I got interviewed for a research position in statistical epidemiology in a London uni last month. It went well and I got the conditional offer at the end of the interview. I got in touch with my PhD supervisor and secondary advisor. Both of them said they were more than happy to provide references and congratulated me on my new job.
I started my new job today. When chatting with my boss, he mentioned that my supervisor wrote a glowing letter for me. However, my secondary advisor was critical of me not meeting the deadlines and lack of diligence. This temporarily happened during my second year when I got Covid complications and had to take a 3-month leave in the end. But my medical circumstance wasn’t mentioned in his letter. My new boss sort of joked about it and asked if my secondary advisor and I had some personality clashes. However, I cannot remember any clash between us. I didn’t see him as frequently as I met my main supervisor. He were polite to me all the time. My new boss then went on saying it was a bit funny that these two references contradicted each other in this way. One saying I took initiatives and met the deadlines and the other saying I didn’t. Fortunately, my main supervisor was a much more prestigious professor and has known me much longer. So they believed her words.
I was reflecting on my previous behaviour and research and wondering what I have done (except having Covid complications and more or less unable to work for 3 months) to make my secondary supervisor critical of me. I was a member of UCU and went on strike a couple of times during my PhD years over pay and working conditions for teaching and research assistants. My secondary advisor did ask me about this and told me he wasn’t in the union. Could it be a possible reason? In the meantime I wonder if it is normal that your current boss leaks your reference details to you.