I've been working at a tech startup since October 2020 in the AI team as a part time research assistant. The work I've done till date is making datasets, computer vision research, writing patents, and deploy models. My boss/manager is one of my professors who is a consultant at the company. He is currently not in the country due to postdoc research in Japan.

The issue that I'm facing is that he doesn't pick up my phone call and doesn't reply to my text. But when I get stuck or have slow progress and need to clear things up, he gets angry.

In April 2021, I wrote patents for the company working overtime exceeding my 25 hour per week schedule by almost doubling the time I was investing. After that, he told me to search for some papers and do a specific task on a paper which I sent him 4-5 months ago without mentioning the name. He didn't tell me at first that it was a research paper I sent him. Then I got all confused, but since he didn't reply, I couldn't clear things up and 20 days later, he scolded me. Not to mention several rejections of pay raise since I was initially recruited as an intern and then given the part time position, but still paid the same salary.

Then, from June 6 2021, he shifted me and my other teammate to a research project working full time which was unrelated to the company and the project we were assigned initially for the purpose of learning. Fast forward to July 12th, we've written the research paper, but he wants it to be better to make it publishable for journals, but after texting him with updates that he wanted on July 16th, he ghosts us for 4 days.

During our holidays of Eid, he started to message us for updates, and the day after the office opens, he calls two other people to assist us or rather replacements for our project. We've worked with them too. But since some are more senior than us, they get work done faster than us two. Still, I update him with what I've progressed, but I don't get replies or calls from him. I'm doing all this during the immense pressure of my academic life with regular exams.

We've tried everything. But he says that we've not done anything in the last four months. He even blames us for not telling him to stop an unused deployment server which we definitely told him and other seniors thrice. And now, he warns us that he'll fire us and gives us the last chance. What do I do? I know that he's busy with students, his research, and the office and thesis. But is what he's doing right? Or am I wrong?

I'm completely frustrated and depressed. I'm having nightmares and irregular sleeping patterns because of this. Please help me with your suggestions.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:49
  • Our organization uses Microsoft Teams for communication, so I text him there. @rtaft Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 15:30

3 Answers 3


What do I do?

Job search.

There are many red flags in this situation ranging from an incompetent and unreasonable boss to every sign that this will soon be a 'Failed Startup'.

So, the only suggestion I have is that you soldier on for the revenue stream until you can find another job and then quietly leave.

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    Isn’t there a complicating factor here though in that one of his professors is his boss? How do you propose he do this and not damage his academic status?
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 14:31
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    @mxyzplk Life is full of what ifs. Academic status is already at risk. The risks balance in favour of leaving imo with mental health in the mix. One thing about professors like this is that their attitudes are usually well known. I know employers worse than this as well and no one holds it against their former employees for leaving.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 19:21
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    Yup, look for a new job. At the same time, save your income for when they fire you. It will be like a weight off your shoulders. Startups seem to do a lot more hazing than large corporates - while telling you how slow and clunky corporates are. I've been in both places, over and over. I hope to run my own startup soon - but it will never be like this. Your mind will start to reset about three weeks after leaving an abusive workplace. I speak from experience.
    – power
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 12:07
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    For the record, this come from Kilisi which I far often see him saying to endure it rather than leaving comparing to others people or myself.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 12:13
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    @mxyzplk "One of my professors" can mean many things, and not necessarily that he has any power over OP beyond being his boss. The main "academic threat" is that the prof. might refuse to write a letter of recommendation if OP wants to, for instance, go on to grad school, and that can be fixed by a recommendation by some other academic. No recommendation is worth working with an idiot. (I'm a faculty at a research university myself)
    – xLeitix
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 15:13

But is what he's doing right?


Or am I wrong?


A manager this bad will crash and burn. The "start as intern, then become part time, but keep the intern's pay" side just confirms it.

Find another situation/job. Keep contacts with the people in the company that you want to keep as friends. Search for another job while still there if you can. When you've found something, put in your notice (or just leave, you be the judge of whether you want to it by the book or not).

If he guilt trips you or requests things from you after you've left, ignore him.

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    Well, let me tell you. One of my seniors in the company who is my batchmate but actually joined 6 months earlier received 2 pay raises, one during the internship, the other when he was given the part time position. And, I was denied mine when I was given the part time position. How is this right? Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 7:31
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    Though you should take a look at your contract before leaving without a notice period. Apart from the US, most places don't have at-will employment and it seems like the OP may not be in the US.
    – Graipher
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 7:57
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    @DranoMax What makes you think racism is involved? I haven't seen anything in the question or OP's comments that would indicate that (unless a comment was deleted?) Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 1:12
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    It's not racism, it's favoritism. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 14:26
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    While I generally agree with the answer, "A manager this bad will crash and burn." seems a little optimistic. There's no guarantee a bad manager will suffer or a good manager will succeed. There's too much chaos and a lot of bad managers who are bad at their jobs are also good at protecting themselves from being held accountable in some way. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 14:33

It sounds like an awful position to be in. Do you have any formal line manager with whom you can raise a complaint? Or if not, perhaps a more senior or experienced colleague whom you could use as a mediator?

Update: Make sure to keep a record of relevant email correspondence, so it can be referred to in any resolution meetings you (may) have.
- thanks, computercarguy

From what you've said so far, It sounds like the blame is sitting squarely with your boss. Certainly a formal communication channel would help things, e.g. Teams or an expectation that emails are responded to within a certain timeframe. If they are unable to manage you effectively, then they should be delegating that responsibility, although that's unfortunately outside your sphere of influence!!

I would attempt a resolution but certainly keep your options open and apply elsewhere. Getting no pay rise with a promotion is not right.


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