Dear Aine

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Missing staff camaraderie
Q.

A few months ago I was promoted to manager of the unit where I have worked in a frontline position for the past six years. I have a strong bond with the twelve adults with learning difficulties who use the service. Two of the staff members have worked with me since I started; the other two began in the unit about two years ago.

We used to be a close staff team and we regarded ourselves as good friends. But since my promotion a distance has developed between us. We used to socialise together, but now I am no longer included in as many after-work activities. I have tried to maintain the same relationship with my colleagues and I have introduced ideas into the unit which they have suggested. I cannot fault any of their work, but I do miss their support as friends. I know it can be difficult to be a manager and a friend, but my working life just isn’t as enjoyable as it was before.

Have you any suggestions as to how I might make the situation better?

A.

Congratulations on your promotion. I am, however, sorry that you are finding your working life not quite as enjoyable as it was. Unfortunately it can be difficult to relate in the same way to somebody who has moved from being a colleague to being a boss. The nature of the relationship was bound to change—you now have a management role and hold authority over people who were once your peers. It is interesting to note that you are not entirely excluded and that people are attempting to maintain some out-of-work contact with you. Obviously you are sensible and you are making efforts to maintain the good relationships that were there, so things may improve. You are also taking their ideas on board and this could help.

On another note, now that the relationships with your former colleagues have changed, perhaps this might open up possibilities for new relationships with others within the organisation.

Insistent technology
Q.

I live in a small house and, although my son has a physical disability and does need aids, I don’t want to turn my home into a hospital. Apart from his wheelchair, his walker needs to be fixed, but I dread getting in touch with my occupational therapist in case she will order several other items which I simply haven’t room for and which he probably wouldn’t use. She is very nice and she appears to listen to me, but then she goes ahead anyway and orders things I’ve said I don’t want. How can I get her to see my point? I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I do want some freedom of choice.

A.

It is wonderful to hear from a parent who is receiving an OT service, but I accept your point. Aids should always aid independence. If they aid dependence, forget them. I gather you are afraid of your son falling into the latter category. But let us look at the positive side of things. Your OT is enthusiastic and readily available. Maybe you should begin by getting her on your side. Try to get her to sit with you and together plan for your son’s future. Involve her, as she has expertise but you know your son’s needs. Suggest that you would like the minimum aids so that his disability will not be highlighted, and that you would prefer aids when needed and not before. Throughout these discussions flatter her by stressing her expertise. If you are unsuccessful you may then need to take a course in assertiveness—especially one that will teach you how to say ‘no’!

Seeking formal qualifications
Q.

I have worked for eight years as a careworker in a group home for six people with learning disabilities. I feel I have gained a wide variety of experience. Our new manager has suggested that I might consider furthering my career by getting some formal qualifications, in order to be eligible for future promotion. She feels that I should do a course while I am young and relatively free of outside commitments. Could you advise me on what courses might be relevant, and what would be involved if I take on a course?

A.

Congratulations on wanting to further your career. Now is a really good time to think about options because there is a wide range of courses available and employers are trying to attract and maintain staff. Sponsorship, either fully or partially, may be a possibility. Since you are over 23, you may be able to apply for courses as a mature student that you might not have been eligible for when leaving school.

Options to consider include: the Open Training College, where there are a variety of courses, the Higher Diploma in Developmental Disability Studies at UCD (if you already have a degree), the Occupational Therapy or Speech and Language degree course at Trinity College Dublin, Nursing in Mental Handicap training (through the CAO), childcare courses at the Institutes of Technology, Montessori teaching at Sion Hill College, or Social Work or Psychology at most universities.

When selecting a course it is vital to check if it is fully accredited—otherwise you would not be employable even with the qualification. However, the most important element is the personal satisfaction you will get from it—will the course and the job tie in with your interests and with your personality? It is important to be happy at work.

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