The Situation Thursday June June 5th:
I went to a middle school to work with a client and he was sent on referral to the office. Every time there is something that is “unusual” and “related to treatment” I have to complete an Incident Report. I wrote one last week, and my supervisor wanted me to change one small thing, and I changed it. She said that she “didn’t feel” it was my job to inform and discuss the situation with the caregiver. She suggested I call the school to follow-up on whether the school planned to inform the caregiver. She continues to say that I need to find a way to address the incident with the caregiver without being the one to report it first with her (as I question the school, they feel pressure to tell the parent, then I can follow up).
Then said supervisor denies calling it an incident, to which I suggest shredding the confidential document (if it’s not an incident, we don’t need the report). She then counters it’s an incident, and doesn’t understand why I didn’t address it; then asks why I didn’t collaborate with a teacher, and that I let the teacher “suffer all year” because I never gave her interventions (the teacher conducts a Special Education class all day, every day); that I need to call the school to clarify whether the parent has been informed. To which I say that the school did not appear to perceive it to be a big deal, but I think it’s a relevant issue to our/my clinical work.
Towards the end of it all, people were walking out of the room, and she eventually said that “you’re not working with me” and “we’re not a team” and “I don’t feel we’re on the same page”. She throws in a line about being “ethical” (Ethical in such a manner as to call me out in front of others?); asks why I’m thinking of discharging the kid, which I reminded her that in May she informed me to discharge him by June 20th. She say, “Oh, right. Yeah…”
Friday afternoon while I’m out working in the field, she sends an email stating “I thought more about your incident report last night. Would like to follow up with you and find out if anything else developed today.”
Monday, June 9th, she asked me at noon if I had seen the email. Then she said that she felt something was “off” and she “didn’t say things the way I wanted”. I conceded that I didn’t like how it was not my job to tell the mother what to do, but she thought I should inform the school of their need to inform the parent. On the way to walking to supervision, she avoided eye contact and apologized; did not say for what. After the group supervision meeting, she asked if I wanted to talk about it now, and I declined. She asked why, and I explained “I would just be mad”. We agreed to discuss this on Wednesday at 3pm during my usual supervision time.
– what did she want to talk further about this past Friday?
– what is she apologizing for?
– how did she come to realize that the exchange on Thursday wasn’t appropriate?
What I have learned about her, observing her for the past 1.5 years:
She’s a 59-60 year old Caucasain female of Jewish heritage. She has at least one adult daughter and may have a live-in partner. In terms of how she arrived to being employed as my supervisor: she comes to work as late as she possibly can between 9:30 and 10am, despite stated rule that supervisors arrive to the office at 9am (we’re frequently out in the field prior to this); she leaves as soon as she can, despite most supervisors staying until 4:30 to 5pm. She expresses surprise that other supervisors know how to complete work from home using the off-site web addresses (it’s how I and all other therapists complete our progress notes after-hours). It’s clear from this and other patterns that she is not enthusiastic about working at our company. Rarely does a woman of her age leave a secure position, replete with 401K, benefits, clientele &c. Something occurred at her previous employer, whether of her own doing or the decision of others, I haven’t learned yet. It’s not my place to know.
Regarding her personality, she likes to view “everything has a meaning” as she stated in the meeting on Monday; she’s very open to new experiences, trying things out. She’s not stuck on convention, very much fulfilling the stereotypical hippie role. She makes statements that things are “groovy”; she likes to avoid trouble and being put on the spot if she thinks it will lead to issues. However, she is very sociable, and does like being in the center of things: lunch groups, walking the block together after lunch with other supervisors, consulting. She deflects blame and has difficulty accepting responsibility. She frequently uses phrases such as “I feel” and “I sense”, she has poor ability to grasp theories, abstractions, and can’t participate in such discussions. She thinks on her feet, does not plan discussions or meetings. She is easily distracted, has difficulty completing projects and meeting deadlines; she has difficulty identifying ways to structure her time so that she can meet deadlines and socialize; she appears to place more importance on the here and now, than to consider future obligations, contingencies. She has made unwise statements against people in the past, and she utilized sweeping statements to hide the issue under the rug, and things turn against the other quickly. I don’t know if ESFPs (Jungian personality theory) tend to shun responsibility but she’s developed a strong knack for this.
I don’t want to match her in the manner of how she maneuvered last week. I’m my own person (thoughts, feelings, history, personality, self-awareness). I’m quietly enjoying the time the use of one simple and powerful statement has bought me: I’d be mad. That’s buying me time, but it’s also a power-laden expression. I’m holding her in time, in space. She has to wait for me, I initiate things tomorrow.
This is me processing information.
Welcome to my mind.
How I would like to start this off on Wednesday is explaining that I want to progress through the incident. I want to hear her thoughts pertaining to the email first: what did she want to discuss further. I want to consider that.
Secondly, I want to know what caused her to apologize on Monday – did she realize that? What is she apologizing for? I would take the time to reflect that her apology in that moment is read as insincere because she avoided eye contact and she did not say the reason why. She did not even acknowledge my feelings, I did that for her.
Thirdly, I want to go into the discussion of (her created) incident. She asked
that I not consider talking with the cg, as it isn’t my “place” or “job”; when I acquiesced, she wasn’t pleased with that. She became flustered. I want to go through this – that I considered what she wanted, and she was still displeased with that. She pursued some unknown object because I gave her all that she wanted, and she reacted and insulted me.
I did not cause a teacher to “Suffer” for a year. This teacher is skilled and a trained special education instructor. She does not need my help. She already implements what needs to be done, and within the confines of the school regulations and the client’s IEP. This is legally required of her.
I did not do anything unethical, I was/am willing to consider alternatives; it was rather unethical of my supervisor to address these statements to me in the open rather than using the office space she occupies. She caused other employees to feel uncomfortable, they left their workstations to avoid overhearing/witnessing.
If it is not my job to call and inform the parent of an incident, then it is even less my job to call the school and ask if they called the parent – this causes a forced action on their part to call the parent if their protocol is to handle issues in-house and only involve the parent if they think it needs that level of intervention/attention.
What we consider to be an incident varies by client and diagnosis; it’s not contingent on what parents or schools perceive to be a concern. Next time when there is uncertainty about the relevancy of an incident report, consult with your supervisor rather than questioning my judgement. Now, I have to be concerned about where else you doubt my judgement.
You said that “we’re not working together” and “aren’t a team”. You’re right, we’re not. You are my supervisor. I’m your supervisee. You made it clear that we could not work as a team in September when following my complaint you said “you got me written up”. I did not, and do not get you written up. You made indiscriminate comments that are inherently inappropriate. This is what caused you to be written up. You sought to blame me for your actions. I don’t consider that to be a quality I want in a team member. But I’ve already explained how we are not a team. Teams seek collaboration, compromise and mediation as needed.
I’m tired. I’m hitting the hay.