Part of the supervisor's job is to education social workers, help social workers "internalize the service aspirations of social work practice" and moreover help sustain "the worker-as-person in the face of difficult challenges" (Kadushin, 22-23).
Following the reading of this book, I am aware that when social workers perform "non-uniform tasks" in "uncertain and unpredictable contexts" -- toward objectives that are perhaps "ambiguous" -- that leads directly to more "decentralization of decision making" and hence a greater need for "autonomy" (Kadushin, 36). This is not intended to promote the idea that social workers should be out on their own following their own values and goals. But rather, it is an admission that I do need structure, and when there is uncertainty as to how to proceed, and where my intervention may result in possible failure, I need to know my supervisor has provided direction for me. The book is clear in that regard, because the "desirability" of a supervisor lies not just in leadership, but also in the full use of that supervisor's knowledge and experience.
An Empowering Approach to Management in Social Work -- an Overview
Author Donna Hardina -- professor of social work education at California State University in Fresno -- offers a number of empowering advice and examples in her book, an Empowering Approach to Managing Social Service Organizations. For example she offers a chapter on how to promote the psychological empowerment of workers, suggesting that a social workers duties do not have to lead to "dull, routine, and mechanical" outcomes for the worker (Hardina, 2007). Monotonous work and low motivation lead to very poor quality efforts, so it is the supervisor's job to keep workers engaged and enthusiastic.
Hardina relates empowerment to self-efficacy in the sense that the social worker is trained to empower clients and to assist them in discovering their "inner power," and to help clients increase their sense of self-efficacy by relating to the "true causes of their condition" (Hardina). However, notwithstanding the empowerment tactics used with clients, "…little attention has been paid to the needs of social worker that may feel powerless working in traditional, highly centralized, top-down organizational settings…" (Hardina). In addition, Hardina suggests that low morale, low motivation and "minimal levels of job performance" can result when the social worker is not made to feel important by the supervisor, and when the social worker has very little input into decision-making within the organization.
Hardina also uses the easy read of her narrative to help a social service organization approach team building, an alternative to an agency where decisions are made by a "small number of managers" and power is in the hands of a very few with little or not collaboration with staff. The author offers specifics on skills and strategies that managers need for team building (using 5 specific stages to be used in the process) and after reading these points by Hardina any future manager or leader can clearly see the utility in taking these steps.
Advocacy is a necessary tool not just for the client, but also for the social worker, Hardina explains. Championing the rights of individuals through direct intervention and empowerment is the job of the social worker, but the manager must also use creative and proven advocacy strategies to address potentially challenging issues the social worker is confronted with.
How These Points Apply to Me
In looking ahead to the day when I may be a supervisor, or manager, books like these are important not just to read through and enjoy, but to take notes from and to keep a binder with notes from the best supervisor / manager texts that are available. Empowering people in the community is important, but if the social worker is not empowered to feel good about what he or she is doing, is not empowered to take additional responsibility and to heighten his or her self-image, the work will not get done with the same degree of professionalism that the challenges call for. Knowing how to help build a team -- not just embracing cliches or having a token meeting here or there -- is absolutely vital for the administration of quality social work. This book by Hardina is very useful in that regard.
In conclusion, both the book by Kadushin / Harkness and the book by Hardina contain invaluable strategies and policy advice; but if those books remain on shelves, with no notes taken from them and no ideas gleaned from them to be shared with others, they are rendered moot.
Hardina, Donna. (2007). An Empowering Approach to Managing…