More change

Regular readers of this blog will notice I’ve had several changes of field in my career. Sometimes it’s boredom, sometimes it’s stress, sometimes it’s lack of support, sometimes it’s fear of commitment that drives me from one job to another. The time has come again. Can’t put my finger on the why – it seems to be all of the above, and yet …

I love this organisation. I genuinely love the people I work with and the work that we do. I am passionate in this field and love what I do. I’m also not scared of change, and love new challenges.  This role is very limiting and limited – as a manager of sorts to one measly program, supervising a (very) small team, and conducting business on a fee-for-service framework (which is dictated by the funding body) resulting in fewer clients and needing to ‘hunt’ for them, I feel I am not utilising my strengths or learning anything new. I’ve essentially become quite bored with the job. The only thing I seem to be doing is micromanaging people, and I feel little scope to do other work.

So after some consultations in external supervision and with my psychologist, I have come to an uneasy decision of starting to look outside for further stimulation. I want to get back to casework, client work, case management or anything hands-on really. I thought that management will be busy and intense and fun and a bit of a break from ‘managing’ clients – but in actual fact, it’s not that fun at all. In essence, you’re still dealing with clients. All of them. AND the case managers who work with them. It’s tripled workload, and none of it entirely fulfilling. My time supervising my staff whets the appetite. I hear about the difficulties the clients are facing and in my head runs a thousand different scenarios, techniques, strategies – how would I have worked with this client?

Damn I miss it so much!

In other news – and something I have yet to explore via this blog – I am committing to take a year off to travel next year (from about Aug/Sept/Oct – nothing in concrete yet, other than the plan). This somewhat puts a spanner in the works in terms of locating more work. If I leave now, I could probably get a 12 mth contract. If I leave in Jan, the likelihood to get a 9 mth or equiv position will be harder. The idea of temping or locum work is not ideal, but could be my only option. Ideally I’d like to stay where I am and just do casework but there’s no funding in it, and if I stay in this program, even if I take a demotion or return to substantive position, I’ll still basically be doing all the same work as there will be no one else to do it.

I thought about going back to mental health. As a clinical case manager. Again, it’ll require a certain amount of commitment, commitment I can’t guarantee to give. It’s still a year off but so much can happen in that time, at the same time how much should I hold off on my dreams for the sake of a good job… Tough life questions.

This often happens. Crossroads seem to occur more often than not in my life. In the past 7 years since I began this profession – new relationship, new job, move house, stress, unemployment, new job, anxiety, new job, break-up, move house, new job, court, promotion 1, promotion 2, new relationship,  move house, break-up, move house again.. new relationship.. and now the question mark around new job.  It’s all life, I suppose, this is completely normal to have change happening all the time. The difference now is, I don’t have a black or white answer. There are more options than not, and making a decision now when shit hasn’t hit the fan is in fact, the scariest decision of all.

5 gripes and a learning

So I am one of those people who thrives on complex situations, stress, high pressure and lots of things happening at once. I bitch about them at the time, but they keep me focussed and on the ball. As long as I have some down-time afterwards, then I’m ok. I realise this now, in a period of lull where I do not have departmental overheads or pressing deadlines, also after a period of sickness! Which has made me slightly bored, and thus I’ve decided to be a little more proactive around service development (mainly policy) in-house, and also reading some blogs and articles. I actually could be doing a number of other things, but none of them are particularly pressing, and none of them are particularly interesting.

I have a great many things to reflect upon. Today, I have discovered I have many tiny little pet hates as a worker. Some I actually didn’t know I had until quite recently. Let me share some with you, I wonder whether any of you have the same gripes and annoyances. <edited to add: these are fairly superficial and simplistic to be honest, I didn’t want to get political although there are pet hates that fall on the macro level equally>

 

