Is this bullying?


hello everyone,
maybe some of you remember my post from July about my supervisor who was far from nice...thank you for your replies and input! Alas, nothing much has changed except that I have developed a thicker skin and ways of dealing with it, and, on occasion, getting my way by good old-fashioned tricks on my supervisor's memory.( I know, sounds awful, but supervisor number two seems to agree with me, despite not knowing of the methods i resort to at times) However, now there is someone in the department who goes out f her way to let me know how useless I am, that what I am doing is not research and that she feels sorry for me doing such inferior nonsense. This person has never once bothered learning a little about what I do and herself is a supervisor to two others who, based on others' reports, don't seem to be moving forward all that much. I don't know and don't really care. I just want to get on with it, be allowed to enjoy it and try and be civil. The only people I have a decent relationship with are the masters students and one of the aforementioned phds. What I don't get is why this person is doing that to me? I have nothing much to do with her but she really goes out of her way to try and put me down. I stay calm and let her talk, then just answer that I can show her if she's so interested. But then it bugs me later on because I hate being treated badly without any logical explanation or reason....So, would you call this bullying and has it happened to you?


I wouldn't class it as bullying, seems to me to be more like an anally-retentive airhead with a misplaced superiority complex. May I suggest that next time she puts your work down just reply [in an off-hand and disinterested manner ] that you wouldn't expect them to understand it. That forces them to then explain your work (in detail) as they see it and leaves them open to a sound verbal spanking.

Failing that, may I suggest that you respectfully ask her: as she is such a towering intellect, to kindly leave you alone, wallowing in your inferiority, as you have some real work to be getting on with?

Or just ignore the lot of them. Down with academic a**holes! (down)


I know its a real pain, but try to rise above it. Sounds like you're dealing with yet another academic ego. This happens frequently, academics can be so narrow minded and some can enjoy putting other's work down because they believe their own work and research area is far superior, and so only value their own input. Bear this in mind and don't let others try and sway you. As long as you believe in what you are doing, keep at it! A major skill in doing a PhD is the ability to stand up and defend your own research. I have faced many supervisors who have tried to tear my work to pieces, but because I was able to give a good argument as to why the research was worthwhile and was able to show that I know what I'm talking about, and can think critically, I was able to earn their respect (even if they still didn't agree with me). I know it can be very offputting but I really think you will be ok, unfortunately in academia, it seems one has to develop a tough skin (easier said than done- I end up taking some criticism personally).


I have experienced this last month and it continues when I met my supervisor last week. I just don't understand the sudden change. It happened four days before I should submit my upgrading chapter. Previously, he had been so nice and even forward the relevant articles to me. A week before, he said that my progress is okey and I don't have to worry. However, lately, he always undermine me, saying that I'm average and he could see that even I manage to pass the upgrading session, he has doubt whether I manage to complete this PhD. For the time being, I try to gain my confidence and prepare for the upgrading. However, I would like to seek your opinion, what is the best thing I should do? (I'm thinking of change the supervisor actually since what he mentioned to me is not promising)


If she is nothing to do with your PhD and just another member in the department, I would tell her where to go.

My supervisor was married and his wife had her own PhD students in the same department.. his PhD students and hers all shared the same office.

Our office was fantastic, but she would come in, be a total cow to some of my friends as she was their supervisor and then try and do the same to me - She tried it once.... she didn't try it again.

Being rude and obnoxious should not be tolerated, whether in academia or in the work place - you can either try and ignore it.. or ask her straight out ' I notice you can sometimes be quite hostile towards me (make sure you have evidence to back it up) can I possibly ask, have I done something to offend you?' - be polite and assure her all you want to do is create a good working environment - then, she has the option of telling you why she is being a cow.... or stop it.

And if she doesn't.. I'd probably just blatently ignore her and refuse to talk to her if she's that rude.


Bullying is very common in research world. DO NOT TOLERATE IT.
A lot of bullies feed on the respect that you give them. Stop respecting them.


i think some people are like that. I am not really sure how to deal with them. It kinds of depends on how your biggest supervisor is like. One of my friends had such a pain-of-ass person is her thesis evaluation committee( I don't know how to say it properly), who complains about her work very negatively and rudely. later her biggest supervisor fired that person in the committee .. but not all biggest supervisors are nice people, in that case, either you become very smart to deal with them, or in my case, leave for a better place..


KaterinH - As stated in the previous replies, if she has no role in your research, rise above it. There are people who get their kicks from pushing the vulnerable down and academia is rife with it (anybody who has a notion that research is noble and everybody gets on with everybody is in cloud cuckoo land). Chances are that she actually does recognise that your work is good and may see you as a threat to her position in her crumbling ivory tower. In 2-3 years time, she will only be a distant memory - for now, treat her as the anti-thesis of what you aspire to be.
I would honestly call her bluff next time i.e. if you are doing it all wrong and reading the wrong stuff, what would she recommend doing - then just take note of all the inconsistencies and at the end point out where she is wrong. Actually, ask for constructive criticism (telling her any chimp can pick out faults - its recommending how to rectify these is the hard bit).
End of the day, keep your cool - you are not alone in your experience. But remember this bi**hes role in your work i.e. SWEET F.A.! You have your friends there as well - ask them what do they think of the situation.

Avatar for Eska

If you have to engage with this person I'd go along with Bonzo. But if you don't then I'd just make my excuses and leave her company as soon as I could, or you could tell her you are too busy working and don't have time to talk. If someone goes out of their way to do this then they think you are worth the effort. She is not, and she is also insulting your supervisor and department who do approve of your work, otherwise you wouldn't be studying with them. I wouldn't give her the time of day.


I agree with what someone else here said...if she goes out of her way to try to make you feel inferior, she clearly sees you as a threat. It's the academic equivalent of bitching about a beautiful girl: it's down to insecurity on some level. In fact (and tell me to shut up if I'm out of line here) but could it be a bit of that too? You're both female and you are quite possibly younger and smarter than her. It may well be simple jealousy.