Science, Tech, Math › Science How to Deal With Bad Lab Partners Share Flipboard Email Print Comstock Images / Getty Images Science Chemistry Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated October 07, 2019 Have you ever taken a lab class and had lab partners that didn't do their share of the work, broke equipment, or wouldn't work together with you? This situation can be really hard, but there are steps you can take to make things better. Talk to Your Lab Partners This may be harder than it sounds if your problem is that you and your lab partners don't speak the same language (which is relatively common in science and engineering), but you can improve your working relationship with your lab partners if you can explain to them what's bothering you. Also, you need to explain what you would like them to do that you feel would make things better. Be prepared to compromise, since your lab partner may want you to make some changes, too. Keep in mind, you and your partner may come from very different cultures, even if you're from the same country. Avoid sarcasm or being "too nice" because there's a good chance you won't get your message across. If language is a problem, seek an interpreter or draw pictures, if necessary. If One or Both of You Don't Want to Be There The work still has to get done. If you know your partner won't do it, yet your grade or your career is on the line, you need to accept that you're going to do all of the work. Now, you can still make sure it is evident your partner was slacking. On the other hand, if you both resent doing the work, it's reasonable to work out an arrangement. You might find you work better together once you acknowledge you hate the task. Willing but Unable If you have a lab partner who is willing to help, yet incompetent or klutzy, try to find harmless tasks that allow the partner to participate without damaging your data or your health. Ask for input, let the partner record data and try to avoid stepping on toes. If the clueless partner is a permanent fixture in your environment, it's in your best interest to train them. Start with simple tasks, clearly explaining the steps, reasons for specific actions, and desired results. Be friendly and helpful, not condescending. If you are successful in your task, you'll gain a valuable ally in the lab and possibly even a friend. There's Bad Blood Between You Maybe you and your lab partner had an argument or there's past history. Perhaps you simply don't like each other. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to escape from such a situation. You can ask your supervisor to reassign one or both of you, but you'll run the risk of getting a reputation of being hard to work with. If you decide to ask for a change, it's probably better to cite a different reason for the request. If you absolutely must work together, try setting boundaries that limit how much you actually have to interact. Make your expectations clear so both of you can do the work and retreat. Take It to the Next Level It's better to try to work out problems with your lab partners than to seek intervention from a teacher or supervisor. However, you might need help or advice from someone higher up. This might be the case when you realize you can't meet a deadline or complete an assignment without more time or changing the work dynamic. If you decide to talk to someone about your problems, present the situation calmly and without bias. You have a problem; you need help finding a solution. This may be difficult, but it's a valuable skill to master. Practice Makes Perfect Having trouble with lab partners comes with the territory. The social skills you can master dealing with lab partners will help you, whether you're only taking one lab class or are making a career out of lab work. No matter what you do, you'll have to learn to work well with others, including people who are incompetent, lazy or just don't want to work with you. If you are making a career in science, you need to recognize and accept you'll be a member of a team.