Developing a strong working relationship with your line manager can improve your practice and make for an easier life all round, but it’s a two-way process. Here, Jonathan Coxon, managing director of social work recruitment agency Liquid Personnel, explains how to manage your manager
Do be professional:
Always turn up on time or, if you know you are going to be late, call ahead to let your boss know. If you are too ill to go into work, make sure you speak to your manager directly yourself. Don’t leave a message or tell a colleague to pass on the information and, most importantly, don’t get a partner or family member to call on your behalf.
Do get to know your boss (personally and professionally):
If you understand more about the way your manager likes to work, you can adapt your way of working to suit. For example, do they like to receive important information via email so they can read through and analyse it, or would they prefer to discuss it with you face-to-face? Making the effort to ask about these things will make your working life run more smoothly. And it never hurts to find out how they take their tea or coffee, either.
There are also benefits to getting to know your manager personally, within reason. Some small talk about family and personal life can help to build relationships and ensure understanding if, for example, you have to pick up your child from school or take an important call from a relative.
Do offer solutions as well as problems:
If you need to ask your manager for help with a difficult case or situation, try to arm yourself with some potential solutions. This shows that you have taken the initiative, even if it’s outside of your level of experience. Your manager is likely to appreciate the effort and, even if they decide on an alternative course of action, you can ask them why and learn from the situation.
Don’t take on more work than you can cope with:
Managers are not mind-readers; if you feel your caseload is becoming unmanageable, or if you have been given a case which you do not have the experience to deal with, it is essential that you make this known using the proper channels. In social work, the potential consequences of being overstretched or out of your depth can be severe, so it is best to speak up as soon as possible.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help:
Many social workers feel reluctant to ask for help, especially when they are starting a new role and determined to seem capable. On the contrary, asking questions and raising issues is an important part of settling in, and it shows your manager that you are conscientious. However
Don’t bother your manager with trivial things:
Judge the importance and urgency of your issue; most managers are incredibly busy and do not appreciate being disturbed unnecessarily. Could you find the answer by asking a colleague or checking relevant documentation instead? Time with your manager can be limited, so make the most of it.
Do try to think like your manager:
Sometimes your manager will make decisions you don’t understand or don’t agree with, but it’s important to ask “why?” They might be bowing to pressures from above or trying to meet specific targets. If you look at decisions from your manager’s point of view, it will help you to understand how the whole team functions.
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