There is an incident between me and my PhD adviser, which is repeated for the second time (The first time was a couple of months ago), and its details are:

My PhD supervisor talked about me and my problems to one of the post doc scholars in our department, who is not my PhD adviser's post-doc. The first time my PhD adviser talked to this post-doc about me, he said that I was not present at a conference and presentations. In fact I was, and even in some of those presentations my PhD adviser was present and I'm pretty sure he saw me there explicitly. But I heard from this post-doc a week later that my PhD adviser was not happy cause he didn't see me there... I never received a notice from my PhD adviser and he never talk to me about that. As a result, I said that maybe was just a mistake and moved on.

Today, I heard from this post-doc again that my PhD adviser is angry cause I removed a document that he requested me to update that yesterday. In fact, I updated that document just a couple of hours ago and fortunately it is uploaded in the box and could show the details of changes to that file and how many version is uploaded. Also, box could show who viewed or downloaded the files and the last time my PhD adviser saw that file or downloaded was yesterday, when he requested me to update that and I did it today morning. I'm just mad and angry because if there is a problem with me or my work or my personality or whatever why my PhD adviser does not talk to me directly? He could just send an email to me say hey what the hell are you doing?! instead of talking to other people and I incidentally hear the problems from other people behind me?! I'm just angry and please excuse me for typos or rude language.

My question is: what can I do to solve this problem and why my PhD adviser does not talk to me directly about my problems? I appreciate any suggestion.


I talked to my PhD adviser right now and he was quite okay and cool with me and did not talk about the incident that post-doc talked to me yesterday. So, I think something is wrong with this post-doc... I really appreciate if someone help me to find a proper way to tell this post-doc that my issues or problems are not his/her business...

  • I think you should ask the postdoc how "bad" it is first. Make sure that he knows that this is bugging you, and try to find out whether your PI is truly frustrated with you. I can easily imagine a scenario in which your advisor said these things during a coffee break without choosing their words carefully, after which the postdoc may have overestimated the seriousness of the situation.
    – Mowgli
    Feb 5, 2019 at 19:36
  • @Mowgli Even for minor things or not so important things why I should be the last one that my problems are discussed with? When I see other people or my friends that they have lot of issues but their advisers do not talk behind them with other people but for me that I do my adviser's work promptly for sometimes even within a day that I received a notice, it really makes me mad... I mean it really hurts... I don't say I have no issue but why my problem should be discussed with unrelated people? If he talked about me with other professors or chair I was not mad like this.... Feb 5, 2019 at 19:42
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    I think your question about how to handle the post-doc now should actually be a separate, different question.
    – Dawn
    Feb 6, 2019 at 23:04

1 Answer 1


You seem to be getting all the information about your communication issues with your advisor from a third party - the postdoc. That information may not be accurate, though I can't say from this distance. But you should consider the fact that it is the third person with the problem and not yourself.

But the solution is to go and talk to your advisor. I wouldn't take a confrontational attitude, but mention that you did the work requested and were at the meeting you mention, etc. Ask for an assessment of your progress and position. If there is a problem you will know, from the actual source. If there isn't a problem it should be obvious from the way the advisor responds.

Like many such meetings, this needs to be face to face and informal. If you suspect from the answers you get that the post doc is trying to subvert you, I'd spend some time deciding on a plan before complaining about it.

If your advisor, in fact, has no problem with your actions then there probably was no reason for him to communicate. But if he does have an issue it is better that you hear it directly and you may need to take the initiative to make that happen.

  • I just preferred to not talk to him at least today cause I'm really angry and I didn't want to appear as a bad or rude guy... We have meeting scheduled tomorrow and I will talk to my adviser and just say I did the requested work to see how he would react... Feb 5, 2019 at 19:32
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    And make sure any anger is directed at the correct target.
    – Buffy
    Feb 5, 2019 at 19:43
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    Talking to your advisor about your professional issues is why they're there. Do not assume the worst in people! It can be antagonistic, and not productive towards getting your thesis going.
    – Spark
    Feb 7, 2019 at 1:11

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