In this essay an attempt will be made to compare and contrast a supervisory relationship in two different settings and to critically analyse and evaluate the factors that contribute and also frustrate the supervisory relationship.
Why supervision; “It is difficult to survive and to develop our work alone. We often need someone to listen to us, to ‘be there’ and perhaps to assure us that we are doing a worthwhile job. But we also need someone to help us stand back and look critically at our work within a relationship of trust”.
( Twelvetrees A, (2002) page 187). Therefore supervision allows the supervisee or worker to examine their work practice in a non judgmental and comfortable environment as well as being able to think through what is happening for them as a worker and what is needed within their work situation. “It is both a particular kind of work, and a particular kind of working relationship. You cannot have one without the other. The supervisors role is not to advise or to instruct, but to enable the worker to think better about his work, and therefore to work better.
” Christian C, Kitto J (1987 page 2)
There are three main modules of supervision, managerial / normative, educative / formative, and non managerial / restorative. According to ( Carroll. M (1996) page 53 ) There are also seven generic tasks of the supervision process, ” to set up a learning relationship, to teach, to evaluate, to monitor professional ethical issues, to counsel, to consult, and to monitor administrative aspects. Carrrol (1996) also suggested that “these generic or overall tasks underlie all supervision approaches with individual supervisors performing various mixtures of tasks; the idea here is that effective supervisors choose from the range of supervisory tasks, as appropriate for the supervisees learning”.
In the first paragraphs of this essay the need for supervision and the types of supervision have been touched on, before we progress any further there is a need to explain that it is advisable to ensure that the supervision session takes place in the correct environment.
The location for the supervision meeting should be warm and some where the supervisee will feel comfortable. Arrangements should be made to ensure there are no interruptions such as people entering the room or telephone calls. Most of all it must be a place where no one else will be able to hear the conversation that will take place. The supervisee must feel comfortable enough to be able to talk freely.
Additionally there should be an agreed contract between the supervisor and supervisee; the contract should include such aspects as, who is to be involved, time of meetings, place, duration, and frequency. Sessions should also be confidential with no other staff being privy to the content of the session, although certain things such as serious misconduct and violence would need to be reported. This would need to be agreed in the contract. It will also underpin the entire process and relationship and give structure and direction. It is important for each party to be clear about the aims, structure and procedures of the supervision session.
A good supervisor will encourage the supervisee to analyse their work and identify learning needs. A good supervisor will also assist the supervisee to develop solutions to problems being encountered, provide guidance and support, but also challenge the supervisee. “The supervisors job is to show that the questions the worker has brought can be thought about, and maybe to show ways in which they can be thought about” ( Christian C, Kitto J (1987) page 7 ). The aim of the supervisor is to assist the worker to carry out good practice and help in professional development. Most importantly it should be a two way process between supervisor and supervisee, trust being the most integral part, as without trust there can be no development of the supervisory relationship and no further development of the supervisee. Without the mutual trust of the two parties it is fair to say that the supervision sessions would be a complete waste of everyone’s time.
A good supervisor needs many qualities namely, a good understanding of the work and issues concerning the supervisee, good listening skills and a respect for the supervisee. Then with time and regular supervision sessions will come an understanding of the supervisees strength, weaknesses and also perspective.
We will now move on to contrasting and comparing managerial and non managerial supervision and how they differ, both in delivery and in the approach of the supervisor.
Managerial supervision is a support process within a hierarchical relationship concerned with specific work related focuses, the supervisor may therefore have a responsibility for the work being done by the supervisee. This type of supervision can sometimes be seen as an ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the supervisee or worker; Although the supervisor may have no or little experience of the work the supervisee is doing, the supervisor has a responsibility to their organisation or agency to ensure that the work is carried out effectively.
Managerial supervision relates specifically to the supervisees workplace and the supervisees job description, but should include issues raised by both the supervisor and the supervisee, although the worker will more often than not have no choice in who their supervisor will be. “In many organisations there is an absence of choice. One person is allocated the task of supervision. I would argue strongly in favour of choice or at least for some preparation prior to embarking on a supervisory relationship”. (Preston-Shoot M, 1991 page 125)
Managerial supervision sessions usually concentrate on the workers past present and future work, with issues of performance and competence often arising. This is sometimes the downfall of managerial supervision, as with an inexperienced supervisor or a supervisor who is too organisationally orientated, too often difficulties and problems are focussed on and achievements are too easily forgotten, giving the supervisee a feeling of being unvalued or under performing in his/her job.
