Jesus fucking H Christ, my supervisor is an idiot!

Just have to put this out here. Where I’d been accusing my supervisor of not getting back to me with comments, he had prepared comments and MANAGED NOT TO SEND THEM.

I THINK THAT IS WORSE THAN SEEMINGLY IGNORING ME.

This would not be the first time he’s convinced himself he sent an email when in fact he hadn’t. A prime example of that would be when I emailed to say I was going off sick with stress for two weeks and he didn’t respond at all.

So, on top of him not sending his comments on my draft for over 6 weeks, when I finally got to read them tonight, one comment really took the biscuit.

Mmm, biscuit.
Sorry. Distracted.

He’d managed to claim that the thing that was my idea was actually his and that he’d told me to do it all along, when in truth, he’d opposed me from the beginning.

It needs a lot of backstory, apologies.

A long time ago, back in my first year of my PhD, I was tasked with making a fluorophore, sorry, fluorescent protein tagged Bacterial Artificial Chromosome construct. In fact, I was supposed to make two. For those that don’t know, BACs are plasmids on steroids. They can hold something like 300 kilobase pairs (kbp) of DNA, compared to the usual, easy-to-work-with plasmids that hold about 5 kbp at a push. That’s the difference between the architect’s blueprints for a skyscraper and a child’s crayon drawing of a house in genetic information terms.

Now, BACs are a complete and utter pain in the arse to work with and there are no shortcuts. You fuck it up? You start again from the beginning, preparing your BAC DNA prep from scratch. Oh, and by the way, it takes a full week just to prep the DNA.

I wasted the better part of 18 months, trying to get the bastard things to behave, and ultimately had to abandon them at the end of Year Two because I only had another 18 months lab time left, with nothing to show for it so far. That was worryingly behind the curve, even allowing for the general life sciences PhD pattern of nothing in your first year working ever.

While the BACs were making me horribly depressed (nothing like repeated failure to make a perfectionist feel suicidal*), I was also working on making some much, much simpler plasmid constructs. These were also not a simple to make as promised and the bulk of the work took four months, and some constructs I didn’t actually finish until 6 months before the end of my lab work phase. Yay.

I made these plasmids, despite my supervisor’s repeated instructions to focus on the BACs at the expense of everything else. Even when it got the point where I’d been working on them on and off for 18 months, with 18 months left in the lab, he still didn’t want me to quit them.

“Just one more try! Caliope’s managed it and made hers even though it took her over two and a half years. Why can’t you? Go on, just one more shot. Nevermind that you have nothing (seriously nothing) positive to your name at this point.”

That is the bullshit he gave me the entire time.

Imagine my surprise then, when I find a comment in the draft that implied it was his idea that my original goal was to make the plasmids first to inform the construction of the BACs.

Seriously, has he completely forgotten what he said to me in all those pointless meetings where I nodded and smiled and acquiesced to his dictats that I should focus on the BACs and nothing else? Nevermind that without those plasmids I slaved over, I would have nothing to show for my time in the lab? Nevermind that I essentially had to go behind his back and lie through my teeth about what I was doing in the lab because he was so against it?

What the ACTUAL HELL?!!!

I. CAN’T. EVEN.

It’s just astounding. He seems to lack an vital part of the usual memory functions. He re-interprets everything like it was his idea and the whole world revolves around him. Even to the point of stealing others’ stories and telling them like they’re his, IN FRONT OF the person whose story it actually was and who therefore knows he is a lying liar who bullshits? Just, ugh, really? Is that how he sees it?

I was going to write a nice post about him and how our meeting yesterday was actually really helpful and productive. You know, how I came away feeling positive, and like I might have a hope at editing this draft into something resembling a decent thesis chapter.

Oh well.

It reminds me once again, that he is not safe. We might get on occassionally, and things might seem fine and perfectly amicable on the surface. But if you scratch that veneer away, you’ll find that I do not trust him. Not an inch. Which sucks, because every once in a while he’ll do something that gives you the slightest hope that maybe this time he won’t subtly destroy you, and might actually give you the approval and support you need. Give it a day, though, and he’s sure to do something that will really hurt.

So no matter how much you want to trust him and like him, you have to remeber, he is not a safe space.

I don’t have the words to describe how much heartache this fact has caused me.

 

*Oh, and FYI, not joking about the being depressed and suicidal. I nearly go kicked off the PhD programme all together because my work output in the first year was so abysmal. Nevermind that the reason for that was that I was depressed.

Crying all the time, at my desk, for no-one to NOTICE. (How do you not notice a person crying in an open plan office?) When I wasn’t sleeping at night and so was falling asleep at my desk when I wasn’t crying. When I didn’t come into uni for two weeks because I thought I’d broken a really expensive piece of equipement and was convinced it was the END OF THE WORLD? I had to get Caliope to meet me outside because the thought of walking into the building had me on the verge of panic. When I used to stay out late because returning to the hell that was my roommate situation was so desperate that I was half convinced it would be better to walk the streets all night even though that was to risk getting mugged or raped (actually a serious risk where I lived).

Yeah, basically, not joking.

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10 thoughts on “Jesus fucking H Christ, my supervisor is an idiot!

  1. “It reminds me once again, that he is not safe. We might get on occassionally, and things might seem fine and perfectly amicable on the surface. But if you scratch that veneer away, you’ll find that I do not trust him. Not an inch. Which sucks, because every once in a while he’ll do something that gives you the slightest hope that maybe this time he won’t subtly destroy you, and might actually give you the approval and support you need. Give it a day, though, and he’s sure to do something that will really hurt.

    So no matter how much you want to trust him and like him, you have to remeber, he is not a safe space.

    I don’t have the words to describe how much heartache this fact has caused me.”

