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PhD Discussion Forum

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This Category:   PostgraduateForum.com > PhD Advice / Support


How do you deal with jealousy issue at your cohort?

User: jessmj - 02 October 2015 13:17

Hi guys,

I have a new office mate with your-success-is-my-unhappiness attitude. Her slogan is "stop being a loser." She wrote that words literally her blackboard on the wall. She moved to my office on Feb, complaining that people at her all old office always got her nerve. I naively believed what she said. Well, now we know how lucky these five guys are to get rid of her.

It didn't take that long to show her real personality to us. For brief, making more achievement, she hates that person more. Very unfortunately her current target is me. She does everything to bother my studying whenever I am in the office. She behaves fine when others are around, but when I am alone at office, she keeps making constant noise, cursing, sighing deeply every one minute, answering phone loudly on purpose, banging the desk drawer, and talking to herself LOUDLY. She started this on May, when she found out I was preparing for grant proposal. Very luckily I won grant, and her aggression became just worse. While professors and my close friends congratulate my little victory, she slammed the office door in front of my face and began giving me silent treatment.

I asked her if there was anything that I made her upset, only to get her cold shoulder. Actually, we got along well until she found out my research grant thing. So first time I thought I can take care of conflict with her, but I was wrong. Now she is trying her best to get ally to give me silent treatment in a team. Two of office mates already moved to the other room because they could not tolerate her. I began ignoring her rudeness since there is nothing that I can do after her refusing to respond to my effort. I will keep trying my best to focus on my goal and keep moving forward no matter what others talk behind me, but she is so annoying.

Is it common thing in graduate school? What should I do?

FYI, my program provides office space for all individual PhD students for research purpose. Everybody gets individual desk and bookshelf and 5-6 people share the room. We call it "office."

User: TreeofLife - 02 October 2015 13:48

Sounds like you are describing someone in my office! Some people are just not nice to work with. Try to ignore it if you can. I just don't speak to the person in my office unless she speaks to me first. I have no idea what her issue is, but I do know that I'm not the target because she is like it with everyone.

How do you know the person doesn't do the same thing when others are on their own in the office? Maybe she does, but they don't care about it?

User: jessmj - 02 October 2015 13:58

Well, others sensed that she treat me as if I were invisible person. They asked her why she behaved like that, and were responded that she felt threatened by my existence. Two felt very uncomfortable with her so they moved to the other room, while the other two study at library and very rarely stop by at office. Now, it's just me and her who stay regular at office.

User: TreeofLife - 02 October 2015 14:19

ah I see, so maybe is about you specifically. Well you have several options: discuss it again with her, discuss it with her manager, discuss it with your manager and ask them to discuss it with her/her manager, ignore it, move office.

User: jessmj - 02 October 2015 14:52

Manager? Do you mean academic advisor?

FYI, my program provides office space for all individual PhD students for research purpose. Everybody gets individual desk and bookshelf and 5-6 people share the room. We call it "office." Since we are all PhD students we don't have "manager" who supervises us, and academic advisor wouldn't involve this.

I chose to leave her alone and focus on my research. Hope she gives up some point..

User: RinaL - 02 October 2015 15:40

I would bring up the topic with my supervisor. You tried to solve it yourself, since that didn't work and she is behaving utterly childish its time to put a stop to it. As a supervisor it would be in my best interest to have a more or less harmonic team. Otherwise people are too busy to micromanage their fights and are less efficient. Its strange that the other two students didn't complain and quietly moved to the library. After all its their office, too.

Perhaps I am a bit oversensitive about mobbing since a fellow phD student went behind my back to our boss and tried everything possible to get me out of the phd back to the position as technician that I had before. But if your fellow student is threatened by your existence when you perform better than her (in her eyes) she isn't cut out for the phD anyways. You have to learn to live with rejection of your ideas, failed experiments and colleagues that are luckier than you. If one can't cope with that I would seriously think about the decision to start a phD.

User: Nesrine87 - 02 October 2015 16:28

This is very tricky. I think RinaL has a point but I personally would be reluctant to involve my supervisor *unless* you were feeling properly harassed, bullied or discriminated against. My supervisor wouldn't consider it any of their business. Obviously you understand your situation better than I do. If you feel like it's more than someone being a bit difficult then by all means, make a formal complaint.

