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Without going into the details, I got a little irritated and frustrated with my advisor today.

I've been feeling myself slowly losing respect for her as a manager, but have remained professional and friendly. Her micromanagement and unpredictability have had some negative impacts on my project. We had to work closely together today on something under what I would say is a high pressure situation. She really didn't lead very well.

I just snapped a few times and was pretty irritated. I wasn't full on mad, but since I'm normally the opposite of confrontational (I've never even gotten mad at a coworker before), it definitely is something that would stand out.

She's been really nice after this, and complimenting me on small things, but I'm not sure how to go forward. Should I just pretend like nothing happened? There's been some long-term frustration that led up to this, but it still feels wrong to have lost my temper with my advisor.

Is it common/rare for grad students to show anger towards their supervisor, and how negatively do you judge them for it?

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    It depends a lot on the culture. When I was a student, some twenty years ago, I certainly had some pretty harsh discussions with my advisor, from both a technical point of view and a management one. Nowadays, it seems that the relationships between professors and students should be much smoother, which, sometimes, might not be necessarily a good thing. – Massimo Ortolano Nov 13 '16 at 19:05
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    Students: Faculty are trained in their academic discipline. Usually they have no training in management. Do not expect them to be good managers. Faculty: Get training in management if you are going to manage a research group. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 13 '16 at 22:39
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Hmm I hear this argument a lot. At first it makes sense. But then again, do new manager outside of academia get "pre-management training"? I don't think so... It's just that there, professionalism is expected and the rule. People would never get away with some of the things done in academia. And even if PIs don't go through formal training in management, I would hope that years as a grad student and post-doc would offer experience as a leader. – ConfusedStudent007 Nov 14 '16 at 1:22
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    Short term -- if you're feeling remorseful, or if you would like to be polite, there's nothing wrong with apologizing for being snippy, or for snapping at her, or whatever it is you did. When you're ready to start thinking about what you might want to do differently, you may want to consider some alternatives, such as: switch advisors, be more assertive, organize things in such a way as to have less pressure, resolve to walk away when things get to be too much, let her know that you will do that if need be. Maybe you'll think of a few more actions to add to the list of possibilities. – aparente001 Nov 14 '16 at 2:29
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    @ConfusedStudent007 In the business world, people spend 4 years (or more if they have a masters) studying management before they get their degree! But that doesn't mean they always act professionally. – David Ketcheson Nov 15 '16 at 6:13
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Are you fairly advanced in your program? It's common for these kinds of conflicts to arise as students become more and more independent. I got into it with my advisor too, when I was ABD. We met afterwards and he assured me it was normal for 'children' to rebel against their 'parents' when coming of academic age.

Still, you may have been out of line. There's a clear power structure. I would apologize to the person that signs off on your dissertation.

  • I'm fairly new actually. I think what you say makes sense, but also makes me think a lot of things that are happening aren't really normal... – ConfusedStudent007 Nov 17 '16 at 14:00
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She's been really nice after this, and complimenting me on small things, but I'm not sure how to go forward.

It shows that she realized you have been stressed out, and she is willing to be helpful to make you feel better as a new student. Do not think too much. Work well. Respect her and be nice to her (really mean that. not pretend).

As time passes, the event will be forgotten and forgiven (if needed). Since you are fairly new, you will eventually get to know her more. At that time, you will be in a better position to see what went wrong and what made you lose your cool.

Also offer to proactively fix the situation. Apologies by word mean nothing. Show it in action.

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