I know most social workers have very little contact with senior managers, yet I continue to be surprised at how little insight they have into the role of management beyond that of their own line manager. Those given the opportunity to shadow me for day probably came away thinking I spent all my time in meetings. I was happy for them to sit in on a team meeting, attend an overview and scrutiny committee or join me on a visit to give out training awards to staff, but clearly they couldn’t sit in on a disciplinary hearing or join me on a recruitment panel, which would have been far more interesting and informative.
So how to get an insight into what senior managers do? Why not put yourself in the senior management role. Would you be pragmatic or idealistic? How much would you share with staff? How would you balance being open with the public and press against the risk of undermining the credibility of staff and the reputation of the organisation? How far would you go to maintain good relations with health?
Managers are responsible for implementing change and in the current financial climate those changes are usually driven by the need to make savings. So what sort of senior manager would you make? What would your response be to these scenarios?
Would you make 50 people redundant rather than risk 500 losing their jobs?
Would you close all your council run homes for older people because the care can be bought more cheaply from the private sector despite the distress this will cause to existing residents and the risk that cheap care will be poorer care?
A disciplinary investigation has revealed widespread circulation of “humorous” emails which are sexist and in some cases pornographic. Human resources (HR) initially wanted you to take an uncompromising stance, but they are now back tracking and advising a more pragmatic approach because of the sheer numbers involved and a suspicion that some senior managers might be implicated. HR are advising an amnesty for all those who have passed on emails with a general warning to all staff that any further misuse will lead to disciplinary action and possible dismissal.
There is an offer on the table to take over all your support services at a saving of £5 million a year the very sum you need to save from the budget. This money would mean you would not have to cut child protection services, which to date have been protected at the expense of all other services. However, staff in support services would face redundancy or new employment contracts on lower pay with fewer days leave and less sick pay.
The local hospital trust is blaming social services for bed blocking. You know that the reasons for delayed discharge are as much to do with consultants, ward staff, occupational therapists and even the opening hours of the pharmacy as they are delays in social work assessments. Negotiations on integration are at a delicate stage, but behind the scenes relationship with senior managers in health are cordial. Do you risk all by defending your staff in public against unfair criticism?
Blair McPherson is the author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by Russell House