Dealing with managers who do not take supervision seriously enough

Career Clinic

Q: I am currently in a locum position but my manager keeps cancelling supervision. Since I started, I still haven’t received any formal supervision, and I am quite concerned. What do you think I should do?

A: This can be a difficult issue and it is something we often discuss when interviewing locums: it’s important they understand the value of receiving supervision, and what to do if they aren’t getting it, writes Richard Smith. A good tip for agency workers is to ask at interviews how often formal supervision is provided. If the response is “there is no set time”, you might want to consider whether the organisation you’re talking to is the right place for you.

However, you are in post and your manager doesn’t seem to be taking their supervision responsibilities seriously. They should, because supervision in a stressful profession like social work is crucial. The first action you should take is to politely inform your line manager that you are not receiving enough support and to ask for some supervision. Make clear to your manager that you understand they are extremely busy, but that you would like to confirm a time and date to meet. You may want to back up the request with an e-mail.

If your manager has an open door policy and a casual approach to management, advise them that you feel more comfortable with formal supervision. If you have an urgent issue to discuss, consider asking for a shorter time slot in which to go over it, and book a later date for a full supervision. Setting the meeting agenda in advance, clearly listing the points you wish to cover, may also prompt your manager into action.

If you are still not making progress, consider approaching ­another senior member of staff who could advise you, or contact your recruitment consultant to ask if they could call your manager to discuss your request for supervision. They should always be there to support you, offer guidance and advocate on your behalf in order to reach a satisfactory outcome for you. If still nothing happens, contact your recruitment consultant again, to organise a three-way meeting with your manager to try to sort out the situation.

If the above strategy doesn’t work, you or your agency should approach your manager’s superior. Supervision is very important, not only to provide you with support and make you feel valued, but also for you to appraise your manager of what is happening with your cases and to be kept up to date with changing legislation. If you’re still hitting a brick wall after this, then it is time to consider another position.

Richard Smith is health and social care director at social care recruitment firm Beresford Blake Thomas

Next question:

I am thinking about a career in social work but I am put off by the poor image it seems to have. Is there anything being done to improve it? We will answer this question in the 18 September issue of Community Care. We want to publish your advice too – please send it to by 11 September.

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