Setting: PhD student (5th year) at a US research university. Non-native English speaker.

We have a great boss, however sometimes it seems that good things are not being highlighted enough. For example, recently we have published two papers, and it was barely acknowledged. One of the papers was first for the grad student and another took 6 years to publish (i.e. significant achievements).

I think that our whole lab would benefit from more affirmation of good work and good effort that is being made. On the surface, publications, grants awarded, maybe even papers drafted, should be celebrated and highlighted publicly. Same goes for extracurricular activities around the lab (there are few people who contribute significantly to upkeep of lab). I would like to see our lab's work improved, it is not just personal feeling of indignation (which there is a bit :-) As far as I know, positive reinforcement of good behaviors is a proven method of making things better.

How can I bring this up with my professor, or at least express that I wish to see that change?

My take would be somewhat direct:

I thought that we should celebrate more the achievements around the lab. We talked often about publishing more, so maybe we need to highlight efforts better. It would be especially great to hear from you more often when we do good work.

PS: As I am not native English speaker, I also would like to use some precise language. I have talked to senior colleague, who agreed with my assessment, but haven't given advice on addressing the issue.

PPS: migrated from Workplace@SE based on comments there

  • Can you clarify your working relationship with the PI? E.g., are you a grad student? Postdoc? Technician?
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:13
  • @MadJack yes, added. 5th year phd student with this PI. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:18
  • 1
    You could also propose to organise something yourself.
    – Louic
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


This sounds like a matter you may need to take into your own hands. You can't make a person more emotive, affectionate, cheerleader-eque...that may just not be your prof's style. Also, you're sort of asking them to do more "work", even if you don't see it as work. It's one more thing they have to deal with. Why not solve this yourself: be the change you want.

Do you have a pin-board in/near the lab? Cover it in bright paper, call it the achievement board, and start tacking announcements of jobs well done. Alternatively, create an news/achievements email that goes out to everyone once a month that highlights what everyone has accomplished and make sure everyone tells you what they're up to.

Just two of many possibilities, but this way you come across as proactive to your prof, a champion of your peers, rather than needy and demanding of more of their time.

  • 1
    i did think about it and it definitely good proactive stance. However, there is a difference I wanted to address: encouragement/aknowledgement coming from top down, not horizontally. it is quite different, albeit both are important Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:34
  • 3
    You might find if you set up an easy way for the top to encourage, they will start encouraging. They might pin things to your board, contribute to your monthly email, or just respond themselves to the increase in collegiality and start saying more nice things. Of course they may not, but if they don't you've still got the positive vibes going, so better than nothing! Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:45
  • This. I've heard it termed being the "lab mom" or "lab dad", but basically there is often one relatively senior member of a lab group that does the socio-emotional uplifting for the team. This can be you! Chances of the PI doing it are pretty low, and in my experience it's always been a post-doc filling the role.
    – psithurism
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 16:02

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