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Last updated: 18.07.17

Social work managers: Mistakes you should avoid

Social workers play an important part in many people's lives. This makes it essential for them to perform at a high standard otherwise they could be impacting negatively on others.

Social workers are crucial to the lives of many people. Without social workers, many people in the UK and across the world would struggle with problems in their everyday lives. Child and family social workers dedicated themselves to protecting vulnerable children and supporting families in need of assistance. Clinical social workers, on the other hand, diagnose and work with those suffering mental, behavioural and emotional issues.

At all times, best practice is expected as misconduct could have serious implications. It is the responsibility of social work managers to ensure their workforce is performing well by managing their efforts. When performance is poor, a social worker's ability, job choice and sense of identity can be questioned. For the manager, it can absorb much time and energy that could be better spent improving other areas

The best way to avoid difficult scenarios like this is to prevent poor performance in the first place. Here we take a look at common mistakes managers make.

Being inflexible

A common mistake that many social work managers make is being inflexible with the approach they take. If you are aware of a social worker that is struggling, you should approach them in a way that suits them. For example, for employees who don’t like confrontation, approach them in a non-formal setting and ask how you can help them, rather than calling a meeting to tell them what they are doing wrong.

Some employees may also just lack confidence and need informing of the areas they are performing well in so they can make the right decisions. On the flip side, confident workers may be completely unaware of their actions and would suit a group session to hear how others work. As a manager, it's up to your discretion to identify which approach you should take.

Sending mixed messages

What is meant by poor performance? It’s no use in telling your employees they are performing poorly if you don’t inform them of the specifics. Asking your workers to fill out forms, use complex strategies and by providing brief reviews, will only disengage them further, leaving them confused.

To avoid this, managers must be clear with the social worker about what they are doing wrong and how, specifically, they can improve. This requires respect and empathy by working as a team.

Not preventing misconduct

Informing social workers of good conduct from the get go and constantly enforcing this will mean they are conscious of how they should be acting. Social work managers must take preventative approaches so that poor performance doesn’t become a problem. This can be done with a comprehensive induction, regular supervision, frequent team meetings, and efforts that encourage all workers to adapt reflective and critical thinking methods.

Social workers should also be aware of what is expected of them, and the tools to be successful should be made readily available to them.

Not taking a learning approach

A common mistake that social work manager make, is believing that once staff are trained on proceedings, they will not need reminding of conduct. But this is far from the truth. As legislation becomes updated and with the rapid changes involved in the advancement of technology, social workers must be on the ball.

Even without these updates, it is a good idea for social workers to undertake refresher training every three years or so, so that they are reminded of how they should act. With e-learning courses and online training readily available, this is easier to do than it ever has been before. These courses allow workers to expand their knowledge in areas they feel they need training, as well as being completely flexible with users able to learn at a time and place that suits them.


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