Safety vs. Quality of Life- Daily Drip #1May 12, 2023
Thank you for popping over to this post! I hope you enjoy both the video above and the words below! This series will be weekly for now, and I am planning to increase the frequency as time goes. This written portion of this blog will be focused on expanding on the topic above and going deeper into the research, resources, or other things that I mention in the video.
Let’s start with the inspiration for this post, the ethics code. Honestly, I am totally over ethics conversations. I feel like nearly every ethics CEU or book reads the same. “Are you experiencing this CLEARLY unethical behavior? Well then quit your job and report your supervisor.” I am speaking broadly, and there are some (looking at you Shane Spiker) who have great content on ethics, but the majority of content is just kinda… blah.
In my experience, not once has there been an ethical situation that has been black and white. Real world ethics are blurry, and pretending otherwise does nothing but harm the supervisees we are supposed to be preparing. So that was the point of my video above. To highlight a tricky ethical situation where there was no right or wrong answers. There was a potential ethical issue in place, it just wasn’t really clear where.
While I think there are multiple lessons to be learned, I really want to expand on the confrontation that I had with my supervisor, and highlight some of the good decisions I made while also pointing out what I would do differently now.
A good place to start would be examining the power dynamic present. I was essentially the equivalent of an assistant behavior analyst, or even a technician. The supervisor was a BCBA-D ®, and had a ton of experience and publication under her belt. I really did NOT want to approach her. I was nervous, a little fearful, and pretty worried she was going to just slam the door in my face. Of course she did not do that, but as a supervisor now, I always think back to how I felt as I crept up the stairs to her office, and actively try to mitigate that feeling in my technicians.
The conversation honestly went great. I learned a ton and I credit that 30 minute conversation with teaching me more about ethics than my entire grad school semester. We talked about the good, the bad, and tricky aspects of the case. She took my feedback and I understood her reasoning. Having a direct, 1-1 conversation was the best thing I could do in that situation.
Take a moment and imagine the contrary… I call my supervisors boss on the phone, and tell them that not only have I reported her to the BACB, I won’t hesitate to report them if something doesn’t change. That would result in an immediate meeting where the first thing on everyone’s mind is defending their behavior, and the last thing on everyone’s mind is the client. The situation would surely spiral and end with me being removed from the case, likely permanently and leave the supervisor with a black mark on her record for a decision that was… correct.
The BACB talks about this in their ethics how-to (ETHICS RESOURCES (bacb.com)), and how the first step in any ethics related issue is to approach the person who is potentially violating the code and talk to them about it. Notably, you should talk, not accuse them regarding the situation. The most parsimonious reason for their violation is that they simply did not know! Take this website for example. The first iteration of this website had a crapton of trademarks owned by the BACB, and it took another content creator pointing them out before I changed it. Thank goodness they messaged me about it rather than reporting me to the board! Often times a conversation is going to solve much more than a report.
After approaching the person, the situation can get pretty fuzzy. If it's a serious enough violation (client safety issues) you need to start escalating up the ladder of supervisors and/or start the reporting process. If it is something more minor, maybe try another conversation in a different setting or from a different angle. Cost-benefit analyses can be helpful here, as well as talking out the situation with a trusted colleague or supervisor.
I hope this helps, and I hope if you are experiencing these tricky ethical situations, you don’t feel so alone after reading this. The real world is a lot more than a multiple choice ethics test, but approach each scenario with a focus on a conversation, and you are sure to get the best result for the client.
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