  1. Being interrupted.
    You have case notes to write. You have a report to write. You have emails to write. All while fielding phone calls (most of the time unavoidable) and answering every little question that comes flying your way from other workers (avoidable, but only if you want to come across as the moody boss with no time for anyone). When I worked in the homeless sector in outreach, the little time I spent in the office I would bash out notes at 100 miles an hour, all the while wrestling with a fragile, dodgy and unstable client management system (database). This would cause me to shriek out in frustration, swear under my breath, or make some extreme criticism of the IT department to absolutely no-one in particular. Often I would have people in the rest of the room (also facing their computers, but working silently) ask me whether I was talking to them. I didn’t realise it at the time, but my god I must have been annoying them to hell and back! Then there are other circumstances where you are roped into discussions that have nothing to do with you at all, but it is oh so incredibly hard to ignore someone who is clearly wanting to engage in conversation, whilst being busy completely consumed by your own work.
  2. People/organisations taking credit for your own hard work.
    This has happened on a number of occasions and it never gets any easier. Made all the more frustrating when it is a funding body or has a political agenda (looking at you, local council) behind. You put time and effort into a project, excursion, group or you just put in hours upon hours working with a client, then it either goes completely unrecognised or taken advantage of. It is generally seen as incredibly unprofessional to pull them up on it too!
  3. Being told you aren’t doing anything
    Ok, let’s face it, clients do this with us all the time. Providing education, advice, support, or doing advocacy work in the background, often gets ignored as “work”, because it’s not always tangible, or doesn’t provide an immediate outcome. I find this most problematic with clients from CALD backgrounds, where in their country of origin social work is not actually recognised as a profession, or has a different definition/permutation, and some may have expectations that problems will get resolved when we step in. There was a time where I used to defend myself, outlining what it is that I have done, but now I try to make it clear and abundant from word go what the limitations are of my role, and what sort of support is provided. It’s as important to define your role as it is providing the service. It’s useful having an in-house policy on what service provision entails as well, and keep it on hand to pass to clients. Even then it may not go all the way in resolving the “What have you done for me lately?” question; but then again recognition that you have done well can be rare in this industry, depending on the cohort of people you work with.
  4. Workers who don’t respond to their emails. At all.
    We live in the 21st century. I respect some of us practiced case work prior to the advent of the internet, but you’ve had long enough to get used to it. I was one of those people whose parents got onto the technology bandwagon very early on, so have been quite exposed and consider myself tech-savvy. Sadly, there are many that have failed to come to the party, choosing the comfortable (?) confines of their caves over technological evolution. Often a convenient communication method (especially in outreach or in times when you work from home or part-time), one of my biggest gripes is when you write an email and do not get a response for days – or, more commonly, not at all.
    Sometimes, you get a pleasant surprise. I sent an email out to 3 police officers about a certain client, received a timely response from the Senior Sargent (the one officer I was least expecting to hear back from). 2 weeks later, on the same day, I received a call back from the other 2 officers, keen to chat, meet and discuss – turns out one was outposted, the other on leave and they weren’t able to respond to their emails.
  5. Workers who prefer to send an email than call.
    Let me make this clear. This is not the reverse of #4. This particular situation occurs when there is actually something quite urgent or important to follow up, and an email is sent rather than a phone call. Dismiss this if the phone call was made first.
    Over the course of my professional life, I’ve had emails stating “you need to follow up on this ASAP”, with very scant details of what it actually is that I’m meant to be following up, and no evidence of the worker attempting to contact me via phone. If it’s so urgent, surely you could call? Likewise linking into a service for the first time. As evidenced by #4, often people won’t answer such emails.

Do you know what else I discovered about myself in the last 2-3 months? I have developed a hard-ass shell and exercise boundaries. It’s funny how only in management I’ve been plasticising this with client work, when it should have been the norm from the start. Call it assertiveness or boundary-setting, sometimes I fear it comes across a lot stronger than that. Co-workers are quick to defend me. A situation I had recently where a client was refused a service from us. There were many reasons behind this, but the main issue was risk to staff. He had previously made threats to staff, and had pulled a knife on a worker in another organisation. We recently found out from another client that he was using ice (crystal methamphetamine). The client presented and I was quite firm with him that we could no longer provide him a service. Things escalated, when he refused to leave the office, yelling and screaming and the police were called. Throughout the entire situation, he only directly responded to me (I was his main worker). At the time I was summoning up every ounce of bravado I had, and repeated ad nauseum the same things over and over again, in a calm, considered, but direct and straight forward manner. At least, that’s what co-workers later told me! Sometimes the voice you hear yourself uttering is different to what others hear you use, heavily influenced at the time by litres of adrenaline.

I will need to balance this entry out in the coming weeks with something more positive, in line with my goals this year of highlighting positives and downplaying negatives!

keeping schtum

It occurred to me the other day that I reveal far too much about the inner-workings of management at the organisation in which I work. At first I feared I was revealing too much about clients, now I fear revealing too much about the people with whom I work.

Which is why some of my posts have been hidden because they are not for public consumption. It is not professional to be speaking about such things on such a public forum, and I would be cactus if any of it was revealed as me.

