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This Category:   PostgraduateForum.com > Ph***D Off


Unfair and a Bully that is my Supervisor and Quiting my PhD

User: derose - 30 December 2012 02:48

Since my last post, my relationship with my supervisor has rapidly declined.Summary:He wrote an email expressing how I will never get a phd, that am stupid and that he will down grade me to an MPhil next year and accusing me of not coming to university because he never sees me on a daily basics which is untrue.From his initial emails, there was a series of exchange of email from him to me vis versa to the extent that I started copying my second supervisor in the email and he didn't even try to intervene. However, he then suggested I take the 5th until we open in january off to calm down and we will talk when we come back. However he changed his mind and suggested we meet on the 7th december. Can I just say that the meeting was rubbish and unhelpful, he was basically trying to over his back. Also he told my college his second student not to tell me that he has told him his 3 projects for next year. He told him to keep is confidential and never to tell me. What does this mean? He is treating me unfairly and giving the other student more support. Oh did I mention that in one of his emails he basically told me that he was going to leave me to just do my work without his supervision. After carefully thinking about it I went to the PhD head who told me it was a project grant and that I can not swap supervisors because the grant was given to him because of his project.He told me that I had two options:a) Be nice to him and learn to get along with him until I finish. Even tho I explained that he is ht problem not me.b) cut my losses and get an MPhil and leave. I worry if I stay I will never get my phd under his supervision. I dont trust him, I dont think he has my best interest. For this reason, I decided to start applying for work, as soon as I get work I will be requesting to be downgraded to an MPHIL and leave.
As much as I hate this decision, I feel its the right choice as being here for 1year and half has caused me so much distress and depression. I wanna get my happy back, I going back to my old job and progress with that.

He is also on probation because it his first job as a lecturer. I can not go on working with someone who has broken down my spirit, my soul and I have gotten to the point were I am suicidal because of this.

User: Angelette - 01 January 2013 10:05

Hi DeRose

You have been unfortunate to get such a bad supervisor. Quite a lot of supervisors should not be in their jobs, they are unsuitable. But there are bad managers everywhere.

I would not let this one person get you down. Is there a student counseling service at your University that you could visit.? Talking things over with an impartial outsider can be useful.

In your own interests - keep any e-mails and other communications that you receive from this individual. He is clearly acting in an unprofessional manner. They could be useful later.

It could be an idea to get the MPHIL and transfer to another PhD program later on, maybe in a different University. This is a decision for you to talk over with other people you trust. But do not let one inadequate supervisor get you down.

Best regards


User: Pjlu - 01 January 2013 22:11

Hi Derose,

I agree with Angelette in that your supervisor really sounds as if he is a poor manager-and they do exist inside and outside of universities unfortunately. Continue to copy in your second supervisor in your emails and as Angelette has advised-definitely keep the emails.

The reason it may seem worse with a supervisor-candidate relationship, is that the mentoring part often crosses over from the professional to the personal in the PhD-whereas, in a job, it can be easier to keep it strictly professional at work (then go home to vent to family or to other colleagues who are sympathetic).

I think that what you are doing is sensible-you are giving yourself some time, before making a decision but you have some options behind you, if you feel you can't cope any longer. As Angelette has recommended, talking to a counsellor may help you generate some more options or just assist with strengthening your coping skills.

The problem is in cases like this, that even though one person may clearly be more at fault and the creation of the problem-because it is a relationship, the other person has to take partial responsibility for the outcome-and this is probably why your Head has advised you to 'be nice to him and learn to get along with him'. This might seem incredibly unfair and can really make someone feel sick in their stomach at times, BUT, if you can improve your relationship with the difficult person-you will make things better for yourself-and that is what is most important in the long run.

The thing that has helped me most when having to deal with really difficult people in the past, is the knowledge that their difficulties remain with them. Even once the relationship has improved between you-and you can manage it more effectively, the difficult person will continue to have issues and then you feel more confidence in yourself and how you handled the relationship and situation-and sometimes (later on) you can even feel compassion for the person (when you see them have similar situations again).

I'm not advising you to go ahead with the MPhil, or to stay put, but instead suggesting that you give yourself a little bit of time to make the best decision for yourself and keep talking about your options with people you trust -including seeking some counselling if necessary.
Hope 2013 brings some good things your way.

User: ywan459 - 24 January 2013 08:38

Hi, Derose,

I totally agree with above all posts from others. I have a little more to say. It is just my opinion.

We are in similar situations. But the good part of my case is now I've almost done my final thesis and will submit it soon. If this is your first year, my suggestion is, earn your MPhil and quit. I suppose you'd like to pursuit a career in uni, in that case, you should have a good PhD supervisor who can give you enough supporting in research. What I mean about the support is, (1) you write papers with your supervisor and he/she gives you suggestions/comments, or he/she may be finish some parts of a paper for a better format/style/quality, (2) you collaborate with your supervisor for applying funding, (3) he/she discusses the work with you, and would like to share some experiences, and (4) he/she recognizes the quality and potential of your research and he/she has willing to take your research path or methodology as one of his future research direction. Apparently, you do not have a "good" one now. If you have only spent one/two year on the current study, why not then find a better opportunity which closes to your current research field/topic and you "think" (tricky term) you could finish it soon (in 3 years). I am not discouraging you here. But the support from your PhD adviser is critical for your academical career. Of course, it is not the only determinate factor, but certainly his/her support would rise the chance of your success in uni.

I am not a native speaker, hopefully my language does not block you up.

