I am doing my PhD in a high prestige UK university.
I am finishing my second year and I have funding for three years in total.
I have already two papers finished (pending to be published) and working on two more.
I like research and I like being pushed to achieve the best I can. What I don’t like however is introducing unnecessary stress into my daily life. With this I mean the following:
I think that it is totally acceptable and expected of me to work overtime when nearing a deadline. Usually the month before a deadline I work 12 hours per day, 6-7 days a week. This is totally fine and to some extent I enjoy it.
My supervisor is a brilliant researcher. Young and successful in his field with many publications in high prestige venues. However, he’s also the classic stereotype of the super-workaholic academic who works 7 days a week, from early in the morning until late at night.
It’s common for him to send messages or emails at 23.00 or during weekends asking for something. This could range from asking to complete a certain task or a simple “What is the status of X?”.
I find this exhausting. To work hard during the week I need to have a “safe space” where I know that I can relax without worrying about work. Otherwise I feel demotivated to work hard. Due to this behavior I have anxiety issues. Recently, after a very stressful period mostly due to work, my hair started falling. This was identified by my GP as “Telogen effluvium”. It can happen after very stressful periods. Thankfully it stopped but it’s a clear sign that I’ve been stressing too much.
Ignoring my emails and messages is not an option for me. The reason is that I know that he genuinely cares about my PhD and many times his messages may be about the changes he has done on my paper. Ignoring this makes me feel ungrateful.
My most important problem is that, looking back, 70% of the stress introduced by supervisor could have been totally avoided if he could relax a bit. He’s micromanaging me and wants to know everything. And many times we could have taken a month more on a project instead of rushing things.
Moreover, because he’s always pressuring me to do as many things as possible as fast as possible, I feel that I cannot do any quality work. I prefer quality for quantity. He’s the opposite.
I have tried to convey my feelings to him multiple times already. He does not seem to get it. Or he may back off for 2-3 weeks and then resumes his previous behavior. In a recent confrontation I mentioned the words “unnecessary stress” and he didn’t take it very well.
Many colleagues have told me that I should be thankful because he’s actively working on my PhD while other supervisors are totally absent. I find this unfair. None of the two should be OK.
Overall I feel burned-out and demotivated. This saddens me because I really like my PhD and research in general.
However, I don’t think I can take this for one more year.
Question: How to deal with a workaholic supervisor who is introducing unnecessary stress into my daily life?
p.s. It’s important to mention that my supervisor probably suffers from anxiety as well. This is somewhat known by his PhD students and he has implied it one or two times.