I find this a really interesting piece.
I’ll be clear from the get-go here, I don’t have any experience of bullying in academia. The article seems to make a distinction between PhD candidates and their relationship with their supervisor and bullying in a professional environment, which is fair enough, but for doctoral students nearing the end, or early-career researchers who are trying to get a foothold in the academic workplace, I think this is something to take note of.
Personally, as a PhD student I have been encouraged and guided; supported along the way; allowed to make my own mistakes and generally have been given a lot of room to develop the skills I’m going to need as a researcher after the PhD is over. I’m quite happy to say that actually, I have a very good relationship with my supervisory team.
But, I know that’s not the case for everyone.
I’m not one of those who have felt demoralised and derailed by their supervisors, or pushed beyond their limits. I have had supervisors drop in and out my team, yes. Some of them have come back, some of them haven’t, but the members I was left with did what they could to minimise the disruption to my research. Yet I know people who have had to make changes to their own supervisory team every few months. I know those who barely meet with their supervisors. I know those who are told contrary things…
The PhD is your own project, and so your supervisors are only there to guide you anyway, but can we consider working with your supervisors as a form of training or preparation for working, professionally, within academia?
We get training on teaching. We get training on publishing. We get training on presenting and networking. We get trained how to write, how to research effectively, how to engage and community across the whole spectrum of academic networks and increasingly non-academic ones too. Yet, there’s not much to prepare us for what working within academia is really like after you’ve shed all the student skins including the journey to your doctorate.
Okay, so I don’t quite see Eventbrite issuing invitations to the new seminar series ‘How to cope with bullying once you get a job!’ I have never experienced it as I said, and doubtless there are plenty of departments, schools, labs, teams etc within universities who deal with any issues like this pretty effectively. But, maybe some awareness would be good for us. Even if it is just a candid talk between doctoral students and supervisors, or HR departments, or PG Reps or…well, anyone, really.