Maintaining motivation is difficult. Anyone who has tried and
failed to stick to an exercise regime knows that, writes Nathalie
Towner. Work is no different and the longer you have been in a role
the more difficult it is to be bursting with enthusiasm. People
come into social work because they want to make a difference but,
as time passes, energy levels often flag. Luckily there are
techniques to help revive them.
Why motivation flags
“When I was first qualified and on the front line I was
full of ideology,” says Karen Park, acting practice manager,
independent living team (older people), Hastings and St Leonards,
at East Sussex Council. “Over the years the bureaucracy, the
conflict of roles and the diminishing budgets have made life a lot
harder.” Park is still committed but, after nine years in the job,
it is inevitable that she can no longer rely on passion alone to
keep her going. Fortunately she has ways to keep herself motivated
that do not all involve the emergency chocolate box.
“Supervision is sacrosanct,” says Park. “If done well it
should motivate you and give you time to reflect on what you’ve
achieved.” She also recommends making sure you are organised, as
not feeling on top of the job will drag you down. “I draw up lists
so I feel I have more control. This helps me prioritise so I don’t
always feel led by the nose.” A common mistake is to take on a huge
project without breaking it down into attainable goals. It’s
motivating to feel challenged but you don’t want to be overwhelmed.
“It’s important to have clear, meaningful goals with positive
outcomes for clients. This must be central to what we’re doing.” If
you fail to focus, you risk losing sight of your main priority: the
Work with your team
There will always be days when nothing seems to be going
your way. When this happens it is very helpful to have a support
network that allows you to sound off. This will also help put
everything in perspective. “As a management team we try to use each
other,” says Park. “By talking through issues with your peers and
getting their support you won’t feel as bad when your day isn’t
working out the way it should.” Feedback is important and senior
management must provide it for their staff. “The media has a lot to
answer for when it comes to the negative portrayal of our
profession, which is why it’s so important to acknowledge when our
team has done excellent work.”
Dealing with setbacks
Setbacks happen to us all so no professional should take them
personally. If necessary, ask for additional supervision or turn to
your line manager for help. “You also have to accept that it’s not
always your fault,” says Park. “Just because you are identifying
the need it doesn’t mean you can make everything better.” She also
recommends trying to have a good case work balance so you do get to
see that your work can positively enhance people’s lives.
Make your job more interesting
After a few years you may feel that work is just a routine. You
might also feel you are unable to do it as well as you would like.
“There is a lot of burn-out or, as people progress in their careers
they feel they’ve lost the best bits of their job,” says Park.
“I try to maintain client contact otherwise I would just have a
management job. I make sure I keep in touch and still talk through
case work.” Work out what elements of your job you like best and
make sure you can do them regularly.