Finally- choices…

I have hinted a few times here that we are facing a major life change. At last, I have come to the point of having to actually make some choices. They amount to one of the following;

  1. An application for a new social work management job, managing all adult care (currently I manage Mental Health services.)
  2. A demotion to a team leaders job.
  3. Redundancy.

I also have, for the first time after 2 years a date – the 27th of July – by which everything will be concluded (although I have learnt to distrust any deadline made in this process!) I need to make my choice by the end of next week.

In many ways however it was a choice I made some time ago because I am just about at the end of my coping skills with my current job.

This is in part because of the natural process of working on the very edges of society for nearly 22 years, attempting to balance what often seem like mutually incompatible priorities- the (still mostly primary) hope that social workers have of really helping people/making a difference, and the agency responsibility to manage budgets and police the welfare state.

It is also because of the total lack of respect that wider society has for the things that social workers do- despite the fact that we have yet to find any other profession or any other mechanism that will do the things that we do. And some of the things that I have done and people I have met along the way you would not believe…

Then there is the increasing grinding pressure of regulation, scrutiny and performance management. The things that are quantifiable and therefore to the interest of the system are often the things that I have very little interest in. It is almost impossible to measure things like improvement in wellbeing, lives subtly changed because of the chemistry of kindness and respect. Social workers now spend 80% of their working lives in front of computer screens. Tell me where and how this makes sense?

Then there are the senior managers. Some appear to be suffering from some kind of psychopathy- I can never work out whether the job did this to them, or they rose so high because of (a.) their inability to see any colours other than black and white, and (b.) their utter lack of interest in anyone who did not directly enhance or threaten their careers. (The former are courted, the latter ruthlessly destroyed.) The end result is toxicity in the heart of a profession that is supposed to be all about caring.

Finally there are the suits. It probably says something about my career that I have always refused to work in a suit. I often feel slightly self conscious about this as I am frequently the only man in a room that is not wearing one. But the suit has come to represent something to me of what I am NOT. That is not to say that every person dressed in smart business wear in councils is somehow suspect, sold out- I have met many lovely suit wearers. It is just that suits are power statements, and I am much more interested in making real connections with people. It has become something of an overvalued issue for me, so much so that I am considering renting a tuxedo for my last day in work- catharsis by cummerbund.

The choice to leave will mean large amounts of uncertainty for both me and my family. But right now it feels like the only choice possible, and this is both tantalising and terrifying in equal measure.

10 thoughts on “Finally- choices…

  1. Gosh chris these are big decisions!
    Talking though as someone who is married to someone who works in your part of the world and is walking from one job because of the crazy power seeking to one which, on paper, looks less enticing, I can understand your turmoil. We’re on health board rather than council territory ourselves but the issues sound similar. Whatever, if you do leave, I know for a fact you will be greatly missed!

    • A really tough decision Chris. It saddens me
      Social work is being sold down the river. You and yours will be in my prayers.

  2. I am a teacher, so understand your frustrations. I don’t get why it’s so hard for people to understand that they need to treasure those who carry out the really tough, and utterly necessary work with social aspects, education, safety… Yet when those things aren’t taken care of, the general mob howls.

    I suspect that if you decide to leave, and it sounds like you must for your own health, you will still find a way to fulfill that which your soul needs. Putting food on the table… that might be tense for a bit. Wishing you and yours well, always.

    margo

  3. Accept demotion.
    Apologies for being so certain. I freely admit my conclusion can only be based upon the minute amount of information I have to hand. There must be so much more going on.
    But why demotion?
    It takes you back, closer to grass roots level.

    I work in the social care sector too, as a coordinator for a not-for-profit service provider for adults with learning disabilities. If there’s one thing I accepted going into the role after 6 years as a support worker, it was that moving up the management chain would take me away from the nitty gritty; the direct support. Now, my role is more about indirect support, your’s must be even more so. Getting back to the roots of the role will put you back in touch again with the reasons why you do it. It will also provide you with constant, more tangible evidence of positive changes in someone’s wellbeing. Moreover, it takes you that little bit away from the senior managers, the suits, the budgets, and the performance targets.
    So what if it means taking a wage cut. What price, happiness?

    Give up the indirect, and get back to being direct.

    I hope that makes some sense?

  4. Thanks for the kind and thoughtful words- I have thought a lot about the need to get back to doing direct work with people. I fear this a little too though, as I did social work/therapy for a long time, and this too can strip you bare.

    I hope your work continues to bring fulfilment!

    Cheers

    C

  5. I’m very disappointed to read this anti-suit rant….where does the prejudice end?
    I once wore baggy lime green jumbo-cords to work and ate a fish supper for lunch. The very fashionable overweight, orange skinned, habitually dieting, salad eating colleagues, laughed at my attire and stole chips but did any of them let me pinch a tomato from their packed -lunch? You know the answer.,,are you a bit like them?

    • Chips, Jim, are fair game in any office, you must know that. As for the chords- like you, I used to drive a 2CV. How many social work stereotypes can one man embody?

      Now where did I put those tomatoes….

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