Do not underestimate the power of supervision. If you get a shit supervisor, you will have a shit experience.
Starting off as a Social Worker in a new country comes with many challenges and I had heard so many different things about the work ethic in this country. I heard that people are constantly in a rush and are constantly being worked to the bone. So when I started working in frontline, I was appalled at the expectations of a Social Worker and the tasks that my supervisor would spring onto me. I didn’t know if that was just the norm and I was just supposed to put up with it or if it was just over the top and ridiculous. Fellow colleagues would say ‘that’s just how it is’, ‘they want your blood’, and ‘they expect you to devote your life” to this work. I couldn’t believe it. I had never experienced this amount of slavery in all my years of social work. Add to that a supervisor that’s not supportive…well that’s just asking for trouble.
There was a reason why I never went to my supervisor for support, and instead went to colleagues and other Assistant Team Managers. I was not getting the support that I needed. But I did not know if that was just me or just the way it was. I needed clear and concise direction, but how was I supposed to tell my supervisor that? How is a new Social Worker, who is new to the country, who is on probation, approach her manager and say ‘hey, you talk too much, just give me a clear and concise answer’. I just didn’t have the guts to do it.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I only recently had come to realize that I was actually being bullied by my previous supervisor when there was a change in supervision. She never offered me any praise or told me I was doing a good job. And I didn’t realize how much additional stress this was adding to my life and in turn, spilling into my personal life. I didn’t know if I was doing ok or if my practice was adequate. I just didn’t feel confident. My reviews were tainted with expectations I didn’t meet and concern as to whether I would pass my probation. And the worst part is…that I conceded. I caved and said that I was disappointed in myself, when in fact, my supervisor played a large role in not fostering my skills and not helping me to become successful.
A good supervisor should foster an atmosphere of growth, learning, personal reflection and respect of the mentor-mentee relationship. So when it comes to supervision, be clear on what the expectations are of the supervision meetings and what you want out of them, and be honest. Make it known that you want some time devoted to getting to know your cases. I can’t stress this enough. I thought I had advocated for this, but I should have been more persistent because the more you know your cases, the more prepared you are for CP Conferences and LAC Reviews. Speak with your colleagues and ask them about their supervision and what it was like when they first started. Ask for help. And also speak with your Team Manager. I have a Team Manager who is incredibly supportive, empathetic and positive and I wish I had gone to her sooner.
I finally feel like I am now moving forward and progressing in the role and feeling confident. It is really unfortunate that I didn’t have this current supervisor with me from the very beginning because I would have had a much more positive experience. It’s amazing how much of an impact the previous supervisor had on me and I wish I had said something earlier…but I just didn’t know any better. Being a Social Worker in a new country was very intimidating and I didn’t want it to come across like I couldn’t handle the job. But I can handle the job and I do have the skills and I will make mistakes. I have learned to be gentle with myself because it is a very steep learning curve and of course, I am only human…and so are you.