I started my postdoc 5 mounts ago and I am totally unsatisfied about it. To be honest, since the first weeks I understood that I was going to be unhappy here and I had immediately the temptation to leave. When I came here nothing was as expected.

I hate the working environment. My boss creates a very toxic environment. Even if it is a woman, she is sexist and deliberately ignore the needs of her female postdocs treating them like secretaries. She periodically select one male postdoc to rely on that gets credits (and name on publications) for everything doing existentially nothing, beside chatting with her. She does not listen to the girls, she does not meet them (in five months I got just 1 face to face meeting), she does not reply to their emails, she behaves in a very unprofessional way, she does not lead the group professionally.

I am enrolled in a specific project and I have to tolerate that her favorite guy has to do the intermediate between me and her (I asked to be "included" in issues related to my project but she keeps talking just with him) and getting name on my publication for doing nothing even if he is not formally in that project. She already put his name in 3 publications of my colleagues where he did absolutely nothing.

From my colleague experiences, I have got that she behaved liked that for her entire career and I don't think that it is going to change. Many postdocs left because of this situation. The favorite guy is younger, less experienced than me and other postdocs and he is very dangerous since he enjoys to get the credit from someone else work and making the other colleagues looking lame. Recently, one colleague that he dislikes did not get the contract renewed and we all think it is because of his influence.

I also hate the life out of work. People are very racist, sexist, not speaking in English and it is very difficult to be integrated. Bureaucracy is slow and sanitary system is terrible (you can literally die before they take care of you). I don't like even the city that it quite but incredibility boring.

My boss is well known, and even if she is horrible inside, she is excellent in external relationships and from outside she looks great. This implies that I am really afraid of leaving in bad terms and have bad references. I like doing research. I left my boyfriend, my family, my life and I refused permanent positions to come here and pursue the academic career. Now I feel in trap.

I discussed with my phd supervisor and he suggested me to stay here at least one year to have something done and leave with solid reasons. I honestly fear for my mental health. Plus because of the dysfunctions of the system here (slow bureaucracy, limited access to the facilities, etc...), I am learning new things very slowly compared to what I could do somewhere else. In the end, I don'think that I will gain so much valuable experience here, beside the fact that I should stay in a toxic environment.

How can I leave soon and in good terms? Should I start to apply somewhere else or wait as suggested by my previous supervisor? Should I tell to my current boss that I want to leave or wait until I have an offer? Should I gave fake reasons (e.g. personal reasons for moving)? How can I manage the situation without destroying my future career chances?

Thank you both for your suggestion. I actually considered a professional help and contacted a psychologist a few time ago but I cannot effort the prices.

I have been living from almost 5 years far from my family and lived also abroad elsewhere for short time (6 mounts) but I have never felt like that. I passed trough all difficulties earlier because I was very happy about my professional life and very proud of my achievements. I had to face a lot of problems and difficulties but I was willing to do that because I was seeing a reward for it. Here, being invisible at the eye of my boss and seeing my work not appreciated is leading me crazy.

Plus, it has been relatively easier in other places building social relationships and having a life after work. Here, I have an unpleasant life both at work and after work.

I believe I am not exasperating the situation at work because many postdoc left because of the boss behavior (actually I know three of them that got clinical depression during their postdoc). Maybe I am complaining too much about the life after work and I can work on that but difficulties withing the working environment are concrete. The point is that I don't want that this experience burns my future chances, so I want to find the best way to leave as soon as possible in good terms.

  • Can you disclose which country or more? It would be beneficial to disclose some general aspects(country or city, if possible) to help people in avoiding such places in the future.
    – Nikey Mike
    Jan 26, 2020 at 15:06
  • 2
    Alghough my saying would being rude and rutheless, but this is off-topic. This is more like a mental/psychological problem rather than an academic problem. Should be flagged closed.
    – null
    Jan 26, 2020 at 15:09
  • Hi Nathan, the question here is living in good terms without compromising my future research chances after working here for a such small period. I don't see it off topic. I gave the whole context (psychological, cultural, etc...) and the reasons because I badly want to leave but I would like to heard about similar experiences and suggestions about the best way to leave without having bad references. Anyway if you believe being off-topic just close it ;). Nikey, I don't feel comfortable giving more details, sorry.
    – Lola
    Jan 26, 2020 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


I am no professional, but after reading your post, I think that you should get professional help as soon as possible.

You basically complain about every single aspect of your life. The issue is not only with your head. You also dislike the environment you are in: the city, your colleagues, bureaucracy, and even the health care system.

In my experience, this is a dangerous situation and can lead to severe depression. And thus, the need for professional help.


Clearly there are two sides to your problem:

  • The toxic professional environment
  • The fact that you resent every aspect of your life where you are currently, from being away from your loved ones to not speaking the local language.

Everything tells you that this is not what you want, it's just a bad fit. You've been there for only a few months so no regrets, just move on. You can indeed say that you leave for personal reasons in order to make things smoother, that's half of the real reason anyway.

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