Category Archives: career

Flexibility Vs. Setting Boundaries in Social Work

For the past month, I’ve been going into work on Saturdays because there is simply no way I can get things done during the regular work week.  Now, I’m not overdoing it; I’m taking Monday’s off to make up for it.   With all the construction and chaos going on in the building, it’s pretty impossible not to succumb to the myriad of distractions that are placed on my path.  Plus, for a couple more weeks, I have to share office space with a two colleagues and its getting juuuuuust a tad too crowded.  It’s hard enough sometimes with my phone ringing non-stop, last-minute admissions, or co-workers bursting into my office handing me the  latest crisis project (“Mrs. Elderkins is out of Depends, can you call her son?”).  But now, I have the added disruption of whatever crisis is taking place in the work day for my two office mates.  So yeah, Saturdays are becoming my most productive days at the office.

While there isn’t much more I can do to gain control over my work day for the time being, I’ve been thinking a lot about establishing better boundaries.   I am a fairly laid back person by nature and there isn’t a great deal that I’m faced with that I can’t handle, but every now and again, I fear my easy-going attitude makes my work life a bit crazier than it needs to be.   I sometimes find it hard to balance my desire to be there for residents, colleagues, and clients and my goals for the projects I want and need to accomplish.   When I first started out as a social worker, I used to think work-day interruptions were the norm.  After all, we’re typically dealing with people who are frail, in need of various types of  assistance and reliant on a system that often appears set up to fail in the first place.  Plus, people, along with their needs, can be unpredictable. How can I possibly schedule human need into my work day?

But now I’m starting to think I have to work a little smarter.

Slowly, over the past several months, I’m learning to be a little greedier with my time.  Just because I’m the only case manager, doesn’t mean that every time someone needs something, it is necessary I drop everything.  Every need is not urgent. Some are more important than others, and I like to think that as my experience in this career grows, I’m getting better at deciphering the needs that don’t have to be addressed ASAP.   Phone calls can go straight to voice mail when I’m in the middle of something else.   Chatty family members who show up at my door at 4:45pm, as I’m shutting down the computer and organizing my desk for the next day, can be politely told that I have to go and that we can meet at a scheduled time later in the week.  The door to my office can be closed for an hour each day so I can catch up on paperwork.

Being a social worker is all about being flexible, no doubt about it.  Things happen that aren’t planned and your whole day can turn around in a matter of five minutes.  Real crisis’s can crop up five minutes before you’re ready to walk out the door. It’s what happens when you’re in the field of working with people.

But without setting a few boundaries and promoting respect for your time,  the most rewarding part of our jobs–helping others–becomes a dreaded chore.

What do you do to set boundaries in your work place?




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Grant Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Cannot Change

I’m in my second month of my new position as a case manager in an eldercare facility.  There are also many changes taking place within this organization, which makes my new role a little bit harder to learn.  I know that down the road, things will click into place, but for now, it’s an uphill battle as anyone who has ever been involved in a massive organizational overhaul knows that most people DESPISE change, no matter what form it takes.

I must be odd, because I kinda enjoy when things are in a state of flux.  Sure, cultivating a routine and having a sense of security are important on the job, but I seem to thrive in chaos for some strange reason.  My main issue (or gripe?) in all of this is attempting to facilitate cohesiveness in a setting where many of my colleagues and team members seem prone to getting caught up in negativity. It’s easier for some, to adopt a fatalistic attitude when so much is changing around them.  Many of the other disciplines in this facility have been a part of the organization for more than 20 years and I do believe for a few folks, there is almost a secret wish for the new direction being set forth to flounder.

Yet, on the other side of the “doom and gloom” and  nay-saying, there is a lot of great potential that comes with change.   Change is never all good or all bad.  In the middle ground, there tends to be a huge amount of room for growth.  Perhaps that is why the notions of change and chaos appeal to me. I like knowing that when all is said and done, I will have been a part of an evolution of sorts.

For now though, I have to suck it up sometimes.  I try to set a good example, but it does get difficult to avoid getting pulled into some of the negativity.  There is a lot that is unknown in this early stage.  I make mistakes regularly as I attempt to feel my way around and plow through the maelstrom that has become my current work environment.   I do believe that it all will work out in the end and that I will truly hit my stride in this next chapter of my social work career.

I’ll just have to do a lot of drinking between now and then. 😛

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure.  But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it.  Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.  ~Shunryu Suzuki

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