I know the reasons why I shouldn’t be oversharing online, however sometimes there’s too much for my supervisor and my psychologist to take on – there’s inevitable “spillage”. My other option is to be completely frank, out myself for who I am, what I do and where I do it – but that would mean a serious rethink of how I structure posts and how I do social media in a professional manner. The wonderful bloggers I’ve read lately have actual THINGS to talk about. You know, real food for thought. I can’t provide that as yet – I just don’t have time nor the energy to put in to expanding my brain. Perhaps I need more time and hours of work  – EXPERIENCE and WISDOM under my belt.

Speaking with my psychologist, we discussed that sometimes management is not for everyone, and sometimes we do our best work with clients, not workers – as case managers, not bosses. Time will yet tell where I lie, but as a previous (now private) post has indicated, management doesn’t come as easy (or is as interesting) as working one-on-one with clients.

Anyway, in summary, things on this blog are going to have to be a little different. I may decide to edit those posts and make them public again, but I really need to make sure they – and I – are as professional as possible in content and appearance.

Beating myself up. (Mentally)

Beating myself up. (Mentally)

After having a discussion today with my boss about how critical I am of myself, this is an extremely timely post. Must bookmark it for further reading as I’m once again procrastinating while deadline is looming!! (but I won’t beat myself up about it)

My, haven’t we been slack…

So it’s been awhile. I’m back working with refugees. Lots of changes in my life, and part of my aim to return to writing is taking baby steps with my journal. Man, I missed the crap I could write when I knew no one was reading. Absolutely insane (and at times inane) bullshit. Ah, it feels like home. Hence, writing on my blog has been sidelined…

Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much.

I changed jobs, as mentioned above. I think after 18 months in mental health and homelessness, I was starting to go a bit mental myself. Starting, ha! Who am I kidding. But something amazing has been happening. The further I’ve distanced myself from it, the more acutely aware I am of my own anxiety, and the triggers and solutions my brain and my body come up with to combat it. Perhaps it was bound to happen, this insight, eventually, but maybe amongst the noise of my former clients’ problems, issues, breakdowns, crises and dramas, I just couldn’t hear myself.

I was thinking to myself one day how much the job was starting to get to me. I was also quite wary of how much interoffice politics was starting to take over the focus of work. I could no longer keep my head down to the bullshit, because it started to affect me. And things started to grate. On a whim, I had a look online for jobs. Not really sure what I was looking for, anything really. Then, like a ray of light (alright, maybe it wasn’t as biblical as that!), I realised where I needed to go back. Working with migrants.

That was at the end of February. I started in March and I’ve since not looked back.

I kind of started to think long-term – policy, government, international advocacy – the bigger picture. I love casework; it gives me such satisfaction to help clients out with things, to help them to achieve their goals. But there’s so much more I could do with my knowledge. I want to start going further, influencing decisions, putting a real face to the work we do higher up in the chain of command.

Perhaps as I’m reaching that pivotal third decade of existence, I’m (finally) starting to get a bit serious about life. In a ways, I still feel as though I’m not in a “real” job, but that’s mainly due to my parent’s definition of “real” involving anything white collar. In reality, I am actually doing alright, and this job can open some serious doors if I want it to.

Add to that, the fact that a large portion of my female friends are very recently embarking on life-changing (and adult) journeys – marriage, home ownership, baby-making – and I realised, shit, I think I want those things too. Not in a massive hurry, but they’d be good to aim for…

Anyway… I suppose I’ll still be sporadic in entries – let’s face it, I’m bloody lazy – but hopefully some of the content will be at the very least interesting to you dear reader.

Regrouping, restarting. But only after a bit of a whinge and a cry

Welcome back.

I haven’t been the most attentive of bloggers lately, not since my fateful break-up kind of floored any sort of self-improvement I was doing. In the new year I’ve decided to shed some skin and begin new and fresh. Regrouping and restarting, recharging batteries, revelling. Time to put aside my worries and start living my life.

The thing about putting aside your worries though, is that they inevitably creep back into your life when you least expect them, when you thought they were long gone, dead and buried, “gotten over”.

And today, as I grapple with the idea that my coping mechanisms are more than just a bit shit, I have decided that the only way I can start anew is by parking those internal dilemmas, my fears and anxieties, onto my blogs. They are also my way of separating what is work stuff, and what is personal stuff – so don’t worry, you won’t be getting any long, tired and trivial blog posts about my non-existant love life.

