We all want productive social workers. But when you have a bad social worker, what do you do? Some of us might have had the unpleasant experience of working with a social worker who doesn’t seem up to the task. No social worker is perfect. All of us have strengths and weaknesses.
During my placement, I remember that a client was extremely upset with me. She did not understand why things were taking so long.
Even though I had explained to her that the administrative aspect of things was not something that I could control, she demanded to speak to my manager.
Eventually, my manager changed another social worker for her.
Today, I wanted to look at what you can do when you encounter a bad social worker.
Be honest with your social worker
It helps to be honest with your social worker. One quality of good social workers is to be thick-skinned, and to take on your feedback.
But, your social worker will not know what’s wrong unless you tell them. Sometimes, things are out of their control. What you must realise is that social workers are just a small cog in the whole machine of social services.
Whilst I am not excusing bad social work, what might be an unacceptable waiting time for you might sometimes be something that social workers have grown to accept.
They might not know that though.
Therefore, be honest with them.
Take 3 deep breaths.
Before you shout or scold your social worker, take a deep breath.
This calms you down, and ensures that you are clear about what you want to say. Often, we end up becoming so angry that we say things that we do not mean.
Arrange a time to chat with your social worker.
For a serious conversation about your feelings, and your expectations, it helps to choose a good time, a good place, and a good agenda. It makes the conversation conducive.
If you have a serious conversation whilst your baby is running around, it makes it hard for you to focus on what you want to say to your social worker.
It helps to call your social worker and arrange a face to face meeting. Then, during the meeting, state your agenda. For example,
Hi Greta, thanks for coming down. I wanted to talk about the difficulties in working with you today.
Speak to their supervisor.
Depending on the outcomes of your conversation with your social worker, you can tell him/her clearly that you would like to speak to their manager.
Ask for the direct extension to the manager.
Normally, a social worker would not refuse this.
Based on my experience working in the UK and Singapore, they also cannot deny you this.
Sometimes, the social worker may be facing difficulties getting support from overworked supervisors.
Make a direct call to their organisation.
If your social worker drags out the conversation by hemming and hawing about giving you their manager’s number, state that you would call their organisation. You can say,
I don’t think this is working out. (Rather than saying ‘I think you’re bad’, which may put the social worker on the defensive.)
I would like to speak to your supervisor who might be better able to help me. I am also trying to help you. I know this is not an easy thing to do, and I would like to help you get more support from your supervisor too.
Continue to find social support.
In the midst of changing your social worker, dealing with your problems can be stressful. Enlist a trusted friend to talk to. Ideally, your friend should be someone who simply listens, rather than someone who tries advising you on what you should do. Get your frustrations off your chest. Don’t keep it within.
If you cannot find someone to help you, write it out. Writing is cathartic because it allows your emotions to flow through your pen. It’s a form of emotional first-aid. It releases your complex emotions, giving form and structure to it. Rather than it becoming a mess in your head, it becomes clearer when you write. Try using these two prompts, as suggested by The Troop in Chimp Management:
- Firstly, what’s the problem?
- Secondly, what’s the factual information?
- Lastly, what’s my plan?
I hope the above tips do help in knowing what to do when you face a bad social worker.
I might not understand how difficult it is for you to deal with your problems, and a social worker that might be part of the problem.
But I hope you do know that wherever you are, there are people who you can reach out to.