As a teenager, I once told my mom that I was going to make a list of all the things she was doing wrong so I would remember not to do those things when I became a mother. I have since lost the list and forgotten what it said. Given the positive view I have of my mother, I would guess the list was an exaggerated reaction to a particular moment of frustration, but what do you expect from a teenage girl
yelling at talking to her mom?
Sensationalism or not, I remember the list as a great coping mechanism, so I’ve decided to make a similar list now based on positive and negative experiences I’ve had (and my colleagues and social work school peers have had) with supervisors. Given that I am somewhat older and wiser and relatively less melodramatic than I was as a teenager, perhaps this list will even prove helpful to me one day. Please note that I will also be taking this opportunity to lightly mock terrible supervisors, including one at my current job (thankfully not my own).
Okay future self, put down that More magazine Dos and Don’ts list and read this…
DOs and DON’Ts for when I am someone’s (social work) supervisor:
- DO be consistent about expectations and support.
- DO stay open-minded to learning from your supervisee.
- DON’T throw a stack of papers at your supervisee and say “These are useless to me.”
- DO help your supervisee develop skills to manage aspects of their job that are difficult for them.
- DON’T ask your supervisee if they think their client is gay when all you know about the client so far is that they are interested in fashion. Especially if you have only been supervising them for a week and they don’t know you at all yet.
- DO help your supervisee identify their strengths.
- DO identify ways your supervisee can use those strengths in their position to benefit clients and the organization.
- DON’T act annoyed when your supervisee asks you questions that help them do their job well.
- DO praise your supervisee when they do things well. Often.
- DON’T expect your supervisee to be grateful for “leadership opportunities” that have nothing to do with their interests or skills as a social worker.
- DON’T offer to bribe children to join your supervisee’s caseload.
- DO care about your supervisee’s well-being and encourage them to take care of themselves.
- DO take care of yourself.
- DON’T make jokes about your supervisee using illicit drugs.
- DON’T make your supervisee push you around the office in a wheely chair because your back hurts.
- DO encourage your supervisee to stay on top of deadlines.
- DON’T reprimand other people’s supervisees. Well, ever. But especially not while riding public transportation.
- DON’T spend supervision reading emails and “multitasking” while your supervisee is talking.
- DO find a supervisory position where you, too, are offered appropriate supervision.
- DO find a new job if you feel that you are working in an organization that does not value supervision and your role as a supervisor.
- DON’T yell at your supervisee until they cry. Especially if your office has thin walls and everyone else on the floor can hear everything you are saying.
- DO tell your supervisee directly if you are not coming to work that day.
- DON’T try to turn supervision in to your own free therapy session.
- DO decide not to be a supervisor if you are terrible at it.
That’s all I’ve got for now (thank you to my cubemate for a few excellent additions). Please feel free to comment with your own DOs and DON’Ts.