6

I have been doing my PhD for 3 years, and my supervisor has been a real pain. This has made my life like a hell. His behavious includes yelling, bullying, and demeaning me. He has no regards for me and he does not keep the privacy about my work. Since, other people in our group are all from his country, I am the only one with whom he speaks/yells in English, so almost everybody at school is aware of the situation. His bad manners are not limited to this, it is much worse, but I don't want to write about him, rather I want to write about my problem.

I wanted to change my supervisor in earlier stages of my PhD, but the school suggested only one option whose research area was quite different from mine (We work on similar problems but completely different approaches). Also, because my stipend was sponsored by his grant, I had to apply for another scholarship. In the end, I decided to keep working with the same person (ignoring this bad behaviour) and avoid a new unknown situation.

Later in my PhD, I came to know other supervisors at school and started working with them. Though, I kept working with other professors, and I kept my main supervisor notified about what I am doing. He was also happy, because he could see that I am much more productive. However, his behaviour remained the same. Every time that I talk to him, he kills my motivation and self-confidence.

Now that I have finished 3 years, the scholarship has ran out and the supervisor failed to provide me with any financial support. Unlike him, other professors has been really supportive and provided me with some financial support. I still have a thesis to write and I really cannot tolerate his behaviour. I was wondering if changing my supervisor at this stage is a wise decision. What are the drawbacks of this decision?

5
  • Are you asking if it "ethical" which is what you say in the title or if it is "wise" which is what you say at the end of the body. those are two different questions really.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 1:35
  • @virmaior Thanks, I changed the title and the body.
    – orezvani
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 1:46
  • I don't see how that fixes it... Now you're just presenting two different questions in both the title and the body.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 1:54
  • @virmaior It now contains my main question (wise or not wise). Should I open another question (ethical or not ethical)? Because that one is also important for me.
    – orezvani
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 2:02
  • 1
    His behaviours includes yelling, bullying, and demeaning me.Fire him.
    – JeffE
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 13:24

3 Answers 3

6

There is no harm to change supervisor if he is not supportive nor encouraging nor friendly. Because in most of the cases, he is the only person whose recommendation you need to get your next position. So first of all, think how much of your present work can be added to your final thesis if you change a supervisor. If you can add more than 50-60% of your present work, then it would be a great decision to work with another good supervisor who is really supportive and interested to work with you. It is not a good idea to change a supervisor, if you plan to do everything from scratch again as it is already passed 3 years.

5
  • I know that changing supervisor has a negative effect on my current supervisor (because of the requirements of his grants). Would this decision make him develop some adversary reaction?
    – orezvani
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 1:32
  • Definitely yes, but if your new supervisor will be supportive enough, then it won't be problem. You should not be think much about the career of your present supervisor who does think about the same of yours. Moreover, you need to build your career, but not to spoil it.
    – Kay
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 1:35
  • 2
    negative effect on my current supervisor — That is so totally not your problem.
    – JeffE
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 2:59
  • @JeffE Yes but I was concerned about the adversary reaction.
    – orezvani
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 3:35
  • @orezvani - Ask a department administrator or veteran professor for advice. // The word you need is "adverse." // Make sure you are solid for the switch with the new professor before you burn your bridges by telling Advisor #1. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 4:01
1

Case 1. A supervisor calls up his PhD student in the middle of the night and tells him: "You are full of **** and you will get a PhD over my dead body." (Both were friends of mine, and sad to say, the supervisor was correct in his assessment but obviously wrong in how he handled this.) The student changes to a less discerning supervisor at a different uni and enters a career not as a PI but as research manager (suiting his people skills).

Case 2. A PI is a rubbish supervisor in every possible way. One of their students walks into my office with a technical question, which I answer in a strictly technical manner (as behooves me) and a week later she comes back to ask if I will be her supervisor. It is at this point that I learn who her current PI is, and knowing his temperament, I confer with the departmental PhD tutor to learn that indeed, the PI has already embarked on a defamation campaign against me, before I have done or said anything about a possible takeover.

So things can work out, but they can also backfire - badly. Within an institute the leadership almost always sides with the party that is most difficult to get rid of (i.e. not the student). So it's best to find a new supervisor at a different university.

1

This problem is actually quite common. My advice is to try and get a new supervisor. It is pretty clear to me that the situation with your current supervisor is only going to get worse, not better. You can’t change someone’s personality. I know two graduate students who changed advisors at a late stage in the program. In both cases the students were popular with other professors in the department. This support base (and other things) convinced the department chair to let the students in question make a change. If you have a good relationship with the department chair go to them first. If not, speak with other professors who you are on good terms with and explain the situation to them. Get these people behind you and then speak to the chair. Good luck.

You must log in to answer this question.

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