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Consider the following conversation:

Mentor: What is your progress?

Me: blah.... blah... blah...

Mentor: Okay.

Me: What about other tasks (if any)?

Mentor: Do not worry about them, I can handle, if any. You focus only on your own research work

Me: okay.

After a week, while I am doing research work, the mentor comes to the lab suddenly, and then the conversation will be like

Mentor: There is a class today with the syllabus X for batch Z.

Me: Okay.

Mentor: Go and deal. It will be in an hour.

Me: I am aware of X, but don't know in detail.

Mentor: Not a big deal. Carry on with today's class.

This is a sample scenario. There will be many tasks like this with very shorter deadlines.

The only issue I face is maintaining a trade-off between personal accountability and stress. By behavior, I want to be more accountable for any task done by me. But due to the shortness of time, I sometimes experience so much stress (in order to maintain accountability).

How to deal with such mentors?

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  • 1
    Can you be more clear on what the relationship is here? Are you a postdoc and the other person a full professor? One option for this specific scenario could be that you try to reach an agreement that you will give some number of lectures in this course. These lectures should be somewhat independent of the rest of the curriculum so that they can be used as a fill-in lecture when your mentor is not able to give a lecture. That way you could prepare well in advance. – Roland Oct 1 '20 at 6:15
  • @Roland he is of professor cadre. He won't allow me to do so. When I ask he says, don't worry about them. But asks suddenly. – hanugm Oct 1 '20 at 6:27
  • @Roland Sometimes even if he agrees, he may break it. – hanugm Oct 1 '20 at 6:32
  • Well, then you probably should prepare one lecture for each of is courses, just in case. – Roland Oct 1 '20 at 6:48
  • Where I'm from, being asked to teach a class like that is only OK in case of a dire personal or professional emergency, IMO. Is that common in your country, or normally expected of grad students? – Azor Ahai -him- Oct 2 '20 at 22:21
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This answer depends on your relationship with your supervisor. If have an honest, open relationship, I would suggest communicating your feelings in a professional and constructive way. For example,

I appreciate you trusting me to take on additional Tasks 1, 2, and 3. However, I already have tasks A, B, and C which require a significant amount of my time. I am happy to do Tasks 1, 2, and 3, but I would benefit from additional notice (24/48/72) hours in order to carry out the task with a high quality. Does that sound agreeable to you?

If you do not want to do additional Tasks 1, 2, and 3 but feel pressured to do so, you always have other options:

  1. Build evidence of your situation and eventually present it matter-of-factually to your supervisor. For example, 'You have requested me to do additional Tasks 1, 2, and 3 repeatedly, and my progress on research and other commitments are suffering. I cannot do these additional tasks any more.'
  2. If 1 fails, build further evidence of your situation and present it to the graduate director.
  3. If you have the willpower to do so, you might accept your fate and make lemonade out of lemons. For example, record each extra lecture you do to add to your teaching CV. Or, at the very least, start to prepare in advance for Tasks 1, 2, 3, ... n.

Sudden tasks are not fun and can indeed be a cause for significant personal stress. It sounds like these requests come during the workday, but otherwise I would suggest sticking to a strict work schedule with dedicated days of no work.

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