Social work diary: ‘I’m becoming a servant to the ping of my Blackberry’

The lure of the Blackberry, and the inequity of social workers’ pay compared with other local authority jobs, hit home on a trip to an ‘aspiring leaders’ training day, writes an anonymous social work manager


I’ve been sent on a management training course for ‘aspiring leaders’ in my local authority. I suppose I should be flattered to be considered a future leader, but I can’t help thinking that sending me on this course is the organisation’s little joke before they make me redundant in the pending restructure.

I’ve never done any leadership training, despite managing people for over 10 years, so I felt it was worth the inconvenience and disruption to my day job to give it a go.

The trainers are good and there is a lot for me to reflect on, but it is also making me even more conscious of the deficits within my organisation. Possibly not an outcome the council were looking for.


It’s interesting to note the impact of the Blackberry on this training course. Everyone has one here. During the sessions you can see people continually reaching for them, and surreptitiously messaging under the table.

It’s a shame as the training is good, but it’s hard to resist the temptation of the Blackberry.

I’ve only had one for a fortnight so I’m new to the impact. I didn’t want the thing. I suspected the decision to get them for staff at my level had a lot to do with getting even more work out of us, especially work that impinges even more directly on our home lives. 

In theory I like being ‘present’ in what I’m doing. I like concentrating on the experience in hand and not giving in to distractions.Yet I am becoming a complete servant to the pinging of my mobile. I can’t work out how to turn off the sound alert when an email comes in and somehow, despite all my learning on Buddhist mindfulness, the ping creates a curiosity in me that is so very hard to resist.


This training course is for managers across our council’s services. Only a few of my group are managing in social care.

I’m not sure if it is utter arrogance on my part, but I can’t help thinking how much more complex and difficult our jobs are compared to those people around me, who are either on the same pay grade as me or a higher one. 

Can writing policies or managing buildings require the same level of judgement and responsibility as decisions about vulnerable people and the protection of those around them? Even the other members of the course are commenting that our jobs sounds sound really difficult.

I usually find it doesn’t serve much purpose to dwell on social work pay. But today is making me reflect on how hard my staff work and  why their experience and qualifications do not lead to the pay levels of other professional groups.

I’m sure there’s research on this, but instinctively I suspect it has a lot to do with gender. A female dominated workforce in social work has not brought the sense of entitlement and expectation that men bring to their jobs.

Perhaps it will change in time. Perhaps we’ll get better at negotiating, but probably we need to start by really valuing, and communicating the value of, our work and the level of skill and expertise it requires to do it well.

I remember social work academic Peter Beresford once saying: “Social care is not rocket science. It is much more complex and subtle than that.”


It’s the last afternoon of the course. I reach for my Blackberry. Time to check what is happening in the day job. For some reason I can’t seem to get my password in correctly.  

I was warned when issued with the phone that I should contact our IT desk if I get to the fourth  attempt to enter my password. Apparently there is a security system that wipes my device if I get it wrong five times.
I haven’t got time to phone the department and I know my password is right. Surely even someone as clumsy as me can’t type it in wrong on five occasions?

I take the risk. The device tells me I am wrong and I gaze at the screen despondently as it goes through a long wiping process. When will I find the time to take it back to the IT department and get this sorted out?

The man behind me taps me on the shoulder.“I think you might have picked up my Blackberry by mistake”, he says.

The realisation hits; that’s why the password didn’t work. I have just wiped someone else’s Blackberry. 

My colleague is incredibly nice about it. I remember he works in emergency planning. Let’s hope that there are no emergencies tonight or I am in real trouble.

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