Frontline Initiative Teamwork

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.

Unsupportive Supervision

Dear Cliff and Seth,

I work at a small group home for teenagers. Most of the staff get along really well and we like our work. But we just got a new supervisor who seems to only see what we do wrong. Some of the staff have already left and more of us will if she keeps this up. What can we do about the way she treats us? — Wants to Get Along in Washington

Dear Wants to Get Along,

I feel the first thing you could do is talk to your supervisor’s supervisor. Make sure when you do so that it is a meeting between only you and that person so that you can feel free to discuss the issues you are having with your own supervisor. You can be sure they don’t want to lose the competent staff they still have. It’s difficult to form a cohesive team of workers if someone in a leadership role is making it intolerable for the staff under them. Most likely the company’s senior management are aware that people are leaving and would be appreciative of you letting them know there is a specific reason that people are choosing to leave the company. You are probably aware of the staffing crisis currently affecting the field of direct support services, all the more reason to tell the leaders of the company about what is happening from your viewpoint. Hope this helps, — Cliff

Dear Get Along,

Your situation is a major workforce issue that has been addressed by research. First-line supervisors have one of the most demanding jobs in our industry. Their effectiveness directly affects DSP job satisfaction and retention. A strategy to support and train supervisors including instruction on using fair and supportive management practices is important. Supportive, being the operative word here would lead your supervisor to communicate constructive, non threatening ideas and solutions to whatever you are doing [in your own words] wrong. Your supervisor should learn how to give praise and recognition for a job well done which leads to an atmosphere of professionalism and high performance. However, for the moment, I suggest you request a meeting one on one with your supervisor and speak your mind in the respectful tone in which you would like to be addressed. Explain to your supervisor that you understand the demands placed on her. Tell her also that you and your colleagues want to do the best job possible for the people you serve and the agency. Let her know that to achieve this goal it would really help if she pointed out the positive work and showed her appreciation by acknowledging it. Hopefully, she won’t feel threatened, and things will improve for you and your fellow DSPs. Let me know, — Seth