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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Problems with co-workers?

I was wondering if anyone had a good idea about confronting co-workers who you feel aren't helping out as much as they could even though numbers are high and we are not within ratio at certain points of the day. In my perticular case the co-workers I'm talking about are above me in rank. What would be the best way to confront them without going over their heads?


Hi Casandra,

Unfortunately I have also had to deal with similar situations in previous job experiences. You can certainly speak with them about it, but from what I have learned, the best way to deal with it is not to focus on it as a "confrontation." You can say in the moment "I would really appreciate a little help with......" You can tell them after the fact that you were feeling a little bit overwhelmed by the situation and would have liked someone to step in and offer some assistance. Instead of pointing fingers, take ownership over your own feelings in the situation, because if the other person is feeling attacked they will become defensive and the interaction won't be helpful. Especially when they are above you in rank, you are in a more vulnerable position so even though it's frustrating, try not to come across as placing blame or pointing fingers. If speaking with them calmly or asking for help in busy situations doesn't help, then you can go over their head and say "this is what happened, I spoke with them, now what?" Hope that helps.

Jillian Viens

I work in a school program for the highest risk youth in the board. Within this classroom/program there are 5 child and youth workers and one teacher in the classroom (along with the support of two part-time social workers and one part-time psychologist) So as you can well imagine there is ample room for confrontation and disagreement. Over the past 7 years working in this program we have had our share of confrontations. The most important mantra we try to live by is "When you have a problem, bring it to the table, if not, then you continue to own the problem alone." Now the first step of "bringing to the table" is of course speaking of your differences with the actual person on a one to one. This approach can be from a "help me understand your thinking" when this was happening (describing the situation with facts only) This approach avoids the other person feeling accused but rather needing to explain their choices within the professional context.

Once hearing their explanation you can then let them know how their choice made you feel (ie. not supported). Then your next step could be, to brainstorm better practice, as co-workers together, to be the best you can be for the youth you counsel.

Of course, frequently, when a co-workers choices are being questioned, this co-worker can take this as an offence on a personal level. It is important to reassure the co-worker that it is not personal but rather an opportunity to learn from each other and to change what is not working for all involved to a more effective practice better for all. We learn from each other and all have unique skill-sets that are valuable within the profession(s).

Through your assertive communication you and your co-workers will feel heard and valued. And above all, the youth will be the better for it.

Jane Lunney
Mississauga, ON

Hi Casandra,

Your topic has me wondering if the roles and expectations of a shift are clear for you and your co-worker. Do you sit down before the shift to determine who will do what and decide the flow of the evening? This small step could have a major impact on organizing the resources you have on shift. Otherwise, having an open and frank discussion with your co-worker could be helpful. I don't mean in an accusatory way, but in a "let's see where our communication is getting crossed" way.

Dealing with difficult co-workers is always an exercise in patience. Keep the big picture in mind. Your work environment and the kids you work with will benefit.

Good luck,
Delia Noel


Some ideas:

1) Try and get it on the team agenda: What do we need to do when things get really busy around here?"

2) Try to deal with it as a program issue as opposed to "confronting them"

3) Review what you know about giving effective feedback

4) If you can't get this on the agenda, try being in the moment with your co workers and address situations when they arise. Ask them, what do you think we should do now as opposed to dealing with the task on your own.

Let us know..

Peter Hoag

Hi Casandra,

I understand you not wanting to go over anyone's head as far as them not helping out in the room. You said they are above you in rank but that should not stop them from helping in the room. If you are out of ratio during the day as well, that, to me, would be a bigger issue.

Is the coworker a director in the room or an Assistant Director? I suggest you just be upfront but be kind. Ask them if they have a few minutes to talk while the children are not around or after work and tell them you are trying really hard to keep all of the children engaged and busy but it is really hard with such high numbers, would it be possible for them to help with an activity or plan an activity? Don't be afraid to speak up and if does not work then that would be a time to talk to their supervisor about what you can do. I hope that helps.


In my experience it works best to use the "parallel process" rationale. In other words, we want to treat each other the same way we treat our clients.

In this case, we know that when one of the kids is not doing what's expected, we take the risk of an unpleasant interaction to tell them what our concerns are and to work out a way to address them together. In the same way, when we have concerns about a colleague we take the same risk – for the same reason.

This keeps our treatment system "clean". Good luck.

Lorraine Fox

Hey Casandra,

I myself have encountered this and you got to keep in mind that some ofour co-workers may not be as open to this conversation as we would like.I went toa co-worker and it blew up in my face!! The second time I went to my supervisor and got advice.I also asked her not to speak with the co-worker about the issue asI didn't want to cause any extraissues. My supervisor advisedme to pay attention to my co-worker the same as we do to the youth that we work with. Then approach the co-worker with the knowledge of how they work and use I statements to address how the co-worker's doings or lackthere of was affecting me and our other co-workers.

I must say that after watchingmyco-worker and then approaching, worked alot better.My issue is thatI worry about hurtingpeople's feelings andI don't want to be harsh and have them think that I am degrading their integerity.

I hope thatthis is helpful for you and good luck! It is never easy to address issues with other staff. Not so hard with the youth thought!! LOL

Amanda Canning

Hey Casandra,

My first thought is on the side of caution. I say this not suggesting you don't speak up, I say this to have you think about what you want before you speak. I have found that people who place themselves above others, or are hire up may be more likely to get offended. Either because you are below them or because they have more time put in and don't feel they have to do as much. I am fully aware that I am speak from my experience and this may not be the case for you at all. If you have a good working relationship with this individual, and you find them approachable by all means have a conversation about how You are feeling about the ratios. If you speak to this person by pointing out You don't think they are pulling their weight I see a confrontation. Although by having the conversation about how You are feeling in the situation and not on what You see them Not doing, you can save yourself a whole lot of grief.

Remember to think about what it is You are trying to accomplish by confronting this person and it may help you to resolve the issue Your having. Good Luck.

Kelly House

In matters interpersonal relationships and conflict, experience has taught me that unobtrusive intervention is preferred to direct confrontation. On this field our baggage gets in the way of a healthy growth producing confrontation. The conflict is best managed than resolved.

Michael Gaffley
Fort Lauderdale

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