User: derose - 24 January 2013 11:27

Can I say thank you so much guys for advice.
I have been offered a job and will therefore be requesting to downgrade from PhD to Mphil early feb.

I am excited but nervous.
Will apply again for a phd somewhere else next year.

User: Mackem_Beefy - 25 January 2013 13:11

Quote From derose:
Can I say thank you so much guys for advice.
I have been offered a job and will therefore be requesting to downgrade from PhD to Mphil early feb.

I am excited but nervous.
Will apply again for a phd somewhere else next year.

I'm glad to hear you're not giving up completely, though if you're going to look for a new PhD elsewhere I would concentrate on the job and just get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Can you wrap up the MPhil on next to no time? If so, do that and at least you leave with something to show for your time there. If not, then I'd be concerned this 'character' who is supervising you may continue to be a pain for a while yet and if this is going to drag on, I'd probably cut my losses and worry just about the job.

I speak as someone who has been at the wrong end of academic bullying myself (second post-doc story I've told elsewhere) and I know having to stay in a place you don't want to be and are not wanted for various reasons can be sould destroying. I know I could feel myself falling apart as a person with time as I had to see out the contract, as could not find a job elsewhere and could not claim unemployment benefit if I walked.

By all means try to leave with the MPhil, but I would not make it a priority for the sake of your own sanity if a new PhD elsewhere is on he horizon as I know how bad it is staying somewhere you're not wanted.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)

User: derose - 01 February 2013 18:32

2days away from submitting a letter to downgrade to an MPhil.

I always have a meetings with my supervisor and he is usually his bully, racist and stupid self.

And today he was so nice to me and I am thinking either this guy is bipolar or he found out I want to downgrade and leave so he is trying to leave.

Such an asshole, I cant forgive the mistreatment, bullying and unfairness I have recived from him the past year. He can fuck off I have found a job and I am leaving

User: lngwalktofreedom - 23 December 2013 21:55

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I felt a bit relieved seeing I am not alone, other people suffered as well. Ended up here while searching for other people's with similar experiences. The problem I am having is a bit more severe. My supervisor decided to downgrade me to an MPhil in a sudden review meeting. Later I found that he breached the university code of practice. My appeal in the school was uphold as I had a very valid ground. But I was sent back to work with the same people and asked to have another review after two months once I won my appeal. My 2nd supervisor does not know anything about my work and most of the time stay out of the country. He was rubbish and not independent, relied on the 1st supervisor. However, you can assume my 1st supervisor did not like to watch his decision had been overruled. He was not very helpful during the whole period, and was very demoralising. After 2 months I submitted my paper. Obviously, they gave very negative comments. My work was sent to an independent reviewer with a prejudicial email from my 1st supervisor. Nevertheless, the reviewer said that my work has potentials but need some corrections before I could submit. He gave a bit suggestion as well. I was only in my 2.5 years of my PhD. Usually the average time for PhD submission in my area is 4+ years. They again decided to downgrade me to an MPhil. I appealed again at the next stage. Now, my appeal was uphold again saying my grounds are valid. But ironically, instead of putting me back to my PhD and changing my supervisors, they asked for another independent review of my work at the school. I found this very unfair as I keep coming back to the same point and asked the people who did not treat me properly last time. I am sure they are going to do the same again. I am feeling so hopeless after all these rubbish and not sure what should I do !!!!!

User: Fled - 23 December 2013 23:25

Damn those are some proper horror stories. My supervisor seems cool via email...allowed me to defer entry into the programme from October to March no problems. I'm sure he is a nice guy. However back on track....ywan459 has made a critical point. Have you guys been reading the Job/Postdoc section? Thats a whole other freak show, and not in a good way. If it is so hard to get into academia as is, I can only imagine that an ass of a supervisor can only make your first postdoc search miserable. At best, he will do absolutely nothing to help you, at worst he will talk badly about you every time someone rings him up for a reference on you.

Being a much more professionally minded person going into my PhD, I intend on making decisions with the ultimate career outcome in mind. A bad supervisor can probably have negative latent effects.

User: Mackem_Beefy - 26 December 2013 13:04

Understood Fled. :-)

The problems I faced during my second post-doc effectively ended my time within the academic sector - personal circumstances after didn't help, but the damage was all but done. I had no reference bar a bland statement from University HR I had worked for them. I openly admit to a major mistake (meeting based, not experimental) during the second post-doc, however, the hostile attitude of the Prof (primary line manager) was already clear. I'd already been described at the beginning as a stop gap, second choice option they would have to make do with. I can't honestly say whether this attitude and related atmosphere contributed to my mistake, though I'll note mistakes by others were left unchallenged.

At least I'd entered that second post-doc with my PhD behind me, however, looking back at my treatment both at my PhD / 1st post-doc University (generally good with some managable idiosyncrasies) and my second post-doc University (varying from sort of okay to outright hostility depending upon the person) I can understand the range of views and behaviours expressed on this forum.

I have no regrets about doing my PhD. If I hadn't, it would always have been "What if?"

However, the damage done means my PhD / post-doc period has not contributed to my career and when I finally found work outside academia after my second post-doc, my real world career was back where it was before I left industry to return to University.

Your future is in the hands of one or two people both during your PhD and at the beginning of the post-doc treadmill. Your supervisors are effectively god. If that relationship fails even through no fault of your own, then your PhD / post-doc time can indeed seem like a significant portion of your life wasted.

I can only sympathise with the opening poster.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)

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