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Wednesday, 03 June 2009

New Social Work Managers - Supervision Skills to Create Stress Relieving Techniques For Your Workers

Written by Gradle Gardner Martin

Social Work is one of the professions which has some unique aspects dissimilar to other jobs. One is that workers are given ongoing formal supervision which could be considered a luxury by those who are unfamiliar with the complexity of the tasks.

Another is that once you are good at the practice of being a reliable basic grade practitioner you then can achieve the status of being a manager without any formal management training.

You are then expected to offer fantastic supervision to staff from day one! This is often a tricky situation and like most of us who became managers we try to supervise either how we were supervised or opposite to how we were supervised. And then there's the managers responsibility to make sure workers do not suffer the ill effects of stress which can further challenge any new worker, in the caring professions this is an enormous task.

By building into your existing or emerging repertoire these theoretical aspects of staff management and development, you will offer yourself and your staff tools to get the job done and achieve job satisfaction in the supervisory process. Like most of us who joined the profession, you can re- establish the reasons why you became a social worker- to make a difference, but now as a credible manager of staff.

Coaching, encouraging and guiding

Time should be spent on feedback about cases and coaching and directing workers about their practice and giving them clues into how they can manage issues which if not addressed with the correct fundamental tools and resources may lead to stress.

Counselling

For some workers supervision is also a time when they can off load some of the issues which are affecting them in terms of team/ group dynamics or personal issues. They can be counselled to look at the impact of stress on them and their work and to reflect on how to alleviate it.

Constructive Criticism, Feedback and Evaluating

Feedback from you as a manager and also from other people on how people are functioning needs to be dealt with sensitively and appropriately as some workers can be defensive to feedback about their stress levels. Facilitating workers ability to undertake a good degree of self reflection and analysis of their work and presentation should be part of the manager's role with in supervision.

Negotiating and limiting

Although flexibility is the key to success of working with all unique human beings there needs to be compliance with procedures which is compatible to worker's values and wellbeing, this will result in less stress to workers if they follow the prescribed policies in order to get their work done.

Resources

Of course as a manager you are a resource in your self, you can share what works or doesn't work, give advice and point people in the direction of the things which might give advice for stress relief. It is important to remain open to the possibility that the staff you are supervising maybe experiencing stress and that they may come to you for you to alleviate it for them. This can only be done by you if you have a wealth of resources available in your managerial repertoire.

Trust

This is a difficult part of the process and the question here is "when do you know when you've got it?" Workers will not necessary always believe they can trust their managers, this is the nature of the any hierarchical system and you will need to be aware of it as a factor in the relationship

The session itself

Support to staff to relieve stress is mainly done through the supervision process. Social Workers are lucky that we have a unique way of offering guidance and support to staff which is real and practical. Ensure that you have a working contract with your workers. Devise a supervision contract and split it into parts. This ensures that supervision is both task centred and person centred.

Always set a supervision agenda which is agreed for supervision and used with all staff, however there should be some flexibility, key components are:

• Matters arising from last supervision
• Cases/ practice
• Personal issues; this will include health needs; stress issues
• Developments issues
• Work Life Balance
• Date of next supervision

During the early stages of the supervision relationship concentrate on the relationship building and incorporate task related activities and people- related activities. Supervision should be a nurturing experience which is felt as such to both parties but led by the manager. You must both be prepared for the session and there should be clarity of expectation which helps supervisees to develop and meet the needs of service users. The style of supervision is important and sensitivity and an approach appropriate to the needs and abilities of different workers and diverse staff groups should be adhered to at all times.

Managerial Resources which effectively lessen stress are:

• Work plans

Manage by objectives and give each supervisee work plans to complete. This is a key process in the achievement of coordination, control, completion of tasks, development and support to staff. The work plans should be flexible and can be used to chart progress or used to problem solve specific areas in relation to standards, competencies and work life balance. Review and evaluate work plans and feedback achievements both for you and your supervisees during the process.

Gradle Gardner Martin is a Social Worker, Trainer and Author. Her new book "Inducing Wellbeing In The Work Place: A Workers Guide To Stress Management" is available to buy from her website http://www.myworkplacewellbeing.com and at all book stores. Gradle publishes a weekly newsletter and free downloads on Work Place Wellbeing at http://www.stressfreecaringinthecity.org

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