Official complaint against supervisor


Hi everyone,

I'm on the verge of putting in an official complaint against my primary supervisor. There's been lots of things happening which have led to this, but suffice to say I'm sick of putting up with his shit.

Amongst other things he got my started off in my PhD by telling me to get started on writing a review paper. After spending 6 months on this and not making much progress (writing a review paper for someone new in the field sheesh) I finally got to get started at lab work after telling him how little progress I was making. I then discover later that this review (which originally was going to be dual first author) was passed fully onto the student who I was meant to be working with. Trouble is, I had no say in the matter and I only found out months after the decision was made when I had a bout of curiosity and asked 'so what are you currently working on?'.

Any of the publications plans we have had have not been following because he keeps directing me to work on something else. So currently I have no story to my project with lot of half finished stuff sitting in the sidelines.

We then get to official checkup meeting and he lies through his teeth about how much he's trying to get everyone to start writing (bollocks) and how my project has been planned out from the start.

As far as I know, no one in my building has put in official complaint like I am considering so I don't think there is an official process that can be followed. But I'm hoping some people around here might give some tips on how to deal with as well as what might be some generic processes in places at other institutions.

Avatar for sneaks

Which year are you in?

So to summarise - this is what I got from your post - 1) your sup keeps changing their mind what your're working on and you never get anything finished. 2) he has passed a review on to someone else that you started.

If it were me I'd tackle the review issue by scheduling a meeting with you and the other student and your supervisor. And I'd take along a list of potential journals where you could publish it. In this meeting I would discuss 1) how will it be included in your thesis if the other student has worked on it 2) where to publish it, and the order of the authors.

To tackle the overall issue of sups style, you need to take charge of your Phd, sounds like my sup - she forgets what she's asked me to do and gets me flitting between projects with no real end result. I've learnt to do what she asks to an extent, but also carry on with what I think I should be doing, even if it means working longer hours. If I were you, I'd start writing on anything - everything WILL be used in the thesis to some extent, even if its copying a pasting 200 words from 2000, its worth it at the end.

I would also suggest that you speak to your supervisor about his style and about his expectations for you over the next 6 months. Maybe plan out some clear deadlines that you have to meet, so he knows what you are working for and send him an update email every week or so, specifically related to these deadlines e.g.

Deadline 1: we agreed to finish writing a paper on Theory x. Progress: I have completed 2000 words on xyz aspect of Theory X and hope to complete by next month.....

I wouldn't rush to officially complain without consulting your sup and discussing your concerns - it could look a little immature in the sense that he'd exect you to come to him with these issues first.


Hey! I know it's infuriating but I would really not go down the route of putting in a complaint if you can help it. There has been a really horrible situation in our lab recently where a PhD student cocked up big time, then blamed the supervisor (it was entirely the PhD student's fault) and complained that she hadn't given her adequate training blah blah blah. It all got really out of proportion and the result? The girl has been thrown off her PhD, her supervisors have refused to supervise her any longer, and her only option (with one funded year remaining) is to think of a new project, find new supervisors and find 2 more years funding. Needless to say, no-one else wants to supervise her and her chances of completing a PhD, at least at this university, are over. I know it's a different situation because you haven't actually done anything wrong to start with, but the whole complaint thing can create a lot of bad feeling and get really nasty- I really would try other ways of sorting things out before taking that route. Just my opinion though! Best, KB


What have you done to try and take control of the situation? Part of the PhD is about becoming an independent researcher - and one of the biggest pitfalls I've seen a lot of complaints on here is that people fail to take enough of their own control. It's as much about managing your supervisor as your supervisor managing you. It's very easy to blame the supervisor without taking responsibility for guiding your own study.

You have little basis for a complaint, at least based on what you have told us. I'm wondering if you however are a litle bit naive about what a PhD is about and aren't taking control of it and expecting your supervisor to do all the management of it. Take ownership and steer your own course.


Well said DanB!! Your answer applies to alot of the problems people have with there supervisor, too many people want to be told what to do alot...


I agree to a point DanB but in my case my supervisors wouldn't provide much feedback. I would give them my work and I had real problems getting it returned. I guess you could say in this respect they took ownership of my work :p Actually it stuns me that I call them supervisors:-s