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Ruth Sharpe

Institute for Development Policy and Management

Part-time HRM lecturer

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Tales from an HRM PhD – the meltdown begins


This is the second article in a four-part series from Ruth Sharpe, part-time lecturer and full-time PhD learner at the Institute for Development Policy and Management at Manchester University, on the trials and tribulations of undertaking a PhD in HRM.

The last time you heard from me I was glorious, excited, thrilled and honoured to be starting my PhD, on my way to becoming the next big thing in HR academia. Doctor Ruth – a mere 3 years away! HR is my thing. My confidence is shining.

Yes? ……No! My fresh faced muscle man strength has diminished to me morphing into a snivelling trembling wreck in a matter of a few weeks.

First, the mature student meltdown in induction week. The lined face in a sea of smooth skinned millennials means I might as well wear my (middle) age tattooed on my forehead.

The millennials are all giddy, confident and spouting their research epistemologies (No idea what I am on about HR folks? Nor me friends, nor me…). They are a mixture of confidence-shrinking threat and – dare I say it? – nerve-jangling irritation. I skip the social events.

Veering dangerously towards complete social isolation and introversion I avoid the ‘meet the supervisor’ drinks. Justifiable. I have worked with these guys for five years after all.

And I face my first supervisory meeting buoyed up and gaining a little bit of pace here. Head held high! I love this stuff, I know this stuff! I know these people, I work with these people. Research aims and objectives PFFTTT! Writing them for years. Done them already.

STOP! Return to jail and do not pass go mixed with the ice water bucket challenge feeling. I am positioned on a low chair with status differentials defined immediately.

People I share Christmas sherry with now morph into my greatest and most dangerous critics. Words are isolated, dissected, debated. I catapult from optimism through confusion and land in utter disappointment. 

I’d got there, I had reflected, considered, pondered a topic that that I was going to live, breathe, dream of and joyously become for three years. My thoughtful aims and objectives wrenched away from me. Tipped upside down, shaken out, stamped on and battered. You thought you could write? Wrong.

I am left hanging onto a small branch over the biggest canyon. What am I researching? I no longer have a clue.

I am sent away to ponder the very thing I had spent 3 years deciding. Sheer unadulterated dread sets in. Moments of sheer vision are now replaced with mindless desolation. I might weep.

And weep I should. Because I am facing methodological research training…

Author Profile Picture
Ruth Sharpe

Part-time HRM lecturer

Read more from Ruth Sharpe

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