Social Work can be a shitty job, but please spare a thought for managers!

Social Work can be a shitty job, but please spare a thought for managers!

I manage a Safeguarding and  Assessment Team deep in the heart of the West Midlands. As a rule nothing much gets to me but something happened at work last week, something very small but it made me think, it made me smile, it made me go all squidgy, which is not something I’m easily prone to.

My thinking went something like this- the role of the front line social worker is without doubt one of the toughest, most stressful ways imaginable to earn a living.  As a Team Manager we have been there, we know that so a box of hankies to mop up the tears is as much part of the tool kit as the computer, as is a sense of humour to laugh it off.

It’s not like the employers don’t recognise these stresses, they must do. I mean they have sent me on umpteen courses on leadership skills, emotional intelligence, change management etc. to enable me to handle these situations. Another way I know they realise is how understanding they are when the stats show a social worker hasn’t hit their targets this week for one reason or another…

Oh hang on… no that last bit’s wrong. Missed targets mean it’s time for team mangers to get their backsides metaphorically kicked with an expectation that we will pass the kick down the line, but that doesn’t sit easily with people who came into the profession because we care.

My advice to anyone considering the step up to the team manager role is be aware that you will be tasked with juggling the insatiable demands of the employer, the complex and ever fluid needs of several hundred service users and the diverse bunch of individuals that make up your team. Drop any of these and the whole lot comes crashing down.

The key to success, in my opinion, is to get to know your individual workers, find out what motivates them, what demotivates them, build their skills, their confidence, their trust

Only when you have made some headway in these areas will the individuals start to become a team. Sometimes this is a relatively easy task, other times not so.  You will find some social workers are brilliant, most are good, some are in need of improvement and let’s be honest the odd few are bloody awful and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near vulnerable families… fortunately there are a relative rarity and far too complex an issue to go into here.

So why would anyone want to be a people juggling team manager, well speaking for myself when you get the rhythm going, the balls are flying trough the air between your self and the team it feels bloody great!! So going back to what happened this week; I came back from yet another boring management meeting to find a bar of chocolate on my desk with this note stuck to it left by one of my team leaving me with a daft smile for the rest of the day.

Social Work can be a shitty job, but let’s all try and work together with our managers.

Johnny G


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