bully supervisor ... how to change ?


I need some advice, i only worked for 6 months with my current phd supervisor.He has bullying me for a long time, i kept bottling it and concentrating on the project. Recently he started getting a bit too unrealistic and making me feel down infront of my secondary supervisor. Anyhow long story short, I went to the student mediator to get some help with the personality clash and it is now in a form of complaint with the head of department. And my department tutor is not happy that I did not share this with her. She says that most likely he wouldnot want to supervise me. What happens next ? if phd supervisor and your relationship dont work out but the science has been doing well and i want to keep working at it, please say something, i have been sleepless and cant eat for 11 days :'(


I will say this so you are informed for the future in case this situation arises again.

You should have tried to discuss this with your supervisor before going to the head of your department. Obviously your supervisor is not going to be happy that they are the subject of a complaint, and maybe if you had discussed it with them rather than bottling it up you wouldn't be in this position now. Of course, also maybe this would have changed nothing.

You will be probably be reassigned another supervisor, but this relationship will also be difficult going forward as he/she will be anticipating problems based on your previous experience and will probably also not be as knowledgeable in your field as your first supervisor was, meaning that your science may suffer.

Please research ways of managing supervisors and dealing with difficult behaviour to assist you in the future and to ensure your next supervisory relationship is successful. You are probably not the one to blame, but equally you may have been able to mediate this before it escalated by communicating more effectively.


Sorry to hear about your difficult situation. It is insane that a woman can find herself in this position in the 21st century, especially after the Equality Act 2010 is enforced in every university in the UK. A close friend of mine was bullied by her male colleague last year causing her to self-harm and take sick leave, and when she reported it there was such a fuss he didn't know whether to beg for forgiveness or just quit the country! Universities are a place for learning, not bullying.


I have been there and got the T-shirt! Even if you report, you may not be believed!


Quote From metabanalysis:
Sorry to hear about your difficult situation. It is insane that a woman can find herself in this position in the 21st century, especially after the Equality Act 2010 is enforced in every university in the UK.

I'm not quite sure I get your angle on this. Men are bullied, women are bullied. Men bully, women bully. Though of course there can on some occasions be a gendered dimension to the bullying, often there is not. So I am not sure how reference to the Equality act is at all relevant to Sarahamy's situation.

Sarahamy, it is unfortunate how this has played out. As others have said, there are less formal ways of trying to handle these situations in the early stages, but you may not have realised that. It seems to me that your options are:
1. Stay where you are, with the current supervisor, but know that the relationship may have been damaged too much and the situation may not improve.
2. Transfer to another project in the same department with new supervision
3. Transfer to another project in a different department with new supervision
4. Transfer to another university.

It depends a lot on you as to which of these would be best. I would say, however, that if the bullying has affected you deeply, don't be afraid to take some time out to think about what to do next, and recover.

One thing you do need to bear in mind is that if you transfer to another university, you may need someone to write you a good reference. Make sure you have this covered before making a move. There is another forum member who may be able to share some thoughts on the challenges/importance of this.


One other thing - I would also advice getting some external support whether from a student counsellor or a trusted friend. It sounds like you are very distressed and could do with some emotional support as well as the practical advice.


Thankyou all for supportive messages,
Treeoflife your message makes sense. I ended up concentrating too much on the project,meeting with other people, fixing protocols, had taken lots of courses towards this phd and I kept assuming I could handle it but a point came when I got frustrated as he kept provoking me :( via emails. I took two days off and he is saying that you need to produce a doctors certificate as he is not sure of my health and demeaning me infront of others constantly.
Hazy Jane thankyou :), I will keep posted on the situation here as I really want this phd


Do you think that he can kick me out of the project ?


Quote From Sarahamy:
Do you think that he can kick me out of the project ?

Is he paying your scholarship? If so, there is no reason he want to do that.

I am now even being bullied after passed my oral defense. I have done the test my supervisor asked me to do, and then he suggested me to do more work!


Trying to put your two posts together - if I understood correctly, it's your industrial supervisor that you've complained about? And your departmental supervisor who wishes you'd gone to her first? Is the funding a collaborative industry / university deal? If so, it would depend on what sort of contract exists between the university and firm and how crucial the industrial supervisor is to the project being able to go ahead, I think.


Thanks goodness my supervisor is nice, I can't imagine how I would deal with a situation like that :(Good luck!