've written in your question - that you appreciate their input, that this project is important to you and that you see them as an important collaborator and would really appreciate help in the project. If they say they are willing to do their share of the work, great. Set up a simple timeline and some project milestones and pre-plan meetings to discuss findings to motivate your colleague to keep their end of the bargain. And hope that they meet them. If they don't, you can fall back to point 1.


To echo some of the other comments, it is important to understand that as one goes up in their career level (and their level of responsibilities), they get stretched a bit thinner. So that thing that is incredibly important to you, is just one item on that postdoc's plate. Just as the things that are most important to that postdoc are just one of many items on the PIs plate. Then the things that are most important to the PI are likely just a small item (if anything) to the Department head, and one can keep going.

So you should communicate clearly, and advocate for your specific needs, and see how you can best work together to meet the end goals. If the other person is very busy, then being able to break things up into smaller tangible tasks that they can do may lead to greater success than just a blanket request for them to do everything.

Edit: I also suggest you edit your title. The implication is that the postdoc is not working, but rather the problem is the postdoc has been unable (or unwilling, we don't know) to prioritize your specific collaboration at this time. These are different things as it sounds like they are kept quite busy by your advisor.


I've found that being specific about what you need, can help move the project forward. Also, offer to help if needed, not do, their part of the project. For example, send a calendar invite to discuss a very specific part of the project you are waiting on. CC your supervisor to have evidence if tasks aren't completed. Send multiple emails and requests for meetings. In lab meetings, you can point out delays if necessary, but ensure you're also on top of your work. The results vary with this technique, sometimes the colleagues appreciate the specificity and the prompt and time-block to get it done, other times they offer a response that just leads to more work for me to chase up. Though it might sometimes result in more work for you to follow up.

Good luck with "managing up"!

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