Professionalism

I’m apparently a social worker, despite all the ways that I fail at having a social life. I apparently work in the “social” realm, whatever that is. I have some desires and goals for 2019 to advance my professional life and career. Like beginning an online program to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Illinois. Or taking the IAODAPCA exam to become a licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor. And completing the CMS 100 for state-level employment opportunities. Either way, I am seeking an advanced career and driving toward financial goals that have my family’s best interest at heart.

I am so flawed, I have a history of screwing up, of making bad choices, of engaging in negative relationship behaviors, of social isolation and alienation. I’m surprised that I felt as comfortable and as confident in my previous role and in the practice of social work, and in my affirming confidence toward a continued pursuit in the field. If I think back on my life, I had no idea social work was a thing, that it was something that companies did and schools taught and something that people got paid to do. As a youth, I was so full of anger and energy toward a world that I thought had only injustice and pain. Had I known that social workers existed I could have, would have and should have directed that energy toward intentionally becoming a social worker. Instead, I literally fell into it when I accidentally become a Foster Care Case Worker.

I am sadly all to often and frequently reduced to being just another entry-level employee despite my experience and education. This causes tension, I am aware of the feelings I have with the leadership surrounding me. I have the ability to perceive them as being equal to me rather than unequal to me like my fellow entry-level employees are willing to lend them. I am so frequently and all too often frustrated by my desire to be in a leadership role, and this leads me to critique the leadership around me. This causes tension. Especially within myself. All too often among entry-level employees who don’t otherwise know the difference from leading and being led, I see the responsibility buck passed down from leadership to employee far too often and far too conveniently for administrative responsibilities. Failure to explain policy, failure to communicate, failure to plan appropriately result in a new employee taking the blam or the responsibility rather than the leadership.

For example, a three-day training is planned from Tuesday to Thursday. On the first day, all the trainees operate as they do on every other workday, and they don’t clock out for lunch. Upon return, the trainer explains they should have clocked out because the reason they don’t during their regular workday is that they remain in service to clients during their lunch. Since they are training and not in service to clients they ought not to be paid for lunch. All attendees operated as usual and only were told of the mistake after they made it. Perhaps creating this conflict after the fact is easier for leadership to manage the perceptions of new employees. Rather than sending a memo in advance that details the expectations of the training illuding to what leadership really feels about employees, that leadership will save money when asking them of their time if they can. Which they did. This practice reduces the mutual sense of dignity that employees feel between themselves and their employer. That is exactly how I felt.

Another example of this can be seen in the way that this conflict was managed. When a new employee voiced concern that it isn’t appropriate to change the compensation of new employees during training, text messages were sent to individual employees supervisors. This resulted in a conversation after training to explain the companies rational. The rationale for not paying this new employee was that despite this employees presence on the care unit during his lunch hour on the training day, and even though he was ostensibly providing direct care while he and the residents on the unit ate lunch, the fact that he wasn’t scheduled to work on the unit supports the rational not to pay him. Despite spending his lunch break from training on the unit to observe his counterparts function through the workday as he has been instructed to do. All of this was explained while reminding the new employee that he ought to have known that despite his previous days training ending 1.5 hours earlier on the previous day, a training that occurred approximately 15 miles away from his usual workplace, that he should have left the training location once completed driven to his usual workplace facility and clocked out once 8 hours had passed. In this real-life example, management is both complaining about not paying for labor and having to pay for labor, despite not communicating the expectations. These simultaneous contradictions benefit the employer by going unspoken in advance. Not communicating the expectations saves the company money by creating the chance for an employee to neglect his own self-interest. Because driving out to the unit to clock out after training ended early positively affects the employee, but it is a ridiculous presumption that someone would know to do this in advance, and assume that his drive time would be compensated but that his lunch hour during training wouldn’t be. Not telling him in advance saves the company money.

Another example of bad management; coercive leadership tactics are seen in the execution of training, and the hirings process as a whole. Firstly I am over qualified for my current position at the children’s home, but for some reason, HR preferred to place me at the bottom with an assumption that I could climb up and live up to my credentials and experiences on behalf of the company. This is an example of undercutting labor, lowering the expectations of labor, thereby lowering the value of said labor and the negotiating power of highly qualified individuals.

Training was executed and planned for a period of time that was forecasted to be a record-breaking winter cold, lows as low as negative fifty below zero were forecasted and leading up to the training day the precautions thereof where broadcast and recommended on all local media. The governor even issued a state of emergency, the USPS was reported to be closed, Waste Management, public transit and many more usual unphased members of the economy had reported being closed, due to these record-breaking weather conditions. Despite all of this above-mentioned communication conflicts and the erroneous and coercive management tactics, the unreasonable decision was made to continue training, once again placing the responsibility and consequences on the new employees. Begging the question, who would dare defy management to make the reasonable and justified decision to stay home on such a day as this?

Since many of the new entry-level employees are unaware, inexperienced and perfectly qualified for their position they are easily led into a state of personal crisis management in order to be compliant with management’s demands. Their obedience justifies the power that management has to condemn the new employees who acted in their own self-interests and the interests of their families. It is this realization that produces the assumption in my mind that I am overqualified for the position I currently hold and will be seeking a management position in my current company or elsewhere.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand.” – Frederick Douglas

The organizational leadership and thereby its authority is only manufactured by the consent of those that give it legitimacy. The best consent is informed consent, as informed consent leads to mutually beneficial agreements. The worst type of management is coercive.

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