I was asked why I’m never scared or pressured at work… here’s my secret
My husband is a bit of geek and when his brother isn’t free to go along to comicons (to stand in line for five hours to see some guy who was once an extra in Stark Trek) or the movies, he takes me along with him. He’s really into superheroes so I’ve sat through hours of these mostly unforgettable movies (although I can actually recommend Logan which is the last one he took me to). Most of these don’t stick with me (apart from Logan, seriously go see it!) but there was a line from one of the recent Avengers movies that really struck a chord.
Towards the end of the movie when it’s all going to hell, Captain America looks at Bruce Banner and says to him ‘now might be a good time for you to get angry’ in the hope that he’s gonna turn into the Incredible Hulk. Bruce Banner looks back at him and says ‘that’s my secret, Captain, I’m always angry’ before tearing out of his clothes and becoming the Hulk (before this there’d been some talk about how he can remain so cool under pressure and turn on the Hulk at will).
The reason this line struck a chord with me is because there have been many times down the years when colleagues have asked me how I can remain so calm under pressure. I’m seen as a steady hand in the team and a bit of a cool character (although that sounds kinda cheesy) who tends to get the cases that other people are struggling with or leave in a bit of a mess.
Some people in the office even call me Mrs Wolf, after the Mr Wolf character from Pulp Fiction who solves problems for people
People seem to think that I’m not bothered by the pressures of the workplace, that I can handle whatever’s thrown at me and that I’m not scared. But just like Bruce Banner, I’ve got a secret…
I can now reveal… ‘that’s my secret, Colleagues, I’m always scared and under pressure’.
Of course I’ve been scared when I’ve had to work with murderers, rapists, paedophiles, violent criminals and perpetrators of the most horrific abuse. I’d be stupid not be scared in these situations and have my guard up. But I make sure I do my risks assessments, I never see dangerous people alone and I take precautions to keep myself safe.
I also feel pressure just like anybody else as well. What I do to deal with this is to clearly tell my manager when I’ve got too many cases and make sure I don’t sell myself short when setting deadlines and planning assessment timetables. I know my limits and I’m self-aware enough to know what I can handle. My managers might not be able to give me the most cases, but they can trust me to do the work I say I will on the ones I do pick up. When I’m asked to work in unsafe conditions I make sure I tell my manager and ask for it to be recorded.
I get down and feel like I might burn out just the same as anyone else too. My way of dealing with this has been to never go for a management position because the 10% increase in wage isn’t worth the 100% increase in work. I’ve stuck in the same role for years and I’m happy with it. I also take back all my time that I’m owed for overtime and leave the office at 5pm every day. I’ll stay late for an emergency but I won’t stay late to sit and type up records to cover the backs of the council bean counters.
What I’ve done differently from some of my colleagues is to acknowledge the fear of working with dangerous people, accept the pressures that management will put on me and forgive myself for feeling down sometimes. I worry that there are lots of people out there trying to block out their emotions and they are suffering because of this.
It’s normal to be scared if you’re having to work with people who are capable of doing terrible things. It is perfectly natural to feel pressurised because managers are forcing you to waste hours and hours on rubbish computer systems. It’s human nature to sometimes feel a little low when you keep seeing the worst of society every day you go to work.
Accept these feelings as your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and work out how you can make a change. What I did might not work for you but you can try to do something else instead. Whatever you do, please don’t think that there’s something wrong with you for feeling scared or under pressure. People in my office call me Mrs Wolf and they don’t know my secret that I’m scared all of the time.
Every Sunday I publish a guest blog from a Secret Social Worker who wishes to share their story with the world. If you’d like to write an anonymous guest blog about life as a Social Worker, email me via: firstname.lastname@example.org