Who Is Supervising the Supervisors and Managers in The Workplace in Not-for-Profit Organisations?

Defining supervision is a rather complex task, writes Jenna Doogan. “The struggle to define supervision reflects a growing recognition of how complex the supervisory process is”. Benefiel and Holton, (2010).

  • Jenna Doogan did some research into supervision in the workplace in Not-for-Profit organisations.
  • Jenna found supervision to be helpful in her work life.
  • Jenna was worried at the lack of support and supervision for supervisors and managers themselves
  • Four people took part in this research exercise.
  • Jenna thinks that supervisors in social care area need access to more ongoing professional supervision.

Not so long ago I conducted a piece of research to explore and investigate supervisors’ and managers’ experiences of supervision in the workplace in Not-for-Profit organisations.

According to Share and McElwee, p163 (2005), professional supervision is a partnership process of ongoing reflection and feedback between a named supervisor and supervisee to ensure and enhance effective practice. Provided in a supportive manner it offers a structured opportunity to discuss work, reflect on practice, progress and plan for future development. In describing supervision as a partnership it implies that both participants have responsibilities. It is important that both the supervisor and the supervisee are aware of what is expected of them and what they can expect from one another.

My interest in this piece of research comes from my own belief in the area of Professional Supervision. Personally, as a social care practitioner I have found Professional Supervision to be an enlightening and supportive experience. For me, it is a regular opportunity to reflect on the daily work, discuss responsibilities and duties, monitor and ensure quality of my practice, identify and further develop understanding and skills, seek and receive support and feedback, be constructively challenged, identify areas for further professional development and implement a professional development plan. My experience as a supervisee is that supervision in the workplace is important and necessary; however, I am not sure whether all supervisors and managers in Not-for-Profit organisations have the opportunity to experience the benefits from this.

Personal Relevance to the Study

Prior to beginning the research, I was concerned at the lack of support and supervision that was available to supervisors and managers in the Not-for-Profit sector.

Doing this piece of research, I relied richly on my own personal experiences of Professional Supervision which has provided me with an outlet to enrich my learning and improve my all-round social care work skills. I also relied heavily on the experiences and views from four participants who took part in this research exercise.

Area of Originality

While there is a wealth of research and documentation on Professional Supervision, on review such literature and publications do not cover what supports are available to supervisors and managers in the non-profit sector, and more importantly how best to support supervisors and managers.

It is through supervision that supervisors and managers in the workplace in Not-for-Profit organisations can be supported and encouraged to think differently and develop their skills. This research is based on the belief that good supervision is the very essence of good social care work.


The sharing of information from the two supervisors and two managers in Not-for-Profit organisations gave me new insights and understandings for the need for supervision. Each of the participants’ experiences and stories they shared, reinforced my belief in the need for Professional Supervision for all staff in Not-for-Profit organisations.

In the light of my study and in view of my own conclusions, I would like to end with some recommendations for organisations, supervisors and managers going forward:

–              Organisations need to become more informed and educated about the nature and practice of Professional Supervision for supervisors and managers in Not-for-Profit organisations;

–              Organisations need be more aware of the importance of developing a strong working alliance with external supervisors;

–              The importance of working with your organisation and not against them;

–              Have a clear supervision policy;

–              Monitor the frequency and quality of supervision for supervisors and managers in the workplace in Not-for-Profit organisations.


This research has provided me with huge insights and valuable information regarding supervisors’ and managers’ experiences of professional supervision in the workplace in Not-for-Profit organisations.

Like so many professions, supervision has been influenced by the changing traditions and trends in society. In the past decade there has been an increasing emphasis on collaborative practice and continuing professional development in the helping professions. This has resulted in the emergence of Professional Supervision.

As a social care practitioner, I have always been very interested in supervision, particularly in organisations. Speaking to supervisors from various non-profit organisations, their experiences were quite similar to my own, which is that supervisors in social care do not have the opportunity to engage in ongoing professional supervision.

Jenna Doogan is an Instructor-Supervisor at Sunbeam House Services, which provides a range of supports to adults with intellectual disabilities in County Wicklow and South County Dublin.


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