Ethical Delimna

I am under contract working in my current job. However, teaching was included in my contract.

Here was the contract that both my boss and I agreed to when I started my current position:

  1. Starting annual salary of $38,000. Note that this salary exceeds the current level mandated by the NIH for new postdoctoral scientists ($36,996).
  2. Start date: January 1, 2008, but flexible.
  3. Duration of appointment: Open. I anticipate a commitment ranging from 2-4 years, depending on your research productivity and career objectives.
  4. This position is fully paid by my research grants and/or start-up funds provided by XXX University (100% soft money), until such time that you secure your own funding. During the first 12-15 months of employment, I will ask that you submit applications for receipt of a postdoctoral fellowship with me as your sponsor. I anticipate that you will be very competitive for such an award. (Note: I received such an award and have been funded by a postdoctoral fellowship since July, which will last two years)
  5. Moving expense allowance: Up to $2000, with receipts required for reimbursement.
  6. Teaching: Once your project is well-established, I will make it possible for you obtain some teaching experience in the classroom as part of your professional development, either on the XXX campus or on other campuses in the area.
So the class that I’m teaching currently I haven’t told my boss about because it is from 6pm-10pm at night, once a week. However, as I mentioned previously, next semester I have been asked to teach a class on Wednesday from 6-10pm (again, no issue here) AND on Wednesday and Friday morning from 8-10am. Now, theoretically I could get away without telling him. Since we don’t work “normal” hours, it would probably go unnoticed by my boss if I showed up at 10:30 two days a week – especially since I would be in between 8-9am the rest of the week.

However, I’m of the belief that just because you CAN get away with something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.

So I’m debating whether or not to tell my boss about the morning class. Here come the pros and cons…

Pros of telling my boss
  • I don’t have to “worry” about him finding out and then explaining to him why I didn’t tell him before
  • He’ll be able to mention my teaching in any future letters of recommendation
  • Coming in at 10:30 won’t be a problem to him (not that it would be anyway, if I were to come in NOW at 10:30 he wouldn’t care)
  • He shouldn’t have a problem with it because it is in my contract
Cons of telling my boss
  • He may judge my failed experiments as due to teaching, even though my work in the lab won’t decrease
  • He may ask me to not teach, which would be difficult to get out of considering I have already agreed to do it
  • The uncomfortable conversation is something I’d rather avoid
  • Just because it is in my contract doesn’t mean that he feels that my research will be “established” enough to facilitate my teaching
So in my mind the pros equal out the cons. And I hate uncomfortable conversations where I have to tell him that I want to do it. I’ve always been under the impression that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. But because I’m technically looking at working at a point in time when I would NORMALLY spend in my main “9-to-5” job, I feel an ethical burden to tell him.

If I don’t, and he finds out – I will probably be fine. If I do, I’ll most likely be fine as well. I’m just not sure if I should tell him or not. What do you think? Should I tell my boss or not?
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5 Responses to Ethical Delimna

  1. It’s probably easier just to tell him, but make sure it doesn’t sounds as though you’re asking permission. Say, “I accepted an offer to teach such and such class, I’ll have to vary my normal work hours on Wednesdays,” etc.

    Since it’s not a conflict of interest with your current job, he can’t really tell you not to. He can say he’d prefer you not, but then I’d suggest just saying, “How about we’ll try it for this semester, and if you think it’s not working out, we can revisit if I get an offer for next semester?”

  2. Jessie says:

    I second paranoid – I think that’s a great way to go!

  3. eemusings says:

    Wow, I definitely need to channel paranoid in future discussions with my boss!

    How did it all go?

  4. Pingback: I Got In Trouble «

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