Controlling supervisors - best ways of dealing with this? Nearing the end of my tether.

30-Nov-12, 18:10
Avatar for Natassia
posted about 5 years ago
Hi everyone, I'm having some trouble with my supervisory team (three supervisors) and would really appreciate some opinions/advice. This is getting me down and I feel as if I can't do anything right despite all my best efforts.

I have my upgrade in March 2013. There were some concerns about my literature review 2 months ago, but now my supervisors are saying that my work is much better, and they are talking about the future again; I should be starting my data collection in January and we are all looking forward to that.

The main problem is that they are very controlling, to the point where they are constantly asking me what I'm doing, when they know what I am working on and they see the evidence when I submit work regularly and punctually. I gave a talk about my research to students at another part of the university (same department, different campus) last week and they were annoyed about that as they saw it as a distraction. I had been invited to do this talk before the summer, and agreed as the colleague who asked me is a friend and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know the students there as I start teaching on that campus in February. If he had asked me last month I would have said no as I am so busy, but I like to stick to the arrangements that I make. Besides, I adapted a previous presentation and so it didn't require too much work.

I'm just getting a bit fed up with being controlled like this, and I feel quite manipulated by one supervisor in particular. It makes me feel so insecure; yesterday she told me to "grow some balls" about something else, and I think that it's difficult for me to do that when I'm constantly having to justify my actions to them, she always tells me how mature I am when receiving feedback but then makes me feel like a naughty child.

Any advice really appreciated, Natassia
30-Nov-12, 21:28
edited about 22 seconds later
by sneaks 5 star member
Avatar for sneaks
posted about 5 years ago
In some ways, I think its great you've got supervisors who are so keen to be involved! Although I don't think they should be discouraging you from presenting your research - a PhD is an apprenticeship and part of that is articulating your research in front of an audience!

I think you need to tell them you're feeling a bit micro-managed. Perhaps they can just set deadlines and then leave you until the deadline?

Have you thought about using an online journal tool - I know my uni used to encourage us to use them with supervisors - you upload work onto it and log your progress. It could mean that they can keep an eye on you, without you feeling overlooked all the time.
04-Dec-12, 11:56
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for Natassia
posted about 5 years ago
Hi Sneaks, thanks for replying. My supervisors are great really and the supervision that they give in terms of feedback is always punctual and useful. So I'm even more concerned about having a good working relationship with them. They do generally leave me alone between deadlines, but then things come up in meetings and it all becomes a bit passive-aggressive and contradictory, like "this chapter is much better, good work, but why the hell did you go there and give this presentation?". I think the problem is that there are departmental politics at the moment which mean that some of the staff in my department (two of my supervisors included) are not interested in teaching on this other campus even though they are obliged to. I have only just become aware of these politics, after my supervisors questioned why I went there. Apparently the colleague who invited me to give this talk has had an argument about this with my supervisor.

I think that they're getting stressed about the progress review meeting that I have next week (as am I), because it reflects a lot on them. I'm hoping that providing everything else is okay in this meeting, that I will be able to say that I feel micro-managed and then the head of the graduate school can do something about it; that is how it works at my institution anyway.
04-Dec-12, 16:24
Avatar for psychresearcher
posted about 5 years ago
Departmental politics is all but common, and probably hearing about it is good experience if you plan on staying in academia, though perhaps you could just steer your supervisors by having a draft agenda or list of things you want to go through in your meeting for when they start bringing irrelevant stuff up. By the way, just a thought - I am sure you don't want your supervisors to see this thread, perhaps you should post under a different name to your own for things like this just so it is kept confidential. Good luck!


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