Lotar Posted June 14, 2015 Share Posted June 14, 2015 Hi there, I've been reading up matters involving conflicts between grad students and their supervisors, as I am a PhD student and my supervisor revealed last week (pretty much out of the blue) that she hates me and wants to fire me. This came as a complete surprise, as at the start of last week I had just returned from a holiday (that she had approved) and I had thought things were going pretty well before my holiday. I've been too stressed out and ill to discuss this with friends yet, so hence I thought I'd try putting it up here to see what others think. Apologies for the long post, it takes a while to explain the details so you will know exactly what the situation is - I've tried not to be biased. Here's the story: I am studying for a PhD in computational chemistry. after only 7 months working on my PhD, we have been preparing a very large manuscript for JACS based largely on my results and those of an experimental colleague. So I thought I can't be doing too badly. The only thing my supervisor has warned me about is lateness to the lab. I admit to having been late a few times, that's my fault and I accept it (even if it is due to illness or forgetting to set my alarm clock etc.), but I do computational chemistry, and I work as late as I need to in the evening, so physically it makes virtually no difference when I arrive. Also, she hasn't adequately defined what "late" is, apart from that I should arrive before her. But even this is inconsistent - the last time she told me off for lateness, I actually arrived at the lab about a minute before she did (she saw me walking in to the building as she pulled up in the car park), but on another occasion I saw her driving in and waved good morning, and we didn't have any problems then. I would have thought that great results on the plus side with occasional lateness on the downside wouldn't make me a candidate for being fired, and this is how I thought things were before I took my holiday. So before I went away, having approved my holidays with my supervisor beforehand, I tied up loose ends with regards to the paper, sent all the relevant data to my supervisor, and I told her that if there were any problems, she could just email me and I'd be able to respond. So with that I go away on holiday, thinking that everything is OK. Two weeks later I arrive back in Spain (I'm British and I study in Spain). My flight was delayed, so while I was hoping to arrive on Sunday evening, I in fact arrived very early on Monday morning, and having had an all-round stressful journey, I didn't get to sleep until about 8:00am on Monday morning, so naturally I decided to take the day off to rest and just come back in on Tuesday. On Monday afternoon, after I woke up, I started to check through any emails I might have missed over the break, and I find one from my group's secretary, asking me if I am OK, so I reply, apologise for the slow response, and I explain that I wouldn't be in any fit state to work on Monday, but would be there the next day. She replies and says that's fine, and wishes me a good rest. I come to the lab on Tuesday morning, and I just pick up where I left off, I check my calculations, work on a poster for a conference, read over some papers etc. I notice my supervisor isn't talking to me, but she can be busy, so I figure it would be best not to bother her, and wait for her to be ready to discuss my work. This goes on until Friday afternoon, when she calls me to her office. I print out my latest results, bring my notebook, and head over, expecting to discuss scientific matters. Instead, after we sit down, she starts yelling at me about not being in on Monday. I explain the situation, with the delayed flight, and so then she says that it would have been fine if I had let them know in advance, but of course, I was trying to catch up on sleep when apparently I should have been hurrying to tell them that I was sleep deprived and wouldn't be in the lab. Going to my PC to send a bunch of emails isn't what you do when you're exhausted after spending all day stuck on planes and buses. So then she goes on to something else. She complains that I hadn't completed a relevant form for a student discount for a conference we're going to. This I admit is true - I'd completely forgotten as I was working on the paper. As it turns out, everyone bar one of my colleagues had also forgotten. So, my supervisor sends the conference organisers an email on behalf of all of my colleagues (but not me) asking for the discount. She didn't say why she did this, it must have been purely out of spite. I can't understand why, as she's wasting her own money, just to make my life difficult. The she goes on about the lateness (I hadn't been late since arriving back after my holiday, so I'm a little unsure as to why we didn't discuss this before I went away), and then drops the bomb that she's considering firing me and I've got three months to get my act together. Naturally, I was horrified at this - I was hoping that we were just going to discuss my results. Eventually we did get onto the scientific matters, I presented some nice new results, and then we discussed the stuff we're going to start tomorrow (which she blamed me for not starting earlier in the week "because I wasn't in the lab", but of course I was there from Tuesday and she could have spoken to me at any time during the week). So in the end I make a grovelling apology, promise to be a good boy, and go back to my desk white as a sheet. Can any of you make sense of this? I was completely shocked by this discussion, for as far as I was aware, my occasional tardiness was the only issue, and I don't think that's a good enough reason to fire a student who has produced a lot of good results in a short time frame. As for the conference discount form, if everyone else forgot, why am I the only one being threatened with losing my post for it? It was an honest mistake, I just forgot, and besides, she could have just sent me an angry email while I was on holiday, which I would have read and just sorted it out. I received precisely zero emails from her. And as for taking the day after my flight off, there was absolutely no indication that this is was a problem. And if the lateness was so much of an issue, then why didn't we discuss this before I went on holiday? Why did she even let me go on holiday, if my lateness was such a problem that she would consider firing me? I think she has done this purely as a spiteful intimidation tactic. I've been quite stressed out and physically ill with an undiagnosed abdomial problem since March (she doesn't know this, I'm having a gastroscopy in a few weeks), so I was trying my best to keep on going until we had most of the paper manuscript finished before asking for a holiday. Now I feel physically even worse (I've not left my bed all weekend with the pain), and even more stressed than before, and I feel like I've wasted two weeks of my limited holiday time. When she was shouting at me, she even complained that I've taken too many holidays, despite the fact that I haven't had a single day off (apart from illness) since Christmas, and she approved my holidays in advance. I have a colleague who has been here for two months less than me who has taken more holidays than I have, and will be taking even more in the summer, so compared to this colleague, I haven't had much time off at all. Any advice? Sorry for the long post, but I just needed to get this off my chest. I haven't told anyone else about this yet. I was seriously considering resigning, but today I'm feeling that I should stick at it, as just giving up would make it way too easy for her. It looks like she deliberately let me go on holiday just so that she could prepare this nasty surprise for my return. OK, so I have made a few infractions, but she made no previous indication that I was going to be fired for it, and she seems to have completely ignored the fact that what will probably be her biggest paper of 2015 is almost entirely composed of my work (the computational stuff, that is, I'm not counting the experimental side which our colleagues abroad are handling). I haven't a clue what employment law is like in Spain, so I have no idea if I have any legal recourse. Thanks in advance for any comments, I appreciate advice and support. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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