Recently I had the opportunity to work with a corporate client where we discussed Reflective Practice in supervision. It was an opportunity to discuss social work concepts within a corporate structure. Over many years I have worked with organisations discussing conflict resolution or acting as a support when staff were being retrenched or providing therapeutic services. This was the first time though that I had the opportunity to present to a staff member the concept of working at a more in depth level.
There was one particular staff member who was causing some difficulties. The staff member had a sense of entitlement around what he thought could be done and what he believed was within his job description. For some time the organisation had ignored certain behaviours because he was doing the principle work for which he was employed, but he was failing to do some of the more minor tasks which made it difficult for management to report on the activities within his department.
In my experience, organisations generally don’t understand what good supervision should look like. This not only applies to Corporations but also applies in Human Services and Government Departments. For the most part supervision comprises of a set of tasks which were to be met by the employee and moving through those tasks with a manager or supervisor.
This is not supervision this is case management, micro management or activity review or something else but it is not supervision. Supervision is not just the opportunity to reflect on the work someone has completed or not completed but it is an opportunity to reflect with the employee how they are functioning at work. Most managers, and I feel confident in saying “most”, are reluctant to explore anything beyond the work load and the tasks assigned. However the workplace is more than this.
When exploring this recently with the manager I asked him if he knew what “work” meant to this troublesome employee? He could tell me that this staff member had few interests outside work and viewed his colleagues as his “family”. It became evident that the meaning of “work” was extremely significant to him. I wondered how significant it would be for the manager, and “supervision” in particular, to contemplate what “work” meant to this staff member.
The next question which needs to be explored is how, in this new found context, could questions be constructed which gave further insight into why this person chooses to behave in a certain way which would put his employment at risk. It is possible that his application to certain tasks is about building and establishing relationships and anything which doesn't feed that notion is seen as less valuable. We maybe able to see why building relationships are important, they represent “family”, so through a reflective practice model we may find the way to explore the significance of family. It may be possible to understand and therefore explore how this person would feel if they were separated from the “work family”?
By understanding the importance of work and family for this person we may be able to develop a strategy to help them meet the managers needs to have the paper work and other tasks completed.
In essence this process allows the manager to see the employee in a different context which changes the problem solving technique. Solutions when seen from the other persons perspective offer us with an opportunity to develop a win/win. Granted, we have to be a little more creative when we focus on meeting the needs of others as well as our own. Meeting others needs as well as our own is a little more complicated.
What I love about Social Work is the application it offers corporations.