Supervisor insults his other students in front of me... makes me feel uncomfortable


Hi, my supervisor has a tendency to insult the other students he is supervising in front of me and it makes me feel rather uncomfortable. He details examples of their academic problems/misunderstandings and states that they are not capable and probably have learning disabilities/mental health problems. I have in the past suggested that perhaps these students are having difficulties with the pace of the work but that it doesn't necessarily indicate that they are incapable... but he disagrees with me and I often feel I have to bite my tongue when I'm around him (I feel infuriated by his belligerence). What worries me is that he may say the same thing to others about me and it really destroys my confidence in front of him to the extent where I feel I'm giving him ammunition to conclude that I have some kind of a learning disorder (I'm often nervous and appear confused about a number of issues around him). On one level, it's so ridiculous that it's funny - but actually it's really affecting my self esteem.

Has anyone else had any similar experiences and can anyone advise accordingly how to handle such a situation?


Hi Jeezdoo - sounds like my supervisor. I always wondered the same thing about what mine was saying behind my back. I'm not sure who exactly it is supposed to help behaving in such a way. In my experience there wasn't much I could do, the other students were aware of his behaviour and just ignored him. Thats not to say what my supervisor was saying was acceptable. It wasn't. You could have a word with your head of school. Where I am, its such a small backwards place that no-one can keep their mouth shut and sooner or later it would get back to them. Bear that in mind. Good luck. If you do hear not so nice things being said about you, its probably saying a lot about your supervisors self-esteem (and perhaps whats going wrong in their life) than yours. Chin up, and keep working on your PhD. There are a lot of jerks out there, unfortuntely.


Hey Jeezdoo, my supervisor does this as well, all the time. It make me paranoid as well, wondering what she says to other students behind my back. She doesn't just bitch about their work, although this is one of her favourite topics, she bitches about people's private lives as well. I don't know why she feels the need to do this, because she knows I'm good friends with all of the rest of the team. I just try not to participate in any such conversations. I do know she that she told a team-mate (and very good friend of mine) that my engagement to my boyfriend a few months ago was 'just ridiculous' because 'none of her friends went about behaving like that', but then she pretty much said it to my face as well. Quite frankly it's none of her business anyway. But then she's told me other students' work is rubbish, that they're never going to pass their PhD etc. I wish she's just keep it to herself, and I just ignore it as far as possible. I think that's all you can do. Best, KB


There are a lot of supervisors I have seen who are of similar characteristics. I hate such supervisors and it’s as like as if they hate their job. They shouldn’t be working as supervisors if they aren’t able to guide as a mentor. I hope for a day when such supervisors are insulted and thrashed by their superiors.


Wow, your supervisor sounds like a real jerk! How extremely unprofessional. It's also cruel of him to do it in front of you. Clearly, he has to know that you may suspect that he talks about you in the same manner? I mean, it's logical for you to think that he is doing the same thing to you as well.

Well, just hang in there. Do your best to complete your studies, and definitely don't discuss too many personal issues about yourself with him. Keep it professional. Like a poster said, your supervisors actions says a lot about his esteem or lack there of. BTW, doesn't everyone go through some academic problems at some point? Don't let that deter you.