Tag Archives: microbiology laboratory

“My cubicle”

Here is my cubicle, where I live.

There is just room enough for me, as I have boxes of old files stacked up in the space where one could potentially squeeze an extra seat in. I have no great desire to sort through and clear them all. Any meetings with colleagues or visitors can take place at nearby cafes, which is probably not a bad thing…

I spend at least 4 hours a day in my cubicle and it is the nerve centre of my working life.  It is where all the “execution” happens, where policies are drafted, where presentations are written, where results are processed. It is not however where I generate my ideas. That seems to happen elsewhere,  in the car, in the shower, in bed.

Sitting in front of a computer is simply not conducive to deep thinking and idea generation.

It is quite a cluttered cubicle, with a fair amount of paper floating about. So much for a paperless workplace! Sometimes I don’t always practice what I preach…

I never was one for tidying up before guests arrive.

The same 4 walls (or 3 walls and a glass partition), day after day, week after week, month after month. “The daily grind”, ad infinitum.  It is quite comforting in a way, protecting me from whatever dangers the outside world might hold. It is easy to become trapped inside, metaphorically if not physically speaking.

I have become quite attached to my cubicle. However there is always the danger of staying too long… One more email to write, one more paper to read, one more phone call to make. It is very difficult to make personal connections when you are cocooned inside your cubicle. I suspect our most important work is done when we finally manage to escape from our cubicles.

I guess I have become a little institutionalised in a way, in my cubicle. It is my comfort zone. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit comfortably. No standing office for me!

I will miss it when I go…


“Are you a leader or a manager?”

Have a think about the colleagues that you work with. Who are the natural managers amongst them, and who are the natural leaders?

I always find the “natural” managers tend to occupy the more senior positions, whilst the leaders can be found throughout the organisation, at all levels and payscales. Maybe it is because as a society living in the late industrial age we recognise and acknowledge good management more than good leadership. I really don’t know.

Is it possible to be good at both? Contrary to what some web articles might say about these two “personality types” being mutually exclusive, I think it is possible to be strong in both areas. Often good managers are good leaders as well and vice versa.  I do believe however that people are almost always stronger in one area than the other. 

For clinical microbiology laboratories (amongst other organisations) to thrive, they need a good balance of both.

Is it possible to have too many managers and leaders in the workplace? Maybe, but I would rather have too many than too few…..

And myself? Well, I like to think I have some degree of leadership qualities, some ability to inspire, and have some vision of the future direction of the clinical microbiology laboratory and where I want to take it.

As for management, let’s not go there! I don’t have a managerial bone in my body. Never have had, and never will have…..

Have a think about yourself. Regardless of your position, do you see yourself as a manager, or are you a leader?

or are you a follower…?


For a couple of interesting articles on the above click on the articles below:



“Repetitive task Syndrome”

You have probably heard a lot about “Repetitive Strain Injury” (RSI), but what about “Repetitive Task Syndrome” ?

In the setting of the microbiology laboratory we often need to carry out tasks that are highly repetitive, whether it is plating out samples, reading cultures, reading Gram stains, performing EIAs/PCRs, signing out results etc etc.

So what might the symptoms be of such a syndrome? An excessive amount of repetition might lead to boredom, low morale, depression, or introversion. It might also suppress innovative thinking.

In contrast to repetitive strain injury, where symptoms are physical and come on over days to weeks, with repetitive task syndrome the effects are potentially more psychological and their effects are more likely to appear over months, even years.

I am only speculating here but I suspect that such a syndrome exists. It just hasn’t been given a name yet….

However there is light at the end of the tunnel! Bacteriology automation systems with associated interpretative software should eventually see an end to a lot of the manual repetition that currently occurs in microbiology laboratories, leaving only the interesting, odd and unusual for manual input, and ensuring much more variety during the average working day.

Until then I think we need to ensure that we as microbiologists do not perform repetitive tasks for prolonged periods, just in case my theory of “Repetitive Task Syndrome” turns out to be true……

I also have a mantra that states that for any task which is done repetitively by someone, there is probably a better, different, or easier way of doing it..