Term Paper: Management &amp Supervision in Social Work

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Management & Supervision in Social Work

The team of Alfred Kadushin and Daniel Harkness has published a book titled Supervision in Social Work, which has a number of key ideas and strategies about the leadership needed by supervisors and management in social work. This paper reviews and critiques that book as well as an excellent book by author Donna Hardina, an Empowering Approach to Managing Social Service Organizations.

Supervision in Social Work -- an Overview

This book embraces a wide variety of subjects that are germane to social work and to the leadership / supervision required to provide the best possible services to clients, and the best possible working conditions in the office. It begins with a historical overview of the field of social work, and a review of how supervision plays an important role in the delivery of services to clients. The book offers sections on the recruitment and selection of employees, the importance of delegating authority and assignments, the vitally important skill regarding good communication. The authors take great pains to review the need for good communication between staff members, from management to social worker, from social work to client -- including lateral communication, informal and formal communication -- and moreover, Kadushin, et al., point to specific problems that can occur in organizational communication.

The supervisor is not just in his or her position to keep everyone on task, and to create reports and be bureaucratic. According to Kadushin et al. The supervisor in a social work environment is an "advocate" for his or her staff; the supervisor is also a buffer between staff and administration; and the supervisor should be a "change agent" and a liaison to the community.

Other key points in this book include the whole issue of authority and power, including reward power, coercive power, positional (legitimate) power, referent power, expert power and the interrelations between various supervisory power and how to make authority legitimate within the structure of an organization. Supervision comes in many colors and flavors, and after reading this book the alert student will sense that there are myriad phases of attaining the authority that comes with supervision, and there are pitfalls and traps that a supervisor can fall into. While "burnout" is a very real dynamic, and can sap the enthusiasm and professional energy from a social worker, the stress that leads to burnout can (and should be) avoided, or at the very lease, dealt with on a professional level.

The transition from social worker to supervisor is not necessarily always a smooth process, but this book goes into great detail regarding that issue and is helpful. The race and ethnicity factors in a social worker organization have to be taken into account, and as in any organization, communication and other functional problems can occur when there is a Caucasian supervisor and an African-American worker, or vice-versa, or when insensitivity leads to conflict.

In addition, the book goes into deep detail regarding evaluations, how they should be conducted, what works and what doesn't work, and what procedures are the most practical and are proven to be effective.

Supervision in Social Work -- How do These Key Points Relate to Our Work?

When reviewing the quality of services social workers provide today -- juxtaposed with how supervisors handled social work cases in the 19th century -- one can see that the field has come a long way towards delivering competent, empathetic services. Though there are flaws and there is room for criticism in today's social work milieu, however all social workers should be educated as to how things used to be contrasted with the policies we adhere to in 2012. What went on years ago relates to the work of today. The social workers in the 19th century were known as "visitors"; in one case, a visitor had visited a family and reported to her supervisor, "…those children must be taken away; the home was too dreadful" (Kadushin, et al., 2002, p. 4).

The supervisor then asked the "visitor" to work out a way to "make the home fit for them to stay in." Hence, rather than authorizing the "visitor" to take those children away, the goal of a supervisor is to work with the "visitor" in ways that employ tact, personal power, and professionalism to improve the family situation. The same tack and professionalism must be employed today -- and the same hierarchical position of the supervisor that was customary in the 1800s is in place today, with a couple minor modifications. The early supervisor did not have the ultimate authority to make decisions on individual cases; in fact that supervisor had to report to a "district committee" which did have ultimate authority.

Basically the supervisor was in middle management back then, and the same is true today -- the supervisor in 2012 works with the social workers in the field but ultimately answers to agency administrators (Kadushin, 6). Today's worker has been trained to accept his or her responsibilities and those duties and responsibilities are linked to a hierarchy (no one acts entirely alone vis-a-vis making decisions about providing assistance to clients) of management in the office; and the office administrators are beholden to guidelines handed down from county and state authorities and elected officials.

The authors make some very important observations about the relationship between the social worker, the supervisor, and the office bureaucracy, which applies directly to our work. In England "community workers" (social workers) are out there in the community and they feel that "…their primary loyalty and commitment" is to the community in which they are doing their best work, "and to the people in that community" (Kadushin, 16). The people in the community know the worker, trust the worker, and the community worker is thus "hesitant about being identified with an agency and its bureaucracy, which often represents what the community is struggling against" (Kadushin, 16). Hence, this is a ready-made dynamic for the social worker (or community worker) to feel that he or she is the one promoting social change, and the supervisor and administrator back in the office is there to stymie change. The "suits" are worried about budgets and don't really fully understand the emotion, distress, and socioeconomic trials that low income people suffer through -- or so the social worker believes, since he or she is somewhat isolated from the fiduciary and governmental aspects of social work.

Moreover, Kadushin explains that the social worker can begin to suspect that the real "purpose of supervision is to exact conformity with the goals and norms of the agency," rather than improve lives in the community. This applies to all social workers, including me. The temptation to develop a "them vs. us" attitude with supervisors in the office has to be resisted at all costs, the authors explain. And supervisors can eliminate or reduce the chances of this schism developing by showing great interest in the daily activities of the social worker, and by going out into the field with the social worker to view first hand the dynamics that the social worker is dealing with.

The suggestion presented in the sentence above is seen by the authors of this book as an additional responsibility of the supervisor: this is "…the expressive-supportive leadership function of supervision" (20). In other words, in addition to his or her administrative and educational leadership roles, the supervisor has the responsibility of "sustaining worker morale" and of helping with "job-related discouragement and discontent" (Kadushin, 20). The worker out there in the field may be dealing with people who are in deep distress, people who are having financial and emotional struggles in dealing with being foreclosed out of their apartment, or over the loss of food stamps and healthcare. It is the duty of the supervisor to give his or her supervisees "a sense of worth as professionals" along with "a sense of belonging in the agency" and a "sense of security in their performance" (Kadushin, 20). In other words, all the responsibilities of the supervisor should be applied to our work.

Supervision in Social Work -- How do These Key Points Relate to Me?

Knowing the objectives of management from the perspective of supervision -- how the past links to the present, and how important it is to have a holistic view of the relationships between levels of authority -- is imperative for me, a person seeking to become a supervisor and perhaps more in the future. While at this time I would certainly rather be working directly with clients and cases than be stuck in an office worrying about funding, conducting program planning, policy formation and more, I would like to learn new and important management / supervisor functions so I can combine those where practical with my ongoing community work.

Supervision is a means to an end, Kadushin explains (22), because it is an ongoing process that begins in the classroom and continues with the goal of impacting others in positive, solution-friendly ways for positive client… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Management &amp Supervision in Social Work.  (2012, February 2).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/management-supervision-social-work/2816192

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