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What to do when your former mentor pisses you off


niceweather
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I was in a doctoral program where I was disrespected and falsely accused for no reason until last year. In the end, I decided to drop out with a master's degree because the level of bad treatment was heightening and I was having problems both mentally and physically.

 

I stayed on good terms with two professors whom I met in the program and who guided me to actually transition to my current field of study which is slightly different from the previous one. They wrote me good letters of rec. for all my PhD applications and one of them, A,  suggested throwing a party for me when this semester wraps up. I agreed and it all sounded perfect until I got an email from B with whom I have not spoken to ever since I graduated.

 

B was one of my two advisers in the prior program and also someone who was part of the rumor, changed her words on me, and talked me into dropping out of the program in the end. I got fed up with B's pretentiousness so I just cut her out of my life last year so as not to be disturbed by any of the bad memories and sufferings I have had.

 

What happened to the email was that A cc'd B in her latest email to me to invite B to the party. B's email was a formal congratulations note with an acceptance of the invitation. I found this very inappropriate on A's end so I did not email back any of them. I would not care to stay in touch with B at all because she's not in my field anymore. However, A would be a great asset both as my former mentor and future colleague so I do not wish to burn the bridge I have with A. What do you think I should do? 

 

This thing's been lingering on my mind for the past week and I really think I need an answer now.

Edited by niceweather
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I think you need to deal with it and grow up. Honestly, your going to have to deal with people you don't like. You don't have to be advised by them, but your going to have to deal with them no matter where you go. Just be polite when you see B. 

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Well, as I see it, you could either go talk to A about your discomfort with the situation and take a chance on making things more awkward because obviously A doesn't have a problem with B.  Or you could accept that B accepted the invitation, but may or may not show up, and you can ignore B at the party or if necessary give the polite acknowledgement.  If your goal is to keep A happy, you may just have to suck it up and try to deal with B being there.  Hopefully there will be lots of other guests so you aren't forced to socialize with B very much beyond acknowledging B's presence.  Sometimes we must do the thing we think we cannot do, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt.

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I'm really not seeing what A did that pissed you off so badly. They're throwing a party, and invited someone you don't particularly like. 

 

I'm not sure why you see that as inappropriate. Perhaps you should trust the judgement of someone you consider a great mentor?

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Grin and bear it.  You will always have to deal with people you don't like.  It is part of life.  B may not even actually show up.  If she does, it is never good to burn bridges, even if you think you will never need them. 

 

Also, I know it hurts to forgive, but try.  You will be better for it, I promise you.  It doesn't mean saying what they did was ok, but carrying a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

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I agree with the others that I don't think Prof A knows that you and Prof B don't get along. Prof B might not even know that you aren't happy with them! I don't think you should blame Prof A for inviting Prof B.

 

I also agree with the others that sometimes it's best to move on and that you will have to interact with people you don't like. The exception would be if being in the same room as Prof B would make you extremely uncomfortable (not sure why your relationship with Prof B is not good, but I can think of some reasons where it would not be possible for you to simply "move on"). 

 

If it is just not possible for you to be in the same room as Prof B, I have two suggestions. Both involve not placing blame on Prof A though, because it does not sound like Prof A knows inviting Prof B would upset you. Two potential suggestions:

 

1. Talk to Prof A and explain that you do not get along with Prof B any more. Explain why clearly. Maybe Prof A can talk to Prof B and ask Prof B not to come. This would only work if you and Prof A have a good relationship, which it does sound like you have.

 

2. I'm assuming this party will involve your old department, are there still students or other colleagues in the program that you can count on to help you? If so, confide in them that being near Prof B will make you very uncomfortable and ask them to look out for you and if it looks like you and Prof B are about to have a one-on-one conversation, ask them to come in and "steal" you away (e.g. "Hey niceweather! I need you to come talk to me in private for a minute...etc.) or redirect Prof B's attention or something. 

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Grin and bear it.  You will always have to deal with people you don't like.  It is part of life.  B may not even actually show up.  If she does, it is never good to burn bridges, even if you think you will never need them. 

 

Also, I know it hurts to forgive, but try.  You will be better for it, I promise you.  It doesn't mean saying what they did was ok, but carrying a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

 

Thanks a lot. This eases things a bit. I'll probably hear this in mind for a quite long time from now. Thanks :)

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I agree with the others that I don't think Prof A knows that you and Prof B don't get along. Prof B might not even know that you aren't happy with them! I don't think you should blame Prof A for inviting Prof B.

