Can supervisor get rid of me for asking for time off due to ill health?

posted
19-May-13, 16:20
Avatar for Anxious_PhDgirl
posted about 7 years ago
Hi,

I know it might sound like a silly question, but I'm really stressed out about this at the minute. I've been ill on and off all through my PhD so far, and now I'm in second year and finally starting to feel a bit better, but I feel like I really need a break after the stress of everything, even just a week or so to recharge my batteries.

My partner is pressuring me about a holiday we're supposed to go on in a couple of months so we can book flights, but because I've had the odd day off here and there due to illness and my supervisor was getting more and more irritated, there was never a good time to ask for time off. Now I'm thinking if I ask for a week off in a few weeks' time (and explain that this gives me time to get some more data, get back into the swing of experiments etc.), what if my supervisor just says he's had enough?

I'm really panicking, I haven't been able to stop thinking about this for the last few days at all. I could really do with a break after everythng, and my health should be more important, but my supervisor's been so funny with me lately and has made so many snide remarks about my health that I just feel like he'll say this is the final straw if I ask for time off!

Any advice/kind words would be really helpful right now! Sorry for such a negative post, I've nowhere else to turn right now.

Thanks! Xx
posted
19-May-13, 19:04
Avatar for Natassia
posted about 7 years ago
Sorry to hear that you've been having a tough time. Although we try not to let it happen, life does get in the way of our research sometimes.

I think that this depends on the structure of your PhD and how you are funded. It sounds like your research is a project that your supervisor has structured and that he is also working on it, therefore you are more obliged to work with him (and his deadlines, schedule etc.) than a PhD student who has developed their own project. It also sounds like you are fully funded, in which case you probably have to ask for time off in advance, like a job. Please correct me if I'm wrong though, but it would be useful to hear a little more about your situation so that I/we can give you some advice.

I do think that you are entitled to a break though, and as you say that you are in your second year and collecting data it doesn't sound like you're behind. Do you even have to ask him for time off?
posted
19-May-13, 19:21
Avatar for Anxious_PhDgirl
posted about 7 years ago
Hi Natassia,

Thanks for your reply. I'm doing a science PhD so the project was designed and organised by my supervisor, and I'm fully funded by a grant that he got for the project before I started (I was essentially 'recruited' to take on the project because I had relevant experience). I am behind schedule due to a combination of experiments not working and poor health, and although I've done my best to keep on track I think he's now concerned about my progress.

In the past I've always asked for time off in advance if I wanted it, and I've kept him informed when I've needed to take a morning here or there for medical appointments, and always made up the time by working into the evening or at weekends. The time I'd like off isn't a leave of absence or anything long term, it's just a week that I'd happily take as part of my holiday allowance (we're told we're entitled to 6 weeks off each year, but in all honesty I've never taken more than 3 weeks off for fear of falling behind). The reason I'm stressing though is because recently his attitude has changed - at first he was sympathetic that I was doing my best despite feeling unwell, and now he's piling on the pressure and seems to get irritated when I talk to him about my work. He doesn't fully understand the time scales of my experiments and I think he's starting to think I'm fobbing him off when I say it'll take a couple of weeks to get results, etc.

I know my supervisor will be annoyed that I want this time off, but in all honesty it's been an incredibly stressful few months (to the point where I well up whenever anyone asks how I am etc) and I really feel that a break is needed. Any advice on how to approach him about this?
posted
20-May-13, 03:40
by tt_dan
Avatar for tt_dan
posted about 7 years ago
Quote From Anxious_PhDgirl:
The reason I'm stressing though is because recently his attitude has changed - at first he was sympathetic that I was doing my best despite feeling unwell, and now he's piling on the pressure and seems to get irritated when I talk to him about my work. He doesn't fully understand the time scales of my experiments and I think he's starting to think I'm fobbing him off when I say it'll take a couple of weeks to get results, etc.


Hi Anxious_PhDgirl,

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. In what way is he piling on the pressure and showing irritation? Maybe after explaining it, we can have a more clear view of the situation?
posted
20-May-13, 10:07
Avatar for thumbelina
posted about 7 years ago
I am sorry to hear about your situation, I am in a similar position except my supervisors are being ok with me. At my university we have an independent panel member who we can go to if we have any issues regarding our supervisors, do you have someone similar you could talk to? Have you contacted the disability services at your university? They can do an assessment and write to your supervisor outlining reasonable adjustments that should be implemented to make your PhD easier on you. Might it be worth considering a short formal leave of absence to help you get on top of your illness completely? I took 3 months off at the end of last year and it really helped me to get a better grip on my health without the added pressure of being at uni. Part of the decision process in deciding to take time of through the appropriate channels was that I would get this time back, my submission deadline has gone from Sept to Dec.

With regards to the expectation of getting results, I get that too. My PhD is around method development in using a piece of equipment. Due to costs I can only use it 2 days a week. As you can imagine there is always more things I want to do than there is time so often it takes a few weeks to do the experiments they suggest. I plan my week, and bring it along to any meetings I have with my supervisors in part to remind me what I am doing and when but it also shows them that I am thinking about how I am spending my days. Do you think something like this would help with your supervisor?

Sorry for the long reply. If you ever want someone to talk to please feel free to message me. best wishes.

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