Writing for me, remains the only consitent method in which I resolve things. And if not resolve, I am at least able to vomit it out and see it for what it is. 9 times out of 10, I can acknowledge it and move on. But if I don’t go through the process, I go on feeling like the world is caving in on me. This needs to stop, now.

 

So with that out of the way, here’s what’s happening now.

I have been working at my job for quite some time. I am over the hurdles of thinking I’m a shit worker, wanting to do so much but achieving very little, and being content with the minor successes. I have demonstrated myself to be a reasonably good peer, and a go-to person for several things. I’m trusted. I suppose with that in mind, I’d been placed in a leadership role as a temporary measure over the holidays. This was something I agreed to do because it was expected of me, because I’ve never been very aspirational down that end. I don’t like the added stress of looking after a team on top of clients, as well as resolving conflict on a larger scale. I’m not that good with debate, or argument, and honestly not with conflict resolution much either.

Regardless, here I am in this higher role, feeling the pain of not being anyone’s colleague anymore, but a boss. So, in my first 3 days on the job:

* major stuff-up with the hospital’s referring methods, us in the lurch
* one staff member saying they’ve had enough with the office politics, asking for a transfer
* having to reprimand another staff member when I was not in the position to be doing so
* another staff member potentially suicidal, 3 hr conversation about office politics
* yet another staff member considering quitting.

I was in way over my head.

Then this week, more office dramas, and additional pressure being put on me to make decisions about things I wasn’t in the place to make decisions about. My staff made a pretty bad judgement call on something – to assume makes an ass out of U and ME – however in the nick of time I prevented it from becomming a colossal disaster. Statistics from last quarter are all out, so I’ve been roped in to “tidy” them up. More niggling complaints from the same staff as last week who are disatisfied customers.

All this, on top of 2x client situations which caused me to have a pretty massive meltdown (twice!). I’ll get to that in a second.

For the most part, having come out of an incredibly caustic work environment 18 months ago, I have buried my head in the sand about much of the cliqueness, the two-facedness, the office politics that have been occuring in this joint. I ignored much of it, and didn’t understand nor want to hear people’s gripes. People were leaving, I had no idea why. It is slowly starting to become quite evident. I suppose that until you start experiencing it for yourself, you don’t really know.

One of the people I spoke to last week said that it was quite ironic how staff members who identified as having a mental illness were being treated by their own management. I saw that personally today, as I sat in a manager’s room and went through a panic attack going over the incidents that had occured over the day with my client, only to have her excuse me to go for lunch. As I was virtually being pushed out of the room, pleading for some advice (which, to their credit, was given to me), I started to feel the tears well in my eyes, feeling my head sting and the walls to oscillate around me. I knew I was about to go into another meltdown. This person could see that, but they emerged out of her room regardless, telling me to go get myself a glass of water and take a moment. Even as she was saying that while walking in the opposite direction, I was already falling apart. I walked a beeline into another staffroom and bawled my eyes out. I felt like I’d been pushed under the carpet, an “after lunch” afterthought. I wouldn’t walk away from someone who was about to burst into tears. Even if they were walking away, I would try to ascertain what was going on for them, on a deeper level, nut it out a little more. Get to the crux of the issue. Provide reassurance. None of that was given. I didn’t feel cared for or looked after or valued. I felt like a germ, a nuisance, a problem. Something that got in the way of lunch. I know lunch is important. But so is a staff member’s feelings.

Why the meltdown? I won’t go into details, but the apex involved a very adversarial (rude) conversation had with a client’s ex-partner. It resulted in me nearly crying in front of the client! Which I have only done once before, when it was actually ok to do so. This, however, was very obviously me reacting to how I was being spoken to. I felt spat on, and I didn’t have the balls to defend myself in a professional manner. This speechlessness, in one form or another, has been getting in the way of me being a good worker all week. I don’t know what to attribute it to, perhaps like everything else, it falls on the anxiety. In any case, I avoided talking to this person for the rest of the day, if only to save my own sanity. Nobody deserves to be anyone’s punching bag.

 

So that’s my first blurb/verbal diahhrea for the year. Sorry it wasn’t constructive to anyone but myself. I really just need to order my thoughts in writing. They are floating around like myodesopsia in my skull, constantly getting in the way of every vision and direction – stamping them with a physical word, an identifyer, and they’re much easier to deal with.

At least, that’s the theory!!

Rule #1 of breaking up

Do not!!!

Watch soppy, ridiculous and unrealistic rom-coms, or anything – at all – about weddings.
Or sex.