Handling a Rude/Mean Advisor

I have a friend who is in the last year of her PhD. She has been working extremely hard lately because her advisor is asking a lot from her. Unfortunately, it’s a bit overwhelming for her. Her advisor, who may be a great researcher, is a complete jerk. In fact, none of his students like him. I don’t know the man personally, but he does come off a bit pretentious. I have nothing against him but when my friend is hurt due to things he has said to her, I really take offense to that.

She has a rude advisor. Now, I am very fortunate and have an amazing advisor. He is super supportive, incredibly helpful, and also helps me grow as a researcher. These are all really good qualities to look for with an advisor. My friend’s advisor does little of this and it is really affecting her self esteem. I can offer some suggestions if you happen to have an adviser that you may not get along with or is just a jerk. Hopefully you don’t have to deal with this, but it can happen.

Woman in Black Jacket Sitting at Table

1) Talk to your advisor about the situation.

They could be completely oblivious to the fact that they are treating you this way. Make it know that it is unacceptable to be treated this way. This is often extremely difficult to do, so many students will do everything but this. Talking with them may make things much worse. This should be the very first thing you do, but it might be the hardest.

2) Ask yourself if they are actually rude or if you are just thinking they are.

Some things that people think are rude are actually not. I struggled with this for a very long time, especially in grad school. Some times constructive criticism is seem as being rude or mean, when actually it’s really not. So, before thinking your advisor is being rude or mean, ask yourself if it’s actually rude or you are taking it the wrong way. This may save a lot of unwanted suffering later.

3) Talk to the Department Head

Go straight to the boss. This could be the department head or the dean of the college. Let them know about what is going on and see if there are ways to handle this. Your advisors boss may actually talk with them and let them know that they need to be better. This can be very difficult to do as well. But if you are in a position where you feel down all of the time, this might be the best option prior to going to #4.

4) Get a new advisor.

Life is too short to be miserable. After a while, you may realize that your advisor is not the right fit. This is totally fine and you can find a different one. I knew a grad student that was a doctorate student since 2013 and went through I believe 3 advisors until he found the right fit. He is now a research scientist with his doctorate and a great career. His first advisor didn’t care much about him only because the student was being funded by someone else. I thought this was crazy that someone wouldn’t like their student because of funding.

Hopefully you never have to experience a mean or rude advisor. They can really cause a ton of unwanted stress in grad school. If you are in a situation like this, look for help. You do not need to have a bad experience that could have lasting effects. You may have a stressful experience (check out my blogs about anxiety and stress here), but you don’t have to experience a bad and hostile 4 to 5 years.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.