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Say you made a smart move in solving an important question that your advisor did not think of and all of a suddenly your advisor becomes jealous because you have made your advisor look bad. What are the best way to manage situation like this?

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    Can you elaborate a bit more on HOW you made him look bad? Did you correct him in public? Falsified his previous research? Made a dumb comment?
    – OBu
    Jan 19, 2014 at 6:41
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    Is this question real or hypothetical? How do you know your advisor is jealous? What is she doing differently? It's probably better to try to change what she does; it's hard to do much about how she feels. Jan 19, 2014 at 7:31
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    The nature of being a research adviser is that your students must exceed your expertise, especially on the topic of the student's thesis. If your adviser cannot handle this, perhaps you need a new one. If your adviser becomes openly hostile - get out of there. Don't walk. Run.
    – Ben Norris
    Jan 19, 2014 at 11:59
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    it's still not clear to me whether this jealousy is something you think is happening, or is something you have some actual evidence for. I'm asking because students often assume advisors think/feel a certain way when they actually don't.
    – Suresh
    Jan 19, 2014 at 18:58

3 Answers 3

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I'd distinguish between three scenarios:

  1. If you have accomplished something genuinely magnificent (e.g., you just proved the Riemann hypothesis), then it may be natural for your advisor to feel a little envious, particularly if it was something your advisor had hoped to do someday. Hopefully they'll soon switch to feeling proud of their amazing student, and in any case your career success is assured by your great accomplishment.

  2. In less extreme circumstances, this could be a real problem. If your advisor feels threatened by your success, then you may need a new advisor, since you certainly don't want an advisor who goes around explaining how you aren't as great as you seem. Before you reach that point, it's worth discussing these issues. For example, you could say "I've felt some tension recently, and you seemed upset with me at the X Symposium. Am I doing something that's making you unhappy?" This may be an awkward conversation, but it's worth a try. It's possible that you are somehow making the problem worse (for example, by publicly saying things about your advisor that could be interpreted as disparaging, even if you didn't mean them that way), or that your advisor will feel a little sheepish that you noticed this behavior and will try to change. If talking about it doesn't work, then I don't know what to suggest. You either find a new advisor or put up with it as best you can.

  3. It's also possible that it's all in your head. I become suspicious whenever I hear someone attribute other people's behavior to jealousy, since it's an awfully convenient excuse. Until you have really clear evidence, you should keep an open mind regarding other explanations.

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    I have seen my advisor getting very jealous of my accomplishments sometimes.Bottom line is people dont like surprises. If you blow somebody away and the larger community with your work, your adviser will feel intimidated and will feel threatened and cut you off in short term. But eventually an good advisor will realize that you are a catch and will guide you and help you in your career . A bad advisor will use you to get her things get done and will later treat you like she never needed your services in first place.
    – james234
    Jan 19, 2014 at 15:34
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    your adviser will feel intimidated and will feel threatened and cut you off in short term — Yikes. Even in the short term, cutting off successful students out of jealously is completely inappropriate. (Unless by "short term" you mean something on the order of hours, and then it's not so much "cutting off" as "needing alone time".)
    – JeffE
    Jan 19, 2014 at 16:18
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    @JeffE I am speaking from my personal experiences. Initially my advisor was very friendly[more like a co worker than a boss] , but the moment she realized what i had accomplished and how the industry was blown away by my work and offered me internships,she kind of started acting more i say formal[like a manager]. We filed for patents and wrote to CHI(holy grail of HCI Conferences) which was unprecedented for MS students from an small univ. in midwest. The moment i realized this , the more i hated and resented her and and i think she realized this and our relationship went downhill from there.
    – james234
    Jan 19, 2014 at 16:59
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    it made me realize people above you like you as long as you don't fly above them. The moment you surpass them, the relationship cannot last anymore. — As painful as your experience has been, please don't extrapolate from a sample of size n=1. (As an HCI researcher, you should know that already!) I can't claim in good conscience that the childish behavior you describe is uncommon, but it is certainly not universal.
    – JeffE
    Jan 19, 2014 at 19:23
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    @james234 - Relationships between students and advisors can sour; sometimes this is the advisor's fault, and sometimes the student's, but there are probably many cases where there is plenty of blame on both sides. In your case, this remark seems telling: "The moment i realized this, the more i hated and resented her..." Yikes! No wonder that relationship didn't end well.
    – J.R.
    Jan 20, 2014 at 9:06
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Say you made a smart move in solving an important question that your advisor did not think of and all of a suddenly your advisor becomes jealous because you have made your advisor look bad. What are the best way to manage situation like this?

