October 20 , 2004
Before asking for money, ask these questions
I have been writing my thesis in the context of a group
process-leadership method. The lead instructor-professor
of this method, my mentor, who trained me, has asked
me if she could use part of my thesis to include in her
training manual, asking if she might use my research
in the book she is writing. She's earning quite a bit
of money with these training programs. Would it be appropriate
to ask her to pay me a certain amount because she is
using a great deal of my work?
The "integrity" answers here will relate less
to immediate cash flow and more to relationships and
professional courtesies associated with academic research
and the earning of advanced degrees. Working with a mentor,
in this context, could require supporting her high-quality
research as one informal method for demonstrating appreciation
for her efforts as your valuable advisor. Inside academia,
you will need to understand and work with both the formal
and informal contracts that exist between students and
Also, you may find answering these questions will determine
the level of integrity of the relationship you have already
built with the professor. Timing and protocol will likely
be important not only in what you request, but also when
you ask. Please address these nine questions:
- What are the legal and
customary processes by which research assistants relate
(professionally and financially) to professors? You
may want to seek legal advice. Remember that legal
aid costs less than private attorney's fees.
- Do you intend to work with this professor in the
- Have you already received your advanced degree?
- How important is this mentor- protégé relationship
to you, longer term?
- Is your frustration created by your own impatience
or does it reflect a series of violations of your
intellectual and professional integrity?
- What are the risks to your career (academic and
economic) if you confront the situation?
- What harm comes to you if you ignore your frustrations?
- When you reach the level of your current mentor,
what will be your operating principles with reference
to working with students and asking them to share
their research with you?
- How will you expect them (those learning from
you, who someday might become your competitors on
many levels) to reward you for equipping them for
success, academic or otherwise?
Once you know the answers to these nine questions,
you should be clear on what to say and when to say
it and as well as what to do and when to do it. Mentors
are precious and should be treated with graciousness,
respect and loyalty. They have, for many of us, made
the difference in our lives. Whether in academia
or business, wise counselors are hard to replace.
Integrity requires thoughtful and relationship-building