 

I also agree with the others that sometimes it's best to move on and that you will have to interact with people you don't like. The exception would be if being in the same room as Prof B would make you extremely uncomfortable (not sure why your relationship with Prof B is not good, but I can think of some reasons where it would not be possible for you to simply "move on"). 

 

If it is just not possible for you to be in the same room as Prof B, I have two suggestions. Both involve not placing blame on Prof A though, because it does not sound like Prof A knows inviting Prof B would upset you. Two potential suggestions:

 

1. Talk to Prof A and explain that you do not get along with Prof B any more. Explain why clearly. Maybe Prof A can talk to Prof B and ask Prof B not to come. This would only work if you and Prof A have a good relationship, which it does sound like you have.

 

2. I'm assuming this party will involve your old department, are there still students or other colleagues in the program that you can count on to help you? If so, confide in them that being near Prof B will make you very uncomfortable and ask them to look out for you and if it looks like you and Prof B are about to have a one-on-one conversation, ask them to come in and "steal" you away (e.g. "Hey niceweather! I need you to come talk to me in private for a minute...etc.) or redirect Prof B's attention or something. 

 

Thanks for the posting! I guess I wasn't clear about the party in my writing. It was more of a celebration between A and me, which is why I thought it was so inappropriate and out of the blue for A to invite B by sharing our whole email thread with B without asking me about it first :( 

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I'm really not seeing what A did that pissed you off so badly. They're throwing a party, and invited someone you don't particularly like. 

 

I'm not sure why you see that as inappropriate. Perhaps you should trust the judgement of someone you consider a great mentor?

 

Thanks for the posting. A used the word "party" in the email but it was supposed to be more of celebration between A and myself, which is why I think it was inappropriate for her to suddenly invite B without asking me first. At least, that's what I do when I want to invite someone over. 

Edited by niceweather
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Thanks for the posting. A used the word "party" in the email but it was supposed to be more of celebration between A and myself, which is why I think it was inappropriate for her to suddenly invite B without asking me first. At least, that's what I do when I want to invite someone over. 

So the 'party' will only involve the three of you? That might be awkward.

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So the 'party' will only involve the three of you? That might be awkward.

^Damn... I'd be pissed too if it's only the three of you.

If it's like that, then do definitely confide in A about your discomfort with B.

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^Damn... I'd be pissed too if it's only the three of you.

If it's like that, then do definitely confide in A about your discomfort with B.

 

I would strongly advise against doing that. A obviously doesn't think that there is anything wrong between the OP and B. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if B doesn't think that there is anything wrong, either. I can't see anything good coming out of introducing this intrigue to A and telling him about whatever is (perceived to be) wrong with B. I would do my best to keep the relationship professional and free of personal drama. A is clearly a supporter, and B might actually be one as well. Either way, telling A about problems with his colleague might make him uncomfortable and in case the story is more complicated than the OP is sharing or thinks it is (which I would be willing to bet is the case, since B has her own side of the story), it may cause A to think less of the OP. If this is all just about avoiding one dinner/party interaction with B, I hardly think it's worth the risk. OP, I think you need to get over it. Nothing bad has been done to you here.

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If you are close with A, then there's always the opportunity to take them out for lunch/dinner as a "Thank You/Goodbye" gesture somewhen in the near future. If you're the one doing the organising then you can invite whom you like. If Prof A is organising a gathering on your behalf, then I think they do have the freedom to invite who they see fit (the language they used you may have interpreted the event as a "one-on-one Thing", when their intent was something different. That often happens, and it's hard to blame).

 

If you really doubt your ability to keep civil around Prof B, I would recommend replying to them both with "Great! Can I invite along [small number of coworkers/group members/other awesome faculty] too?" At least that will provide some buffer.

 

But really, there's no point in holding a grudge against Prof B. They may not be a nice person, and you may never consider yourself a fan of them...but you can still treat them with polite respect when you meet in person. Accept their words of congratulations. Although you are bitter, it sounds as if everything is working out well for you: you've successfully changed fields & programs, you have 1 (or more!) former advisors supporting you through the process. That's great. If Prof B wrote you letters of rec for the PhD program (and more importantly, wrote you a successful letter that got you accepted) then I think you owe them a Thank You and the benefit of the doubt.

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