abusive, insulting postdoc adviser

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abusive, insulting postdoc adviser

Postby AON » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:11 am

I'm 5 months into a postdoc and not sure how much longer I can last. My adviser is insulting, and humiliates me at least 2-3x a week. I am only just now learning that this man has a history of treating people poorly. Briefly, I can't even ask him a question about the science without him attacking me for something unrelated - such as the colors on my histogram. He humiliated me in front of a postdoc from a neighboring lab because I was unable to get a drywall anchor into the wall (I'm short and he asked me to mount something that was beyond my reach). The examples are endless so no need for me to list them all. The take home message is that I have chronic anxiety now, chronic stomach pain, I am probably drinking too much, my confidence and enthusiasm for science are eroding, and I am afraid I am stuck. I did a short postdoc elsewhere, but chose to move with my boyfriend so found this position in the new city. If I now leave this postdoc, I will look bad. It does not help that it is a prestigious university.
Any advice other than "talk to him" would be greatly appreciated. This is slowly killing me.
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Re: abusive, insulting postdoc adviser

Postby Caroline Ritchie » Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:25 am


I know it may feel like you are stuck, but the good news is you are not stuck working for this person. You have an abundance of options and can leave this unhealthy work environment. Based on your post, it doesn't seem that talking to your PI is going to help. If he/she is as nasty as it seems from your post, this person has to realize how hurtful he/she is coming across. It sounds like you need to get out of this situation as quickly as possible if it's affecting your health and love of science. Is there another faculty member or administrator at your university that you trust and can talk to? I think you just need the confidence and support that leaving this postdoctoral position after 5 months is not going to affect your career. You have a good reason for leaving that people (future hiring managers, etc.) will understand. Life is too short to be miserable. Best of luck!
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Re: abusive, insulting postdoc adviser

Postby PG » Thu Mar 02, 2017 2:35 pm

I agree with Caroline try to leave as soon as possible.

Having said that you can do this once and only once. You cant leave your next postdoc early as well or at least you cant do it without hurting your scientific career. Select your next lab carefully. If you leave early more than once a lot of people are going to start believing that the problem may be with you rather than with the PI.

When selecting a lab and a PI try to talk with previous postdocs from that lab and get their impressions about what is good and less good with the lab you are considering. Networking is good for many purposes.
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Re: abusive, insulting postdoc adviser

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:50 am

I agree with the above posts. Your physical and mental well-being are so important -- as is your love of science. Get out of there. You'll need to land somewhere and "stick" though -- that's the deal killer if the next one goes south,

“Humility is not my forte, and whenever I dwell for any length of time on my shortcomings, they gradually begin to seem mild, harmless, rather engaging little things; not at all like the glaring defects in other people’s characters.” - Margaret Halsey
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Re: abusive, insulting postdoc adviser

Postby Liv U. » Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:06 pm

I know how you feel I had pretty similar experience as Undergrad. However my supervisor treat the same way also postdoc and research associates. Every morning I had to go to the lab I had belly ache and anxiety attack. If you stay, you will be afraid and shy and more importantly you will undermine your scientific career.
Life is too short! Leave the lab as soon as you can.
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