During the early stage of my research career many years ago, as a graduate student, I met this young and bright but yet very manipulative PhD student. Let's call the person A.

At the beginning A was cordial and told me to work on the same type of research as them. After I decided to carve out my own path, A for some reason either decided that my focus was not as esteemed/prestigious/intellectually challenging as theirs, or that perhaps I am not cut out to be a researcher, so A took every opportunity to mock my research focus in front of other senior students in the lab. I cannot delve into details but at that time I saw all the signs of A being a sociopathic bully or at least an elitist.

  • For example, A would probe me and other students to see if we have some deficiency in our knowledge. Afterwards, A will make a huge deal out of it.

    A also has unrealistic high standard for work that they imposes on everyone. Anyone who doesn't conform to their schedule would be openly mocked or even socially ostracized.

    A has this very inflexible way of deciding who is worth talking to and who isn't. A will respect anyone who has a big name and deride people who are junior to them.

    Because A was productive, therefore my then supervisor tolerated A.

I recently found out that A is becoming a professor at another (better ranked) school. Is there anything that anyone can do at this stage to prevent a jerk from becoming a prof?

  • 7
    Using a letter for a person is unnecessarily tiresome to read, in particular if you are talking only about one other person and that letter is A (which can be confused with the indefinite article). Please edit your question to either use pronouns and similar or just call them Alice, Bob or whatever you like.
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 14, 2022 at 9:35
  • @EnPoverty In which nation this is happening.
    – user135061
    May 14, 2022 at 11:23
  • 1
    I feel like a very similar question was asked here years ago---does anyone else remember?
    – Kimball
    May 14, 2022 at 14:42
  • @Kimball - yes, I feel like there were several "should I warn a university not to hire my enemy" questions....the only one I can find now is this one about opposing affirmative action.
    – cag51
    May 14, 2022 at 18:27
  • 2
    I changed "sociopath" to "jerk" in the title (and removed the comments discussing this) since you have not provided any evidence / confirmation that "A" is actually diagnosed with this medical condition. If you can confirm that "A" actually does suffer from this condition, please edit your post to state this.
    – cag51
    May 15, 2022 at 8:31

2 Answers 2


I doubt you will succeed in stopping A's appointment at A's university. You would however do considerable harm to yourself. First, for a non-psychologist, non-therapist, non-psychiatrist to make a diagnosis of sociopath is rather presumptive. So, please do not do this. Second, if A is not a socio-path but rather was a "yerk", know that people can and sometimes do change. Third, academia just like politics favors persons with big egos, because big egos are sometimes needed for success. Your intervention would make you in all probability look vindictive and petty-minded.

It is not fun to see someone who mistreated you be successful, but if you hold on to your pain, you will never free yourself from it.

  • 1
    Narcissism helps in academia and business, too. You're more likely to promote yourself.
    – cgb5436
    May 14, 2022 at 17:57

I recently found out that A is becoming a professor at another (better ranked) school. Is there anything that anyone can do at this stage to prevent a jerk from becoming a prof?

No. Once the contract is signed, it is final.

Trying to harm a colleague's job search is highly unprofessional behavior. Do not do it. Do not spread rumors.

Abusive behavior towards you should be addressed by your supervisor, the perpetrator's supervisor, or where applicable the legal system.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .