FAQ Mediation Service

Stress & lack of motivation and self-confidence

Lately, I lack motivation, self-confidence, feel stressed… I don’t enjoy coming to work anymore.

=> the mediation service is also a counseling service, and Marie Ligier will be an attentive listener, make sure to contact her (it’s never too early, just go).

Authorship problems

I have not been sufficiently recognized for my merit/I have been left off a paper to which I contributed – can the service do something for me or do I have to fight it out with my boss?

=> the mediation service can coach you in negotiating and if necessary, invite all parties involved to discuss

I don’t want someone to be on my paper for purely political reasons – does the service have any say in publishing ethics? Is there a charta for EPFL/UNIL? Does EPFL/UNIL follow COPE guidelines, and can PIs be enforced to follow them?

=> yes, there is! You can find out about all these topics at the research office.

I have issues with a paper from a previous lab/lab external to EPFL/UNIL, can I still contact your service?

=>   Yes you may, but the service may be limited by the geographical distance of the other author(s). If they cannot bring all parties together, they can help you with negotiating via email.

I need to perform some experiments to finish a paper from a previous lab. Is there a conflict of interest with my current position at EPFL? Can I use EPFL facilities to complete this?

=>   It is best to discuss these issues at the start of your postdoc. The mediation service can coach you in negotiating.

My boss refuses to let me publish/sits on my paper/blocks my next career move – can you do something about this?

=>   The mediation service can coach you in expressing your rights and can also bring both parties together to find a compromise.

My boss has no clue about what I’ve written because it’s from a collaboration but he/she still claims last authorship – do you have influence here?

=> The mediation service has no influence on authorship positions, but EPFL has clearly stated authorship rules which you can find here: http://moodle.epfl.ch/mod/url/view.php?id=810791&redirect=1

I have designed, carried out and/or supervised this whole project and deserve last authorship, but my (senior) PI doesn’t offer it – am I entitled to ask for this?

=> The mediation service can coach you in negotiating skills, but it’s best to settle any authorship issues early on during a project. A good way of keeping track of who did what is to send project updates and results by email and have the recipient reply. See also http://moodle.epfl.ch/mod/url/view.php?id=810791&redirect=1

Interpersonal problems encountered

I have to work with people I don’t get on with – when do I start worrying enough to contact your service? Should I take the resolving conflicts course instead? Should my PI solve this?

My lab is socially disfunctional – is it my right/duty to do something about it? How can I improve team spirit if the PI doesn’t do anything?

My boss puts multiple people on the same project and makes us compete – is this unfortunate but we have to sit it out, or can you help?

=>   Ideally, this is the manager’s job…you can get coaching from the Mediation service, or you can take HR courses on resolving conflicts or giving feedback, for example.

 I am supervising students for EPFL/UNIL – any guidelines/rules in place about what to do/not to do in case of conflict?

=>   Research guidelines are available here: http://research-office.epfl.ch/en. Browse “Rules and Policy”.

 I think one of my lab members is under a lot of stress/doesn’t cope well with a situation – can I come to the service for advice on how to help? or is this none of my business?

=>   It is always a good first step to get in touch with the Mediation service. If the person does not want to be helped, they may take action to prevent serious outcomes.  

What happens if I come to you with a problem that involves me and other people – do you invite all of us for a confrontational meeting, to discuss it out? What are the steps in mediating conflict resolution?

=>   The stepwise procedure is this: you can contact the Mediation service by any means (phone, email); they will then invite you for an explanatory session (1.5h) and further coaching sessions as needed to solve the problem. The service is completely confidential and free. Maybe this will already help you solve the problem on your own. If there is a need for mediation, the mediator will get in touch with the other party, hear them out, and then invite both parties together to find a compromise.

Career decisions

My PI is unsupportive – can I ask somewhere else for help? can you find me someone to discuss my career problems with?

Where/how do I find a fitting mentor for my career stage (early postdoc, late postdoc, independent young investigator…) and specific problem (leaving the lab with projects I consider my own, sharing projects in the lab, competition between lab members,…)

=>   You can get advice on how to negotiate with your PI from the Mediation service. It is also encouraged that you contact a mentor of your choice directly: someone you know and might have insight into your specific career issue.

=>   Fix the leaky pipeline (courses, networking and mentoring for women) 

I don’t have a good relationship with my PI – can you counsel me on how to politically navigate the situation? Reference letters, “certificat de travail”, career advice, using his/her network for next steps/collaborations…?

=>   The HR is obliged to give you an independent “work certificate” which will state what kind of work you have done. It is also acceptable (particularly outside academia) to disclose any conflict with your previous PI with your next employer, and give different references than your PI.


I have finished my PhD and am staying on as a postdoc because my PI wants me to finish papers for their funding/grant writing, but I would like to move on. What are my rights, and how do I bring them up without forfeiting my PI’s help with my next steps?

=>   Again, the mediation service may help with negotiating, but they may also take the issue to the HR department which can take decisions on employment contracts. For example, they may help you move labs if the situation with your current PI is untenable.

 Equal rights

I feel discriminated because of my gender, sexual orientation, origin. Can you help? Can you enforce changes in some EPFL rules (e.g. Loi sur le Personnel de la Confédération) ? As an example, it is not clear if gay couples getting married are entitled to “congés payés” for their wedding (6 days normally).

=> This is a case for the EPF jurisdiction, or for the Equal opportunities office at EPFL.