My PhD advisor and I simply do not get along. I think it has a lot to do with the language and cultural barriers (we are in Germany). We had an argument this week that almost led to me quitting, but on Friday we discussed how things could be improved. However I still can't shake the notion away that he doesn't seem to like me very much and that things won't get any better.
Here is my situation: I got a fully funded, 100% research position throug the Deutscheforschung Gemeinschaft in what is loosely translated in English as a "graduate school" (Graduiertenkolleg). We were told that we could concentrate on our own research (no teaching requirements), but our funding only lasts 3 years, so we have to finish by then. When I took the job, I thought I would be working more closely with the other fellows hired by the graduate school, even though we are based in the research teams of our PIs. In my case, my PI has 3 other PhDs with teaching obligations, i.e., not under my funding scheme.
I had thought I won't have any other obligations other than my own work. But little did I know that my PI has been harbouring a grudge against me this whole time. Here's a list of things he mentioned:
- He told me that I always seem so depressed, so I should think about whether I really want to pursue this path. I have been diagnosed with depression, so this is unlikely to go away overnight. He never once asked me what was wrong.
- He says I "don't seem interested" in the research going on in his team because "I don't ask any questions".
- He also told me that I hadn't followed through on my promises to help out with the team. I had once offered to set up a social media strategy, and he just said "sounds good" and moved on to the next point, so I didn't think he was interested.
- He says I never engage in team discussions or offer helpful suggestions to my other PhDs. This is categorically not true, since I always tell my colleagues whether I see something (journal articles, workshops) that could be interesting for them.
- He says I didn't offer to supervise any bachelor's or master's theses.
- He is always critical about the way I present information. For example, I have sent him presentation slides and he says it has too much unnecessary information. Then I send him presentations that he says lacks crucial information. I never know which information he needs, and I get shut down either way.
- He says I favor the events of the graduate school over his team, since I have had to miss some meetings to attend required coursework.
- I explained to him that I had thought my obligations are to the graduate school, that I have to finish on time.
- When I explained to him what I had thought I was hired for (no teaching obligations etc) he told me that he doesn't believe me, that I should have known that I was part of his team primarily and that the graduate school was just a funding scheme.
I felt like he couldn't see my contributions simply because I wasn't behaving in the way he was expecting and doesn't seem to understand that I don't have it all figured out. Later on, when things calmed down a little, he explained to me that in Germany, most positions in my field are only supported up to 65% (if you're lucky), so I should think of my work as a fully paid position for work that can be done in a 65% position. But how was I supposed to know that?
It's worth noting that he is very accommodating to the circumstances of other PhDs in his team (e.g., one home office day a week for those with children). But for some reason he doesn't seem to care all that much that I have depression or that there are some things about German academia that I don't know about. I still want to continue with my PhD, but how do I motivate myself from here on?