There are times that a human service manager will need to address concerns a staff member may have or issues that are affecting a staff member’s effectiveness in the workplace. One can work to reinforce the situation, refer the staff member to additional services, or release the staff member. In the following three scenarios, there is an issue with a staff member that needs to be resolved. The human service manager will explore the options of reinforcing, referring, and releasing, taking into consideration necessary communication skills, any boundary issues, and goals that will lead to an appropriate outcome in each of the three scenarios.
In the first scenario, Tom Martin is a 32-year-old divorced male who works as a counselor for adults. In the past, there have been two clients’ complaints that could not be substantiated, and four female clients have terminated counseling without explanation. Currently, one of Tom’s female clients has discussed Tom’s violation of boundary and ethical issues with her. Some of these violations are sexual in nature.
There are serious ethical issues present in Tom’s case. Tom is not acting in a professional manner. Perhaps he has lost a sense of what kind of relationship dynamics need to be found within the clinician-client relationship in order to serve the client in a professional way. The human service manager can best communicate with Tom by asking him direct questions and by getting Tom to understand the severity of his offense. The human service manager has to be careful not to make accusations about events that have not been substantiated as not to shut Tom off from communication.
Tom has already admitted that he is attracted to the client. The human service manager can press Tom with questions to figure out why Tom feels he has taken his behavior as far as he has with this client, such as buying her presents, going on a date with her, and making suggestive comments to her. Getting Tom to admit he has done these things will be an important step in resolving the issue. One may need to consider release due to legal and ethical considerations if Tom will not admit to his doings. Without admittance, there is likely no room for improvement. Tom needs to understand that sexual contact, sexual behavior, or sexual verbal advances can be harmful to the client and does fall under misconduct (California Department of Consumer Affairs, 2004). This kind of misconduct can lead to legal action against Tom and affect the integrity of the counseling center.
The human service manager may decide to release in Tom’s case. One may determine there is enough evidence at this point to put Tom on probation due to his inappropriate behavior with this female client. If Tom wishes to maintain employment in his current position he will need to set goals that will help him to achieve professionalism in the office setting. He will need to contract with his supervisor and breaking the contract will lead to termination of employment. He will need to be evaluated at regular intervals to ensure that he is following the contract.
In the second scenario, Janice is a 28-year-old child and family counselor. She seems to lack organization and confidence within her field. She had expressed some discomfort in working with adults. The manager can discuss and explore what factors contribute to Janice feeling inadequate. The manager might choose the reinforce option in this case. Steps can be taken to offer Janice staff development training and personal development training opportunities that will increase her knowledge in those areas she is not feeling confident in and increase self-awareness. She needs to possess both the psychological and personal strengths that will be necessary to be effective in the interpersonal dynamics found in the clinician-client relationships she will encounter (Professional Standards Committee, 2000). With her own self-reflection and the continued support of the manager, Janice can grow to better understand her role and be effective in that role within the clinician-client relationship with adult clients since she will inevitably need to work with the adults involved in the children’s lives in which she serves (Murphy & Dillon, 2007). With additional, adequate supervisory support Janice will likely become more confident as she gains experience in her work.
In the last scenario, Michael is a 44-year-old substance abuse counselor. There are several personal issues Michael is facing. Those issues are affecting his ability to relate well with clients.The human service manager can address Michael’s level of stress and factors that are contributing to that stress. One could highlight how valued Michael’s work is as a substance abuse counselor. Careful use of empathy may help Michael open up about how he is feeling about how things are going in his life and at work.
The manager may decide to refer in this case. Due to his depression, Michael may need to seek outside mental health treatment. If he is in fact suffering a relapse, outside treatment may help in addressing his own substance abuse issues, especially if longer term treatment is needed. Within the Employee Assistance Program and Policy may be found an employee awareness and education program which helps employees stay aware and understand the workplace’s continued commitment in having a drug-free workplace (U.S. Department of Labor, 1990). This type of program can help to identify the problems, resolve the problems, and offer follow-up services (U.S. Department of Labor, 1990). This kind of program has been effective in the workplace in helping recovering employees remain effective and productive and in helping to reduce absenteeism (U.S. Department of Labor, 1990). Implementing this resource is important for Michael.
Within the human service field, a human service manager has the responsibility of identifying and addressing issues that arise with employees. One can choose to reinforce, refer, or release depending on the concerns at hand. With proper communication, goals can be set and necessary steps can be implemented to ensure an outcome that benefits the agency as a whole.
California Department of Consumer Affairs. (2004). Professional therapy never includes
sex. Retrieved from http://www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/publications/proftherapy_textonly.pdf
Murphy, B.C., & Dillon, C. (2003). Interviewing in action: Relationship, process, and change.
Brooks/Cole, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc.
Professional Standards Committee. (2000). Interpreting in mental health settings. Retrieved
U.S. Department of Labor. (1990). An employer’s guide to dealing with substance
abuse. Retrieved from http://www.lectlaw.com/files/emp03.htm