Boss Plagiarizes

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about dishonesty.

I work at a museum. It has recently come to my attention that my supervisor plagiarizes the text she puts in the exhibit panels. I mean literally plagiarizes: written on the wall of a new exhibit is the exact text of a book on the subject, with no mention of the author. She claims she writes it herself. In addition to finding this illegal, it is incredibly unethical and unfair to our many museum visitors. I cannot contact the board about this matter either, as her relative is the president of the board.

Signed, Eats Up My Insides!

DearĀ Eats Up My Insides!:

How has it come to your attention? That is part of this story you have decided is unethical and illegal. Have you checked this out; gotten the page number and has the supervisor signed her name to those texts? Documenting this is important. With this data on hand you can investigate if this is unethical or illegal or both. You are now prepared to seek advice from an attorney regarding whether posting a text from a book without attribution of its author and without the signature of your supervisor as its author is in fact illegal. Such can usually be obtained by a brief free consultation. We don’t provide legal advice.

Once you have the facts and an informed decision, you can decide whether to bite your tongue or confront the supervisor or report it, possibly anonymously. These are options. Often one is torn about righting a wrong because the wrong doer has connections. Have you weighed confronting your supervisor, by disclosing to her your moral alarm about this matter? Naturally you are worried that doing so would damage your relationship with her and that she might retaliate. And she might.

However, I doubt that would happen if your investigation proved it was indeed illegal as well as unethically implying her false ownership of these texts. Possibly she would try to explain it away as “nothing” and she would correct it. Doing so would save “face” for her and should solve the problem.

And if she retaliates, you have the documented evidence to counter that. My inclination would be to investigate and then in light of what I found, to confront her with a promise not to make that public or take it to the board. You probably have played and replayed various scenarios until your head has spun. You know that whistle blowers too often don’t fare well. So back off. Don’t allow it to become an obsession.

Give yourself time to weigh the options and then decide. Weigh if you bite your tongue you can live with yourself. Focus on the good things you are doing and don’t see your supervisor as evil, even though mistaken. You are blessed to have a conscience. May your tribe increase. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and with that in mind, I predict that this frustrating misconduct can be resolved without your supervisor losing face.

William Gorden