Friday, July 1, 2011

How should you handle a 'golden child'?

This kid could activate C-H bonds on a
pyrrolidine? That's amazing! I'll travel to Tibet
for her! Photo credit: Wikipedia
With all the Bengu Sezen fuss, I'm terribly amused by the talk of a 'golden child' that can do no wrong. A couple comments from an "In the Pipeline" thread:
Anonymous: I have personally seen the golden child phenomenon in two different companies. The golden child could do no wrong and anyone who commented about the number of choice projects he got or complained about the way he treated his colleagues in public, was instantly persona non grata. I don't know how much fraud took place but plagiarism? Definitely. Golden children have a way of eliminating their competition. The guy in charge relies on them to their detriment. 
Fact-driven: I had a similar experience at Harvard. My sneaky former colleague did a "copy & paste" job to get surprising data. He told me the boss would not happy if the data is not impressive, and I could not say the truth but showed the real result. I was one of the low-evaluated post-doc by the boss. In the end the boss asked other friend to repeat the experiment and my result was proven the fact. Sames cannot be free from the fraud.
I've never really worked with a true 'golden child' (i.e. can do no wrong, cannot be criticized, etc.) I've certainly worked in groups where there was a 'favorite', but the boss didn't allow the balance to be tipped to far in their direction (and also the boss wasn't afraid to remind everyone who was in charge.) I've also worked in environments where it was difficult to take credit for other people's work (and people didn't mind sharing credit, either.)

It's a phenomenon that's common enough that I think it would be educational to know what to do in those situations. While I've been sitting here trying to come up with a good answer, I think the best advice is: don't get into a situation where there's a lab member who can 'do no wrong.' (Other tips might be: don't cross the golden child if you don't have to and do good science no matter what. Lame, I know.)

Readers, clearly Bengu was the worst sort of golden child -- what are your golden child stories?

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20