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Co-worker hides mistakes, reports questionable data

Ethics

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4 replies to this topic

#1 Denny

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 04:54 PM

Hello All,
I'm struggling with a difficult situation and could use some encouragement from seasoned and experienced lab researchers. I work for a world renown scientist, a truly brilliant person, as well as a kind, wonderful human being. I also work with a lab mate who has very poor work ethics and whose dishonesty knows no limits. You know the type, admits no mistakes, takes all credit, smiles and lies to your face while stabbing you in the back.

I see things that alarm me on a regular basis, much is carefully hidden and disquised, such as errors and deliberate shortcuts. Today I witnessed a deliberate contamination of samples, the only excuse is that she has been wasting her day on Facebook, personal email, surfing the net, taking long lunches, socializing, etc., you get the picture, and even though she comes in late every day, she still hits the door running at the same time at the end of everyday.

But i digress, the issue at hand is that the samples mentioned above, will be assayed, results reported, and no one the wiser.
I can't stand it! The plan is to talk to co-worker first, but our already strained relationship (we barely tolerate each other) will be destroyed, on the other hand, I can not be silent and allow this to embarass, humilate, or taint the reputation of my research leader.
A very difficult situation, I know in my heart what I must do but would like to hear some thoughts.......
D

#2 casandra

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 08:14 PM

Hello All,
I'm struggling with a difficult situation and could use some encouragement from seasoned and experienced lab researchers. I work for a world renown scientist, a truly brilliant person, as well as a kind, wonderful human being. I also work with a lab mate who has very poor work ethics and whose dishonesty knows no limits. You know the type, admits no mistakes, takes all credit, smiles and lies to your face while stabbing you in the back.

I see things that alarm me on a regular basis, much is carefully hidden and disquised, such as errors and deliberate shortcuts. Today I witnessed a deliberate contamination of samples, the only excuse is that she has been wasting her day on Facebook, personal email, surfing the net, taking long lunches, socializing, etc., you get the picture, and even though she comes in late every day, she still hits the door running at the same time at the end of everyday.

But i digress, the issue at hand is that the samples mentioned above, will be assayed, results reported, and no one the wiser.
I can't stand it! The plan is to talk to co-worker first, but our already strained relationship (we barely tolerate each other) will be destroyed, on the other hand, I can not be silent and allow this to embarass, humilate, or taint the reputation of my research leader.
A very difficult situation, I know in my heart what I must do but would like to hear some thoughts.......
D

hey Denny...yup, it's a tough call but as you already said, if you keep quiet then you're probably risking the good reputation of your lab and your boss. They deserve to know the truth at the very least. I'm also thinking that you shld have just busted her in real time while she was making the mistake Posted Image bec if you confront her much later, it might just degenerate into your word against hers. As you mentioned, you already have a strained relationship and this is probably not a secret to people you work with so you might appear as someone only trying to create mischief or just aiming to discredit her for your own personal reasons.

Is there a way for her to fix the mistake (cos data from contaminated samples matter and if she knowingly provided contaminated samples to be assayed then that's a form of misconduct) so you can avoid involving the higher-ups? But I would still try to talk with her first. I know it's a hard decision but if you ignore it or let it pass, then you are condoning her action or allowing her to think that she can get away with anything and in the end, you are just as guilty plus you wouldn't feel good about yourself either. Anyways, doing the right thing is never easy for anybody but hopefully we have the courage of our convictions.
"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#3 pito

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 04:07 AM

One advise:

make sure you have anough of "proof".
If you cant catch her in the act, make sure you have "proof" that shows something is going wrong.
Use this to in a discussion with your boss.

And one hint: you dont need to accuse her right away, just collect the "proof", ask your boss to have a chat with you to discuss some strange things (without pointing the finger at her).
You can genlty mention her name , for example: we noticed some strange things with samples A and B and with the testsresults from test Y , perhaps we can debate what went wrong? Normally your boss will then ask who did those tests ....
See what I mean..
Dont start accusing her right away yourself because it can backfire + if you cant really catch her..


Also: if she comes in late and leaves early.. its something the boss needs to check, not you.
I know its not honest, but if you start complaining about it...

If you don't know it, then ask it! Better to ask and look foolish to some than not ask and stay stupid.


#4 Denny

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 04:24 AM

Casandra and Pito,
Thank you both for your advice and perspectives, you are both very helpful and I completely agree with you both. I will approach things as you suggest, set aside the outrage, and work the problem.
It's difficult to set aside the emotion in situations like these and not come off like a ranting lunatic that's just causing trouble. Stepping back and calming down is the first vital step in dealing with these issues. You've both helped me to do that and reminded me that cooler heads prevail.
Thank you for taking the time to make such thoughtful suggestions,
Have an awesome day!
D

#5 Denny

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 03:20 PM

Being a senior lab rat, I decided to take the role of teacher instead of persecuter and approached the co-worker in a non-confrontational manner. Privately, I spoke with her, told her what I had observed and explained why her "method" was not the way to go and what it could lead too. I kept a freindly and encouraging tone (to my surprise). The end result was that the experiment will be gladly repeated, additional controls added and everyone is happy, it was a great day! I'm going to sleep much better tonight. Posted Image
Thanks again gang




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