Frontline Initiative Diversity

The Real Scoop

Welcome to The Real Scoop. Clifford is a self-advocate who has been politically active for years. He’s ready to give you his spin on how to deal with issues you face as you forge ahead in your role as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). Seth has been a DSP for many years, and he loves to give advice. He may ruffle your feathers, but hey, it’s for your own good! Clifford and Seth tackle this one with a few suggestions. 

“Excuse me. What did you say?”

Dear Clifford and Seth,

The agency I work for is hiring more and more workers who came from other countries. I feel frustrated sometimes because my coworkers don’t always understand what I am trying to tell them or how to do things that seem like common sense to me. How do I deal with this situation? — Frustrated in CA

Dear Frustrated in CA,

You may be frustrated with the language barrier but try to remember when you first started, you also had questions to ask about the various tasks of your job. Focus on how to help people do their job and be patient. Remember that it isn’t easy for them either to come to a new country or speak a whole new language. Most of them are eager to do a good job so they might be even more frustrated by not being able to communicate well with you. I believe that with patience and understanding from both sides, things will get better. — Cliff

Dear Frustrated,

I don’t think you have to be from another country to lack common sense in community services. However, I do understand and respect your concern. I would like to add to the cause of your frustration the possibility of a coworker’s completely different mindset based on cultural background. This issue really has to be looked at from varied perspectives.

Let’s first look at the situation from your coworker’s eyes. You know what it’s like to step into a new job, but do you know what it’s like to start a new life in a new country? Your coworkers do. They are 1) settling down in a new country (probably without families); 2) starting such an important job where the responsibility is to help others to achieve daily tasks and life goals; and 3) in need of new friendships and support.

Now step into the shoes of the consumers and their families. They are also likely to experience the initial difficulty in communicating with new immigrant workers. Looking at a new face and not knowing if this DSP can help, they may expect you, a senior, to help your new coworker to learn his/her job more quickly.

From your agency recruiter’s standpoint, filling positions quickly with qualified people is difficult. No matter how hard recruiters try to use selective screening techniques and follow up on references, the possibility is that the person recruited doesn’t have ALL the skills needed for the job.

As supervisors are concerned, it’s their job to make sure that new employees learn to fit in and understand their roles and responsibilities. Supervisors may not always have access to resources to provide mentoring and training to guide and support the new employees, though they should definitely try hard to do so.

Now back to you. Talk to your supervisor with concerns and suggestions. Work with your coworkers instead of expecting them to become fully competent automatically. It takes time, patience, and guidance to adapt. You will be a better person because of contributing to this process. A skill like yours, to help people adapt, will be badly needed in this new century. — Seth