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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1168
Experience:  Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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I have a terrible dilemma...I feel I did something unethical

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I have a terrible dilemma...I feel I did something unethical by turning in a survey which I did myself to offset a really nasty and in-your-face response from a parent who is a known hater and troublemaker at our school. Her child has no boundaries and no respect for authority and challenges everyone all day every day. He learns this from his family's lack of respect for educators, which they don't try to hide. Anyway, I only work in this program part-time, and have been really stressed out with tremendous pressure from the other portion of my job, which involves overseeing state testing. I just snapped...I was so exhausted and on edge that I wasn't thinking at all about what I was doing. I am getting ready to retire and have always prided myself on my ethics and honesty. Now I can't eat or sleep, worrying about what I should do. These surveys are compiled as a district, and are anonymous, but I have tremendous remorse. If I confess, however, I'm afraid my career could be ruined and I may lose my last year next year. I just don't know what to do. I feel awful.
I would like to help you with your question.
I agree, this is an ethical dilemma. And...your self-report of not being able to eat or sleep is your conscience telling you that you have broken your own standards of behavior.
I understand the consequences of reporting this to your boss or school officials. And certainly that consequence is huge. On the other hand, there is also the guilt, remorse, and shame that you are experiencing today, and will continue to feel, if you attempt to sweep your behavior under the rug.
In my 30 years of practice as a psychologist, I run into issues like this quite routinely. That's because we are all human ... and from time to time we make poor decisions. I think that's what happened did not intend to cause harm to anyone. Instead, you took control of the situation and submitted the survey as a way to move forward.
From what you have written, it does sound like you want to set the record straight and be accountable for your behavior. do not want to be punished unjustly...and certainly you do not want to see your job put in jeopardy.
Therefore, my best advice for you is to go to your superior(s) and state what happened. Keep emotions out of it as best you can. Do not over rationalize what occurred, rather keep to the facts. Ask for forgiveness...a chance to remedy the situation. I would point out that you are coming forward because you believe it is the right thing to do and that you are willing to accept the consequences.
When we tell the truth, particularly in difficult situations like this, we are likely to be treated with compassion because it takes courage to acknowledge our own failings. This is exactly what you want your superior(s) to see...that you are an ethical person and that you are willing to be held accountable for poor decisions.
I await your reply.
Thank you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
It is just so out of character for me. I am well-respected in the educational community here and have a great deal of responsibility. I am terrified of the thought of admitting this ethical lapse and terrified not to admit it. I am still completely stymied as to why I did it at all. I just didn't think it through...all I could think about was neutralizing the horribly negative effect of that hateful survey. I should also tell you that because of the crazy things happening in our school district, last summer and fall I developed depression and an anxiety disorder for which I am under care right now. I cannot lose my job.
I am so sorry this has happened. And yes...sometimes we do things and later wonder what the heck we were thinking! I believe you when you say that you are an ethical person and that your behavior was so not you.
I am very glad you are being treated for the anxiety and depression! And certainly, these may have had some impact on your ability to handle the stress that day.
I can imagine that you feel very paralyzed by all of this. the clock ticks away I am afraid that you will feel worse and worse, not better. So...hard as it is...I encourage you to talk to your superiors about that day and the poor decision you made.
As to losing your job...I say beg if you have to!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you. My principal is a kind and compassionate person and we have a good relationship. I will talk to him about what happened and see what he recommends.
Very good.
It takes courage to come forward...and I think that your principal will recognize this!
Take care!
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