I’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your social worker

5 09 2011

I haven’t wasted any time in complaining about Anonymous Agency’s new director. I have to say, as time goes on…I stand by those complaints. It’s unfortunate. She has a lot of good experience, and some really good ideas to bring to our work. But there are two problems.

One, she seems to think that all of our problems can be solved with more paperwork. Contacts were low this month? Everyone now fill out a form listing how many times you saw your families this week. Purpose of your sessions unclear? All workers will now write in a separate note, detailing the plan for your session. Lunch not as delicious as it could be? Let’s all write up our various snack options to maximize its potential

Two, she loves staff meetings. She whispers sweet nothings into staff meeting’s ear. Staff meeting days are circled in her calendar and decorated with gold stars, and she cries when they’re over. She would marry staff meeting and have half social worker/ half meeting babies if she could.

I can’t effing stand staff meetings. I can count on one frostbitten hand the amount of times I’ve actually gotten anything out of them. Now we’re having bimonthly all-staff meetings and weekly unit meetings, in addition to weekly supervision.

Good thing I don’t have to see clients or anything.

Staff meetings are especially difficult for me because I’m bored, have a captive audience, and people tend to say ridiculous things.

It’s a perfect storm for SocialJerk smartassery. I have a very hard time keeping my sarcastic comments to myself. If I didn’t have such an innocent, young looking face, and if my comic timing was less than flawless, I’m pretty sure I would have been history long ago. (Brilliant social working notwithstanding.)

Maybe if I can get it all out here, it won’t be such  a problem.

First, everybody sign in. Write your full name and title. There are ten of us here now, it will be chaos without this step.

Now, let’s go over the agenda. We start with a welcome. Perhaps not strictly necessary, considering that with all the new workers and no new space, we’ve been sitting on each other’s laps, but it’s nice all the same.  Also there are refreshments. That’s what were calling those seven dead grapes that the budget allowed.

Next we’ll take a moment to acknowledge what we’ve done well this month. We’re invited to share our little successes. How fun. Berating everyone, and telling us that no matter what you do, it isn’t quite enough, is erased by this action. Social work/parenting principal number one. I would like to share that my hoodie matches my Chucks today, and that one of my twelve year olds referred to me as “her girl.” That made me feel hip. Oh, that’s not what you meant. All right, I got all my notes in on time. Right answer?


OK, now on to progress notes. We’ve all been doing these for years, but apparently we’ve been doing them entirely wrong. So we’re going to look at this sample progress note, flawlessly executed by our new fearless leader. She’s talking.

“Everyone just follow along. We start with who was present. Always include yourself. So we’ve got social worker, biological mother, and the children: Darryl, Jenna, and Stacy.”

When we do these fake examples, why don’t they at least make us laugh with the names? I would go with DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle. Something like that.

“All right. The purpose of this meeting was to address Darryl’s truancy and to follow up on…”

Is she…is she reading this out loud to us? Word for word? What the fuck is going on here? This is evil. Ma’am, we all have Master’s degrees, we can read what is in front of us.

“The interventions utilized were brief solutions focused therapy and active listening. SW engaged the family in…”

Active listening. That’s a funny term. I always feel like I should be doing an 80s Jazzercise video when I say that. “Run in place for twenty! Notice how I’m listening, but also staying active! It’s the social work fitness plan! Toe touches–one and two and–you were saying about your mother’s boyfriend molesting you?”

“The family responded well to this intervention. SW was able to assess…”

Funny how we always share an intervention that went well. Next time I’m called upon to do something like this I’m going to talk about the time the two teenage sisters I was sitting between started punching each other, and I had to yell, “If I get hit right now I’m going to be pissed, and then no one will be happy!” Is “use of mom voice” considered a clinical intervention?

“In our upcoming session, SW will follow up with the family on the tasks that were left to them and…”

When the hell was this ceiling last painted? Either there’s a dead body rotting upstairs or we’ve got some plumbing issues. How am I the only one who notices these things? Ooh, reggaeton blasting outside! No one will notice if I dance subtly, to myself, right?

Why is everyone looking at me expectantly? Oh shit, I was asked a question, wasn’t I.

What do I think? I think that a majority of the shit you’re telling us could be sent out in an email. I think that breaking things down to such minute detail is incredibly patronizing, and makes your staff feel that you have very little trust in them. I think addressing every mistake that anyone has made in the past month in this meeting embarrasses people, makes them feel unappreciated, and makes people feel that there’s no room for error and that they aren’t allowed to be human. I think you should listen to your staff and give them the opportunity to tell you what works.

You were just asking me to pass the grapes, weren’t you?



15 responses

5 09 2011

Great post as usual!!! I can relate to a lot of it 🙂

6 09 2011


5 09 2011

I can relate. Our drama at work this last few weeks….My Director (not a social worker by the way) informed me and the rest of the gang that we, “we have to have her permission to make a mandated report of abuse or neglect”. When we objected she countered with , “I’ll just sign off on it and you won’t get into trouble”. After further disbelief and some law quoting to her she came back with, “you all are so black and white, this is kind of a gray area!”……I kid you not!

6 09 2011

We need to inform our director when we make a call, and file an incident report, but it’s definitely not “getting permission.” That’s kind of scary. It’s especially hard to be expected to do that with someone who isn’t even in the profession. I hope it gets sorted out!

5 09 2011

That sounds utterly dreadful. Especially the reggaeton part. /opinion.

6 09 2011

It can get irritating. But it’s danceable.

5 09 2011

Omg – I think unit managers have some sort of standard formula for meetings … And I certainly put in my notes when my active listening goes awry!

6 09 2011

Oh yeah. Apparently we’re all suffering through the same thing. I guess solidarity is nice.

8 09 2011

Glad I’m not alone in the commentary! I once asked if one of the upper mid “central” management bosses did her not for the
meeting concurrently… (that’s the push for us… Ugh)

6 09 2011

OMG… the only difference between Anonymous agency and our hospital is that our staff meetings are mandated to start with a prayer!!! what with us “being a faith based facility and all”. oh, and we don’t get grapes…but we CAN bring our own drinks in!
After all these years, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut, my thoughts to myself – although I do frequently take a smile on a stick and hold it up whenever I’m asked a question.
I’d obviously be right there with you in a pocket of snarky and drifting thoughts!
thanks for the laugh this morning!

6 09 2011

A smile on a stick! I love that! Are you allowed to bring adult beverages in? Because I’d be willing to pray if that offer was on the table 🙂


6 09 2011
Vetnita in MN

Great Dave Barry quote: “Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot masturbate”

6 09 2011

It’s funny/sad because it’s true.

13 09 2011

Bimonthly meetings and WEEKLY supervision? You have my sympathy.

I have to say, I don’t mind most of our staff meetings. Probably because my boss takes the attitude of “okay, I know you all have better things to do, so I’m going to make this as quick/painless as possible…”

14 09 2011

The bimonthly meetings absolutely kill me, but I’ve always been under the impression that weekly supervision is pretty much the standard. It’s a time suck, but I appreciate having that time. (Mostly because I have a great supervisor.)

I am so jealous of your staff meetings. Here they act like we should be grateful for the privilege. Like, it’s a meeting, not a beach bonfire.

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