Q: I’m a new frontline worker and I have lots of ideas about how we could improve our service. I’m worried that no one will listen to my suggestions and I’m anxious about being seen as too keen or just naïve by some of my more experienced colleagues. What should I do?
A: Don’t lose your enthusiasm. Being reflective and looking for ways to improve services is part of our professional responsibility. And it’s much easier getting to work if we are still motivated, excited and committed to what we are doing. It makes getting out of bed in the morning that much easier, and also is likely to make the experience for our service users that much better.
But it’s also a bonus if enthusiasm and excitement can be shared with others. Building a commitment across work groups, and seeing shared ways of improving services, can also be a part of building a positive, outward-looking and confident team.
So do share your proposals with colleagues and seek their comments and commitment. If you think this might be a bruising experience, look to the colleagues within your team who might be potential allies. There are also likely to be colleagues who you particularly trust to be open and give good advice. But expect that there might be some within the team who are not up for reflection and possible change in practice, just don’t take it personally.
Comments from colleagues could also help re-shape or improve your suggestion, or if it is not going to be a runner they should be able to explain why. Learning why something shouldn’t happen as well as why it should is still a valuable experience.
And if your proposals are about issues bigger than your team don’t be unwilling to share them outside the team. They may be of interest to others developing policy or focused on staff development, but it is wise to keep your manager in touch.
We all have the potential to make a difference and even to give leadership. This is not only about position status within organisations. One of our competencies should be about how to engage with and influence others. We also ought to have skills in working within groups and mobilising networks. We hopefully apply these competencies in our work with and on behalf of service users as well as within our own organisations.
Ray Jones is professor of social work at Kingston University and St Georges, University of London, and is a former director of social services and BASW chair
A: One of the best pieces of advice I received years ago from a manager was, “Don’t just come to me with a problem. Bring your idea for a solution too.” In the same way, don’t feel inhibited by inexperience, but think through your idea and how it might be implemented and then take it to others.
Helen Wosu, employee development officer (child protection), Edinburgh
A: Don’t be afraid to voice your suggestions. Often teams can become comfortable and stop looking for ways to improve/change their services. As a new member of staff, you will obviously have a different perspective and this is often a positive thing.
Mandy, from CareSpace