I have recently started as a postdoc at a well-regarded foreign university. I like the place and I have no particular problems with my professor (even though his style isn't exactly to my taste, but I could live with that and take the difference as a learning opportunity).

However, I have a major problem with my fellow postdocs and other junior colleagues. I get the feeling they're just too full of themselves -- but whatever the reason, the situation is that I simply want nothing to do with them. Given that our research group is the only group at the department whose research I could plausibly participate in at the moment, this leaves me with practically no opportunities for fruitful daily scientific interaction.

I'd like to return to my home country after a couple of years of postdoc positions abroad, so I'm feeling some pressure to get the most of my time. I have often heard that the most valuable thing you get out of postdoc positions is the contacts you make. If this is the case, I'm probably wasting my time at my current job. On the other hand, my current institution has much more resources, scientific activities and opportunities to meet distinguished visiting researchers than pretty much any place else I might get to.

So the question is: what should I prioritize when deciding whether to continue at my current job? Is it worth tolerating intolerable colleagues for the opportunity of working at a prestigious and well-endowed university?

I'm sure a recommendation from my current professor would weigh a lot when looking for the next job, but I'm also quite sure I haven't been able to prove myself to him yet.

(Copied from an answer posted below by the original poster:)

I was deliberately vague about the nature of my issues with my colleagues, but I do understand it's relevant.

Of course, it might be just culture shock, as someone suggested. On the other hand, I do feel there's a very unpleasant group dynamic in my research group.

We're conducting research on the beetles of Borneo. I used to be in a group that studies the beetles of New Guinea, and we often have guests who study the beetles of Java or even some other island. But the general atmosphere among my colleagues is that only Borneoan beetles are worth studying. My earlier work is considered definitely useless and irrelevant - and this was also told me explicitly, right after I had presented my work.

The professor seems to share the attitude in some respects, but he's old and experienced enough to understand that even though he might himself care only about the beetles of Borneo, others might still care more about beetles elsewhere. My junior colleagues just think that if it isn't Borneo, it's bullshit.

If I isolate myself, I will have problems learning about Borneo. If I try to learn about Borneo from my colleagues, I'll have to endure constant putdowns of my own interests and earlier work.

(To anyone who actually studies beetles: I'm sorry for using you as an example.)

  • 5
    It might help if you say more about why you find them intolerable and want nothing to do with them (beyond your perception that they are full of themselves.) Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 0:07
  • 5
    What Trevor said - without knowing more, we can't say if it's you or it's them, and we don't know whether this problem would follow you everywhere you go.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 0:14
  • ..."is that I simply want nothing to do with them". Although this is totally your right, we can only choose our friends and not our colleagues. Is not a way to actually collaborate with those "buffoons" on a strictly professional level, without actually having any connection on a personal level?
    – Alexandros
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 11:48

2 Answers 2


I have often heard that the most valuable thing you get out of postdoc positions is the contacts you make.

I always thought the most valuable thing you get out of postdoc positions is the research experience and the research papers. The contacts/connections would be the by-products after you conduct quality research.

You said "I'm also quite sure I haven't been able to prove myself to him yet.". If you leave now, you wasted all the efforts you spent to apply for your current postdoc job and the time you spent on the job so far only because you don't like your colleagues?

I understand you are at a well-regarded foreign university. My guess is that many of your colleagues came from different cultures/locations than yours. That's probably why you feel that they are intolerable.

My advice: concentrate on your research (which is your job). Work with your professor and those colleagues if needed. Do your best.

Edit after the OP put in some more details:

Your example sounds like you are in the wrong group in the sense of research direction. I don't quite understand why you went there in the first place. But, you are there now. I would try to stay there for a while if I were you. I would collaborate with my colleagues. I would learn beetles of Borneo from them. I would show them why beetles of New Guinea are also worth studying. I'll do my best. If it still doesn't work out after a while, then I'll quit and find another postdoc job, the right one this time.

  • 2
    +1 just for mentioning the cultural differences. Specially since it seems a generalised perk.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 7:42

Even if you have a good postdoc, you should keep an eye out for one that is even better. However, if you stay in your current position less than a year you may be viewed as unreliable by future employers. (US perspective)

  • 1
    -1: This is very generic (not specific to the question about interpersonal issues at all), questionable advice without almost no supporting explanation.
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 7:27

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