Managing conflict

Managing conflict

You may find yourself at odds with your candidate about research progress or supervision style. While many disputes can be resolved through conversation with your candidate, sometimes these issues need to be taken further. It is important to try and resolve any problems as soon as possible, as it is likely to strengthen the relationship between you and your candidate rather than damage it.

Macquarie’s procedure for resolving candidate/supervisor conflict is as follows:

  • Candidate and supervisor discuss the issues with one another and try to find a resolution. This may involve intervention from a third party, such as another member of the Supervisory panel.
  • If no resolution is found, the candidate is to speak with the department’s HDR coordinator or the Head of Department.
  • If further resolution is necessary, the Associate Dean (HDR) should be contacted.
  • If the problem is still not resolved, the dispute can be referred to the Dean of Faculty.
  • The issue can then be brought to the Dean of HDR Professor Nick Mansfield and the Director of HDRO.
  • In exceptional circumstances, the matter may be referred to the DVC Research and the HDR Committee.

Conflict over thesis completion

At times, you may disagree with your candidate about whether the thesis is ready for completion or not. If this occurs, you first must recognise whether this stems from healthy academic disagreement, or clear flaws in the thesis. It is worthwhile bringing in a third party to resolve deadlocks, either by contacting another member of the supervisory panel or an HDR director or Associate Dean.

Ultimately, your candidate can submit their thesis without your approval. If you feel slighted by this, however, you can advise the university that the thesis was submitted against your advice.

Conflict with other supervisors

While different supervisors have different responsibilities, grey areas and overlap can lead to disagreements about duties or methodologies. A supervisory panel in conflict can be disastrous for a research project, so expectations and plans of action should be discussed and negotiated early on.

  • Depending on your circumstance, these issues can include:
  • What are our responsibilities (will one of us oversee a particular methodology or phase)?
  • Will we always meet all together?
  • How will we all be informed of progress?
  • How will we deal with disagreements?

While uncommon, candidates may also be disruptive of a supervisory panel’s relationship, such as by being overly demanding of one supervisor’s time or playing supervisors off against one another. If this occurs, it is important to contact the departmental Director of HDR, the HoD, or – if necessary – the faculty Associate Dean.

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