Perhaps it is time to discuss again the topic of "firing". I have previously discussed the topic of students (essentially) firing their adviser (in most cases by moving on to another adviser) and have also touched on topics involving the termination of postdocs and grad students by advisers.
Today's specific topic stems from some comments on yesterday's post, including interesting comments involving firing trends over time.
I know that "firing" is a touchy topic for some because of the what-if-that-were-me-being-fired anxiety it can generate (unless the subject of the firing is clearly someone else), but termination of advising/supervising relationships is a fact of academic life, it occurs for a wide variety of reasons (some good, some not), and is something many of us grapple with in our research groups, departments, and beyond.
In particular, it's interesting to consider whether advisers are more or less likely to "fire" advisees before tenure vs. after. I would guess that the general trend would be one of greater reluctance to fire during early career stages, when it is essential to demonstrate an ability to be a successful adviser and to minimize disruptions of a research project.
But perhaps we have to separate "willingness" to fire from what really happens. For example, I think I was less willing to fire advisees early in my career, but in reality I terminated more advising relationships early in my career. To the extent that I can conclude anything from a small dataset, hypotheses to explain this trend in my advising career include:
- before I established my reputation in my field, the students I recruited were not as good as the ones I was able to recruit later in my career;
- bad luck;
- poor advising by me.
I think it was a combination of all those things, although I hasten to add, in my own defense, that I don't think that more advising experience could have helped some of the students and postdocs who arrived in my research group with severe emotional and/or substance abuse problems. Nevertheless, I was left wondering for a long time whether I drove my advisees crazy or whether I was somehow a magnet for troubled people.
Owing to complexities like these, career/firing trend data might be difficult to interpret. We can try, though, or at least make things up that sound interesting.
So: for those of you who have advised for more than a few years,
- Are you more or less willing to terminate advising relationships now than you were at an earlier stage of your career?
- Have you in fact terminated more or fewer advising relationships at a later stage of your career compared to an earlier stage?
And do you have any explanation for your person firing trend, if one exists?
12 hours ago