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Dear Boss: Time to Trust Me (or Bust Me)
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Dear Boss: Time to Trust Me (or Bust Me)

Dear Dora: Gaining the boss' trustDear Dora,

My PhD boss does not trust me at all and according to him I am a thief who is selling his lab work to others, but of course I am not doing that.  He checks my results five times – keeping watch on me.  It’s really bothering me…please help.

– Rohit, grad student

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Dear Rohit,

It is very difficult to do research when your boss does not trust you. Can you think of any reason that your boss would think that you are selling his work to others? For example, has been any conflict or miscommunication in the past that would lead him to mistrust you? My advice is clear up past misunderstandings, so the two of you can work together more productively.

The next time that you have a discussion with your boss, bring up this issue and tell him how much it bothers you. This would also be a good time to talk about past conflicts, or any reason that you think he would mistrust you. For example: “Dr. Smith, I know we had a problem last year when…, but I would like to clear it up right now.” Hopefully he will appreciate that you are addressing this problem so the two of you can resolve it.

If he is the micromanager type, you can set up certain rules to assure him that he will be kept in the loop. For example, you can schedule regular meetings, or progress reports, and this way he will be able to keep track of your progress. If you have already invested a lot of time in his group, it is probably worth working out your problems so you can complete your dissertation. If the situation becomes intolerable despite repeated efforts on your part, see if you can transfer your research to another group where the PI is easier to get along with. Remember that changing groups is a big (and risky) decision, and you should always consult another faculty member such as department head or a committee member before doing so.

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Dora Farkas, Ph.D. is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of PhDNet, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, and discussion board on her site. Send your questions to DearDora@benchfly.com and keep an eye out for them in an upcoming issue!

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Stay tuned for the next Dear Dora in two weeks!  In the meantime, check a few of Dora’s recent posts:

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Submit your questions to Dora at DearDora@benchfly.com, or use the comment box below!


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