Generally speaking, whenever somebody tells me that their advisor is jealous of their work, I get rather suspicious. Usually, students that make smart moves and solve important problems do not in any way reflect badly on advisors! Quite the contrary, hence there usually is absolutely no reason to be anything than happy for the student's success. That she (I am taking from other comments that your advisor is female?) did not think of the solution herself matters little - in practice, most concrete solutions to research problems come from students and not the advisors. Again, this would not reflect badly on the advisor in any way.

I am speaking from my personal experiences. Initially my advisor was very friendly[more like a co worker than a boss], but the moment she realized what i had accomplished and how the industry was blown away by my work and offered me internships,she kind of started acting more I say formal[like a manager]. We filed for patents and wrote to CHI (holy grail of HCI Conferences) which was unprecedented for MS students from an small university in the Midwest. The moment I realized this, the more I hated and resented her and and I think she realized this and our relationship went downhill from there.

This is a statement of yours from one of the comments. First of all, congratulations on the CHI paper as well as on the patent applications. However, that being said, the entire paragraph reads like you maybe got carried away a bit by your own success (how the industry was blown away by my work, holy grail of HCI, unprecedented, etc.). Reflect for yourself - is there a chance that your advisor is not so much jealous, but simply annoyed by your high-handed behavior as of late? Are you rubbing your success into her face? Have you maybe even made sure that she understands that this was your success, and not in any way hers as advisor?

Also, the last statement (the more I hated and resented her and and I think she realized this and our relationship went downhill from there.) kind of worries me. These are pretty strong words. Surely, more than a little bit of distant behavior and perceived jealousy has happened for you to resent and hate your advisor?

EDIT:

As it turns out, I am not capable of reading, as the second quote is not from the OP but from @james234. Anyway, I'll leave the answer here, as it seems to reflect the gist of such advisor/advisee problems quite well (even if it does not necessarily help the OP).

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    That last comment ("the more i [sic] hated and resented her") didn't come from the O.P., but from a commenter to another answer (james234). That said, I wish I could upvote your answer here twice. Questions like this one don't seem to tell the entire story; this isn't the first time I've seen a "What should I do now that my advisor doesn't like my brilliant idea" question, and I tend to be skeptical when the language of the question portrays the advisor to be petty and narrow-minded, the student to be a brilliant prodigy, and no room for middle ground or misperceptions. Something smells fishy.
    – J.R.
    Jan 20, 2014 at 9:21
  • @J.R. there are lot of details i had omitted ,which would have made my position more clear. Like paying my lab mate(an PHD) more than me and from my research funds ,even though he was nowhere related to project. Omitting my name from PPTs given to my research sponsor although it was all my work and not doing the same with the other guy. I understand the advisor in future will work more closely with PHD than MS student ,that doesn't mean you count your chips and bet everything on that guy alone. Nobody wants to work their ass out for their advisor and give up on them. Its very painful mentally.
    – james234
    Jan 20, 2014 at 13:25
  • @J.R. in retrospect i truly wish i was much wiser and had handled the situation better .Ours is a very small lab of just 2 people but we do a lot of work between us. I am the da facto programmer in lab , so i do my research as well as all other programming stuff ,including building prototype for PHD guy.I was looked upon my advisor for guidance and thought she will take me under her wings and she did seem to but after my project got recognition , i felt i was left to wind. My advisor got multiple consequent projects
    – james234
    Jan 20, 2014 at 13:49
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    @J.R. I was promised that she will speak with my sponsor for internship. And i thought it would be an honor for your advisor to vouch for you in front of other managers. But she advised me to speak with him myself and i did do that but i was disappointed with my adviser.When we were celebrating success of our project with our corporate sponsors,she never mentioned me but at the end the manager i worked with introduced me to group as the person who developed the interface and the product.I mean isn't it the job of adviser to do that ,to promote your own student?Small things but show what i mean
    – james234
    Jan 20, 2014 at 13:53
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    @james - Just to be clear, I wasn't necessarily asking for all the details here in the comments, where we only have 600 characters to explain a situation. I was more talking about a trend I've seen here, where students will sometimes report feeling slighted, wronged, or marginalized, yet their words strike me as somewhat pretentious, defensive, or haughty. When I see that, I really wonder if the whole story is being told – and suspect that it probably isn't.
    – J.R.
    Jan 20, 2014 at 15:58
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If your supervisor is already a professor, this is highly unlikely as the difference in the competence is way too big. If such thing really happened by pure chance, just ignore and concentrate on work instead. He is a professor. He is competent. He should manage.

Such friction may only happen when, for instance, the professor assigns near finishing PhD student, young post doc or the like, to help the starting PhD student.

Such "low level supervisor" may provide a lot of useful assistance, so you need to think twice before attempting to run away from it. But if you really do not want him, and are also sure you can get without him, go to the professor and ask to remove that supervision. This usually works no problem.

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