How can I get my line manager on board to understanding the need for supervision as she sees it as an administration role rather than the emotional needs of the team?
Forgive me if I am wrongfully riding roughshod over your feelings but I think that, as diplomatically as you can, you should say to your supervisor that because your work devours so much of your emotional energy that you would be grateful if your supervision was used to replenish it. Yet, too often in my view both supervisee and/or supervisor make an unconscious truce not to deal with difficult matters. If your supervisor is doing this then you should challenge it and equally you might honestly question your own motives especially if you feel you are absolutely in the right. I've invariably found that when I feel absolutely right about something is the best time for honest reflection. I say this because I believe life space workers must have high quality supervision and in the interests of themselves as well as the young people they are supporting they have a responsibility to demand it. If the worker's demand is reasonable and does not represent an unwarranted prejudiced attack on the organisation, then, if the latter is worth its salt, it will respond positively and creatively to the worker. If it doesn't then blow the whistle. I am serious about that.
I am sorry to sound like the Church of
Scotland minister of my childhood days delivering a righteous sermon,
but in these days when the buzz 'reflective practice' rolls off tongues
as the latest catch phrase signifying little, I do think our supervisors
should create the space for us to be truly reflective and this only
comes with three dimensional supervision.
Having got rid of that bile, I would start by saying that a line manager should not necessarily be the professional supervisor if only because she or he may have a primary function to protect the interests of the institution and, particularly in the private sector, may be too closely involved in the economic prospects of the organisation. Mind you, part of supervision is about being accountable about matters administrative and financial as well as it is about the quality of our helping relationships and roles with young people. However my view is that good supervision is first and foremost about trying to give young people the best of care and I imagine from your email address that in your working environment it is also about providing the best education for the young people. Working with young people draws deeply on our emotional energy and supervision should help, along with staff group meetings and training, to replenish that energy and increase our professional resources to do the job.
In the way, when I was about 12 years old, my parents left a book about the facts of life lying around for me to read you might like to leave a copy of Supervision in the Helping Professions by Peter Hawkins and Robin Shohet (isbn 0335098339) lying about for your supervisor to find.
This may not have sounded supportive but I did mean it to be. Anyway convinced of my rectitude I am off for some honest reflection.
I want to echo Charles' comments about supervision.
I have come over time to think of supervision as a 'right' of the worker
and an obligation of the organisation – unfortunately, as in many areas,
rights and obligations to not always come together. However,
thinking of it as a right allows me to consider it differently.
You have the right to be paid for your work, the right to work in
safety, the right to time off – and if any of these rights were not
respected there would be a large hue and cry throughout the
organisation. Yet when the right to effective supervision is not met we
are often silent.
And while a part of the responsibility belongs to the organisation and the person designated as supervisor, a part, I believe, also belongs to the 'supervisee', the person who would benefit from quality supervisory engagement. If one does not advocate for their own rights, one must accept some responsibility for the situation.
Another part, I believe, belongs to us, collectively, as a field. I think we have failed, somehow, to make supervision an important part of practice – both for the supervisor and the supervisee. And if we, as a field, fail to emphasise it, then it is hardly surprising that practitioners fail to insist on it. I wonder, for example, how many programs for CYCs Social Care workers, etc., place supervision as central to practice – I would be interested to hear from those who do.
And if you are in a place of practice where supervision is a central commitment, I would like to hear about it – and how come it came to be important. However, if you are in a place of practice where supervision – not management – is not an important part of your practice I would like to hear about that as well – after all, if this essential part of practice is not being respected, I think we should expose that reality.
Supervision of workers should be at the core of the
work of any organisation. This should form part of the induction and
ongoing orientation of workers. Through supervision the organisation
will be in a position to maintain its ethos as well as achieve the goals
of the organisation.
Supervision specially in the child and youth care field should be viewed as important as reviewing children's development plans. If this fails, the workers themselves will not know whether they are growing or whether they are achieving their targets and goals.
Here is my somewhat idealistic take on supervision.
The classic social work take on Supervision is embedded in the concept
of reflective practice and is I believe a relational practice in which
the supervisor models core values of empathy, respect and unconditional
positive regard. Supervision should be an 'open space' for
personal growth for both parties in which the focus is developing the
resource that is the person in order that they can better meet the needs
of the children and young people. At different times the focus may be on
relating theory to practice, exploring new concepts and approaches,
reflecting on the dynamic of the life space as well as containing
anxiety and supporting individuals through times of stressful demands.
It is analogous with the keyworker role in offering a holistic model of support, pro-social role modeling, etc. In my opinion the classic interpretation of support and supervision model of supervision has been compromised by the rise of new managerial approaches which look to manage staff through addressing deficits, focussing on meeting agency targets for training, absorption of policies and procedures; in essence an approach of devoid of the human touch. If such an approach is in place it is more likely that people will focus on defensive practice and present a 'macho' style or get drawn into bullying behaviours. We then get avoidance, collusion and the sort of dysfunctional lifespace that neatly replicates the situations that many of the residents have been removed from.
The answer is back to the core principles and to cascade the love from the top down and reject the new managerialist techniques of disempowerment, division, risk aversion and fear.
In response to both Charles Sharpe and Thom, I would strongly agree that supervision, like most things that aren't working out so well in our field, are ultimately our responsibility to articulate as central components of our practice. Any organization, or more generally any bureaucracy, will continue doing as it has always done unless there is pressure for change, and we cannot continue adapting to the changes imposed from elsewhere. The time is now to drive change within children's and youth services, and to insist that our core concepts at the very least are given serious consideration in re-shaping such services.
When it comes to supervision, however, I do have one concern. While I have worked with and know of some absolutely amazing individuals in roles of supervisors, sadly I also think that excellence in Child and Youth Care practice is not always the criterion for promotion. In other words, much like it is better not to be treated by an incompetent doctor, it is also better not to receive or engage in supervision with an incompetent supervisor, and sadly there are many of those around. So before we start advocating for supervision, perhaps we need to have some dialogue about models of supervision that can mitigate unfortunate supervisory appointments. I would suggest that in service settings where supervision does not take place, there is a pretty good chance that the supervisor (who could, in most cases, provide such supervision on her or his own initiative) doesn't get it. Particularly, new workers in this field can be destroyed rather quickly by poor or outright incompetent supervision.
Perhaps one strategy to combat some of these deficiencies would be for current CYCs working in 'front line' positions to seriously consider applying for supervisory positions and other leadership positions in greater numbers so that we can ensure that the everyday practice is reflected in the supervisory and management approaches of the organizations that have the privilege of 'housing' those practices.
Jeremy and Kiaras
Do you both work for the agency I work for??? Just kidding, but you hit the nail on the head, both of you. Nicely put.