I’m not quite sure how to handle this situation and hoping you may be able to help!
I am over a year into my PhD and have supervisors who, although we don’t have a bad relationship from their point of view (they would likely say it is good), in my opinion I have a very formal, structured and slightly cold relationship (comparing to previous managers in other jobs).
At the beginning of my PhD they were keen to get me involved in projects they have going on in their department that would help them analyse data and produce papers, I was told this was my way of saying thank you to the team (I assumed saying thank you for supervising me) and this would not gain me a name on their paper. Admit-ably at the start I was very keen to impress them and additionally thought getting stuck into some work for them could also help me get in the flow of what I might do for my own thesis. Over a year later and these projects continue and are only getting bigger each meeting we have. The tasks (and timeframe expected) mean I would need to spend on average 10-15 hours a week on these projects to get them anywhere near completion. I have noted to them in my last meeting this is a lot of work and I think I am unable to meet their desired deadline but this is not really taken on board. As our relationship is extremely formal I feel like I can’t really explain how overwhelmed I feel or how unfair I feel like this is. Its never been an option as to whether I want to or can take these projects on, they are expected to be done ASAP and I feel like I am being treated how you may a member of staff whose sole role it is to complete this additional work.
Having talked to friends and other PhD students they would call this unfair, toxic and flat out refuse to do it. However I am really mindful I want to keep in good faith with my supervisors, they are experts in the field I want to work in and there is no option of another supervisor to switch to without completely hindering my thesis and remainder of my PhD. I’d be better off quitting.
My idea would be to give it my best shot with finishing the majority of the project (even if it will be tough to do) , ensuring I am keeping minutes from our meetings which highlight that this is their project. Hoping that in future, if I've done a good chunk for them, they will let me away with not finishing acknowledging I have bigger priorities (my thesis). If this doesn’t work I would consider getting my university involved however I’d really rather not resort to this.
I know I’m being a wuss with this approach but I want to be diplomatic. Any advice? Do you think it is normal for (some, I am aware not all) supervisors to do this?
p.s I don't care too much about not being mentioned in authorship for their papers, I'd much rather get on with my own project and have my thesis run smoothly. I just want to try and finish and be unscathed!