Her actions signal a profound lack of maturity and self-esteem. She may have some tough personal issues that she's working through...or she could just be a nasty piece of work! How well do you actually know her? It sounds a bit cheesy but maybe it's worth getting to know her one-on-one? Ignore that if you've already tried!

Are you studying sciences or humanities? I'm asking because if it's the latter, it might be easier to just find a better place to work. I'm not in the sciences but I understand that there's more teamwork involved...so maybe it is important that you two find a way of getting along.

Obviously, in principle you shouldn't have to move because you have every right to work there but is it worth the time and effort to start a war with her? She could get even worse...or she could totally back down. There's no way of knowing. You can't control other people. You can only control your response. And the best revenge would be to not let her affect your work in any way, be successful in your PhD, and watch her crash and burn :P

User: TreeofLife - 02 October 2015 16:28

I do agree with Rina. People shouldn't really have to move offices because of other people and it's not a sensible way to deal with conflict - it's just burying your head in the sand, when really it needs to be resolved and the behaviour dealt with.

I choose to ignore my office mate because she doesn't bother me at all, but other people that were in my office before me choose to leave because they couldn't handle it. They tried to get it dealt with by management/supervisor but it went nowhere so they had no other option really.

User: muspectrum - 02 October 2015 20:41

Can you talk to a head of dept or someone similar about this? Had a very similar situation in my dept, where we don't have offices but a big open research space. 'Office mate' was causing a lot of issues including blocking out any other users from facilities arguing with everyone, and in the end- no one but her worked in the dept. We took it to the head of the research group who had a severe chat with her. Morale is still very low, but at least people are now working there again as we know we won't be shouted or moaned at for doing so.In this case it was pointless going to supervisor first as we have the same one.

User: jessmj - 03 October 2015 06:12

Thank you for sharing your thought.

To believe or not, I was very close to her before all started. To be honest with you, I have no idea why she picks me as target..

Initially I've thought of talking to her academic advisor but decided not to do so. Because it is hard to provide the evidence of her hostile behavior, and it is much harder to prove how her ostracism makes target (it's me this time) miserable. She is sly enough not to harass me when others are around, and she is very polite to professors. Other people in the room are not comfortable with her because she does not talk to me and try to pressure others not to talk to me, but that is not enough to bring up concerns to higher up. She could simply deny all allegation and defense herself like there is nothing wrong with not having lunch / being friends with me. She is super-good at manipulation. I and other people in the office all agreed that talking to advisor could make things worse. One person who chose to study in the library worries reporting to the department head could make us look bad and even hurt our reputation. Some people may think we did something wrong to make her upset. Sometimes, I wish she punches on someone's face instead of displaying crazy passive aggressive behavior then we could prove her psychosis by showing bruise from her.

Yes, it is very tricky to deal with this psycho woman and she seems to be expert on playing game. Good thing is that I don't need to (and not going to) work with her. My major is social science. Abusive girl and I study the same field, but we have different academic advisors. In my field, Phd students rarely co-work with other students. Plus she has only one more year to stay in the office. It is our program policy that PhD students are allowed to have office space for maximum 10 semesters whether students graduates or not.

User: RinaL - 03 October 2015 07:53

Sounds exactly like my collegue.. good friends before and supportive, thrn went behinf my back ;). I've chosen i the end the same route - she stays till august, so I will survive.

Just make sure that she doesn't up her game by badmouthing you to collegues, supervisors. If you have to work with her, make sure to have emails about conversations. So, if you need it, you have written proof.

And personally, if more than one person comes complaining and she already had to move office before I would at least have an honest chat with both parties of the quarrel.

User: DrJeckyll - 04 October 2015 11:31

I have to deal with such issues of open aggressiveness from individuals from my cohort even post- PhD. I think it is very much related to the few academic places available, and the large number of PhD students produced in mass. People feel insecure and view me as a competitor to their success. It is hard to deal with this issue. I have my own issues of feeling like an outcast since childhood (for various reasons), so I can't deal very well with aggressiveness/ rejection etc...

Passive-aggressive disruption when working quietly using loud music, drawer-banging, loud phone calls etc was the preferred strategy from another individual in the open space. But I was less concerned about that.

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