Two Keys to Successful Working Relationships

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Having good working relationships is important to successfully completing a dissertation. A dissertation requires collaboration with multiple people, such as your chair, committee members, data analyst, or editor. There are two common themes I have found to be keys to successfully working with people involved in your project (hereafter referred to as “mentors”). These keys are 1) willingness to work and 2) courtesy.

Be Willing to Work

Willingness to work is crucial to success in many parts of life, not just your dissertation. However, there is more to this than just having a good work ethic. You must be willing to do the things that your mentor asks you to do. Requests from your mentor often come in the form of feedback comments on your document. Addressing feedback may feel overwhelming sometimes. Also, you may feel that it should be your mentor’s job to give you answers rather than posing requests to you. After all, the reason you may be working with a mentor is that you cannot do the work on your own and you need expert help. Do not assume that your mentor is attempting to pass work onto you just to make their job easier. Just as you seek help from your mentor, your mentor will also need input from you at times. If your mentor asks you to write something or to provide information, it is because that information needs to come from you.

If you are struggling to do what your mentor asks, it is ok to ask them for further guidance or clarification. Willingness to work is reciprocal in nature. If you are more receptive and responsive to your mentor’s requests, they may be more willing to go the extra mile to help you.

Be Courteous

Another common theme among successful students is courtesy. Being polite and professional goes a long way in any working relationship. I have found that students who are courteous tend to encounter fewer problems and graduate faster. Likewise, mentors who are courteous will have more successful students. Courtesy is not a magic solution to every problem. You will still need to deal with feedback and disagreements with your reviewers or mentors. However, if you maintain polite professionalism while handling these issues, the people you are working with may in turn treat you with more courtesy. This will result in more pleasant and productive interactions with everyone involved with your project.

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