    Oh man, do I know that all too well. Have had multiple supervisors/bosses like this. They want to SEEM like a person you can trust/talk to like a friend/consider a mentor but they will screw you as soon as that is more convenient for them than keeping their promises. I hate this, so much.

    Incidentally, also an excellent description of the relationship I have with my parents, but that’s another story entirely.

  2. The guy sounds like a narcissist. Probably if he though you thought he was anything but gods gift to the world he would be heart broken and claim to be the victim. Don’t trust him ever, he will not change and he is only being nice in order to manipulate you. Although probably he is doing it all unconsciously, which is how he can on occasions make you forget that he is a very unpleasant person. I’ve worked with a few people like this and they are extremely triggering for me. Whilst it may not be his intention to be the way he is and he probably suffers a lot in the grand scheme of things as a result that doesn’t make it any less damaging to you. You must remember at all times that he is not a safe space and accept that is the truth. I get the impression that you keep wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt and expect that next time it will be different. It wont, he can’t change that easily, and he probably doesn’t want to as he will think it is everybody else who is the problem. Sorry to rant, as I said people like that are very triggering for me. Take care, and good luck with your thesis, its an amazing achievement to get as far as you’ve got.

    • He could be, I’ve thought it before but that thing with the not diagnosing people with mental health/personality disorders.
      Either way, no, I don’t trust him and can’t wait to be out of the situation where I’m supposed to act like I do. I don’t attribute malice to him but I’m not sure that makes it easier? At least he’s not deliberately being a dickwad, but he is still *being* a dickwad, so… Yeah. Difficult. Also, I know he won’t change, but part of me doesn’t want to give up and does want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because you’re not supposed to give up on people, right? They can’t truly be that bad? Not when they’re people you’re supposed to be able to trust? I find myself thinking of the situation with the ex-housemate/ex-pseudo-girlfriend who right royally fucked me over because I refused to believe she was capable of it. And then to find that she was, and he is. And so I find myself “wonderly wroth”, to quote Le Morte d’Arthur. And as I’ve said previously, my anger is my shield, my pet Rageasaurus that will defend me if I allow it.

      Thanks for your good wishes. I’m daily amazed that I am in fact still here, despite the shit of the last four years.

      • I was using narcissist in its colloquial usage rather than its psychological usage. I suppose it is entirely possible that the person does have narcissistic personality disorder but as you pointed out that’s not for us to diagnose.

        I found that thinking of my trust as a precious gift, I don’t give it to just anyone, that means that it is all the more important when I do give it. Someone has to earn my trust over time and if they don’t or do and then repeatedly violate it then I don’t trust them. It doesn’t matter who they are. If they are untrustworthy that is their problem if I trust them I make it mine, I am not obliged to take on other peoples problems. Perhaps that makes me a bad/selfish person, or perhaps it makes me a happier healthier person.

        Unfortunately you are in a position of having to be ‘nice’. Its horrible and I really feel for you, it sucks.

        The problem with anger as a shield is that it often ends up being turned inwards and we attack ourselves (I still do that unfortunately) eventually succumbing to depression. It’s probably better to stop expecting him to be anything other than what he is and that isn’t a nice person. Its OK to give up on someone. That way you won’t be disappointed and hurt and then you won’t need so much anger. If you are less angry he will probably be easier to deal with and if he is easier to deal with your relationship will improve (always remembering he is who he is, not falling back into old patterns). Much easier said than done I know but if you can manage it even only on occasions it may help, it did for me.

        You have my respect, you are coping extremely well under horrible circumstances. Most people struggle with a PhD let alone having to deal with depression and a horrid supervisor as well. It probably doesn’t feel it some days but you are an amazingly strong and inspirational person.

        • Thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot.

          I’ll go with yes, colloquially, he’s a complete narcissist. Worse than anyone else I’ve ever had to work with.

          Good points about trust. I tend not to give it to many people but to those to whom I do, it happens quite quickly and then it’s hard to undo.

          I’m also familiar with turning anger inwards into depression. In fact, it was probably one of the bigger contributing factors. That’s why I’m trying hard to remember anger is a legit response and that there are better ways to express it than numbing myself. Hard work though.
          keeping a lid on it in front of him is easy though as that’s my default behavior. I can make nice and deferential like you wouldn’t believe but the minute I’m safely away with trusted friends, it all comes out.

          I’m hoping one day I’ll learn to use my anger constructively and direct it where it ought to go. In the mean time, it really is only a few months more then I won’t have to deal with him after graduation. Looking forward to that!

  3. I just about had a heart attack for you reading the title of this post – and then I remembered that you’re blogging anonymously, so it’s okay, you can say this stuff. Whew! 🙂

    Seriously though, that sounds so frustrating. You know how bad he is, but I can understand completely how hard it is to really believe that someone is like that. You keep thinking, “Maybe there’s actually some logic and kindness in there…” Nope. Trust your judgement. Keep yourself safe.

    I’ve been dealing with some frustrations with people higher up the career ladder than me (and if anyone is creepily stalking me, since I do not blog anonymously, let me say that I am NOT talking about my supervisor!) so I’m taking some vicarious pleasure in your well-expressed anger. Thank you!

    • Yeah, there’s a reason (several reasons!) I blog under a pseudonym and didn’t rant on fb. Things that would not serve me well.

      Yup, pretty much. It knocks me for six every damn time even though it’s been going on for four years at this stage. And it sucks all the more when all the “survive your phd” advice includes things like “maintain an amicable working relationship with your supervisor”, “manage your supervisor”, “be honest with them about any difficulties”. Like, yeah, sure, that’s totally possible!

      Glad I can be of service. 😉 hope things get resolved soon.

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