“The word ‘supervisor’ in organisations refers to someone who has hierarchical and managerial authority over others. There is a structured power differential and often an appraisal function that accompanies the role” (Lawton B, Feltham C (2000) page 165)
Managerial and non managerial supervision are similar in a way that they both support, provide guidance and reassurance but there are fundamental differences.
Although non managerial supervision is a support process which provides personal and professional support on an informal basis, it is more than just a chat between two people off loading their troubles or complaining about work. The role of the supervisor is not to tell the supervisee how to do his/her job, rather to allow the supervisee to work through issues, rethink their options, and to develop and redevelop new ways of viewing issues. Above all the supervisor is there to encourage the supervisee to reflect on his/her practice.
Unlike the managerial supervisor the non managerial supervisor has no direct responsibility for the supervisees work. As John Atherton says “Non managerial supervision is concerned with values, skills and knowledge and may involve a supervisor who has no direct link with the management of the individuals work, and may not have a direct link with the organisation. The supervisor in the non managerial role has no authority to effect change in the students working environment.” (Pritchard J, 1998 page 183)
Often an independent supervisor can allow a fresh perspective and let the supervisee speak more freely and with more honesty without fear of repercussion.
A model which is sometimes favoured is that of the outside consultant
engaged by the agency. This can be excellent. However, such a consultant
should be able to empathise not only with the community work task
but also with the needs and problems of being an employee within a
particular organisation. (Twelvetrees A, 2002 page 187)
As with managerial supervision, non managerial supervision requires the same aspects with regard to setting the scene. A quiet comfortable setting with no interruptions and be able to talk freely and express themselves, without fear of recrimination. By disabling telephone calls and informing relevant personnel that you are not to be interrupted both supervisor and supervisee can give the supervision session their full concentration. More importantly the supervisee will feel that they are receiving the full attention of the supervisor. To that they have an entitlement.
The main difference between managerial and non managerial supervision is that non managerial supervision is supervisee led and it is they who bring the issues to the supervision session. “The supervisee takes responsibility for the outcomes of any decisions taken as a result of supervision, whether they are good or not”
In the case of managerial supervision “If the worker is also the line managers supervisee, the question will arise whether the worker can be truly responsible for decisions taken in supervision” (Christian C, Kitto J, 1987 page 20)
As well as aspects that can contribute to a successful supervisory relationship there are many factors that can frustrate the process. Arriving late for the sessions and even cancellation of the supervision session can be frustrating for both parties, which in turn can lead to a mutual lack of respect. There can also be secret negative feelings held by the supervisee against the supervisor which can come from distrust or lack of respect and leading to dishonesty on the part of the supervisee. Holding back on feelings and not being truthful in the supervision session can also be born from feelings of the supervisee concerning the competence of the supervisor.
” Information withheld by supervisees in supervision tends most
frequently to comprise negative reactions to their supervisor, where
there exists a poor alliance with the supervisor, perceived supervisor
incompetence and when consequences of such disclosure are feared.”
(Lawton B, Feltham C, 2000 page 63)
Other factors that can impede successful supervision can also include the insensitivity of the supervisor or the feeling that the supervisor is telling the supervisee what to do. There are times too when prejudices can hinder the supervision relationship and every effort must be made to put these aside or be made to think about them. Some supervisees may also struggle to be open for fear of exposing their vulnerabilities or being seen as vulnerable.
One way around the issues of feelings of distrust and confidence in the supervisor’s ability is for the supervisee to have the choice of who will be their supervisor. (Lawton B, and Feltham C 2000 page 67) argue that “Supervisees in this study who had chosen their own supervisors felt significantly more able to disclose sensitive issues than those who had been allocated supervisors”. Also that “People who choose their own supervisors presumably choose someone with whom they expect to be able to trust or to have a sense of affinity”.
In conclusion it must be said that a great emphasis must be put on the quality of relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee, whether it be managerial or non managerial supervision and must increase the supervisee’s motivation by feeling supported and valued. A good supervisory relationship must be based on trust and mutual respect for the supervision process to succeed and allow the supervisee to progress and develop both as a worker, a professional, and a person.
Thought must also be put into the environment and conditions in which the supervision takes place, the supervisee must feel comfortable with the surroundings as well as the supervisor. Ensuring that all this is in place will allow for deeper honesty, openness between both parties and enable the supervisee to be truthful and address issues that are concerning them.
One of the most significant points in the opinion of the writer though is, if possible, that the supervisee is given the choice of who their supervisor will be. It could contribute to a more trusting, respectful and open relationship between the supervisor and supervisee much sooner than if they are allocated a supervisor, especially if the pair are incompatible, which can often occur.
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