Jen qualified in 2008 as a social worker and practiced in an Adult Learning Disability team. Five years later, Jen was promoted to manage the same team – which had its benefits as well as challenges. The benefits included Jen knowing her colleagues well and the team’s strengths. However, in her new managerial role, Jen also felt that she had to separate herself from former colleagues, who were also friends. Jen recalls being alone and feeling lonely. She was the only manager of a team of eight practitioners consisting of social workers and social care assessors. The council she was working in was geographically vast and Jen had very little face-to-face contact with other managers or her own manager.
The image that Jen has selected to represent her transition is of two versions of what ‘success’ might look like.
“My picture summarises my transition because I felt like was always winging it and often going round in circles. It seemed as though once I had the title of ‘manager’ people expected me to have all the answers, but I really didn’t! I was very lucky though, because my manager was very supportive of me and encouraged me to try things and make mistakes without any fear of repercussion if I got it a little wrong. I learnt a lot (and I’m still learning!) and really started to reflect on the difference between a manager and a leader.”
Jen’s story of other people’s expectations and assumptions about skills resonate with Sue’s story. As Jen (and Prospera) has highlighted there are advantages to being internally promoted, but this can also be more of a disadvantage when former work-based relationships are renegotiated (Brown and Bourne, 1996). The acquisition of a new managerial role brings with it the notions of authority and power. The transition positions the nw manager within an organisational hierarchy. This has the potential of creating an oppositional atmosphere of ‘them and us’ and placing the new manager in an unenviable position. As Jen recalls, this can be a challenging time as she adapted to the new role whilst reconciling a dual responsiblity towards her organisation and team members (Gibbs, 2001; Mordock, 1990).
On reflection, Jen remembers some “dark times” when she often doubted herself and abilities but she remains passionate about social work management.
“But I got there, with a lot of trail and error and winging it! I have led several teams since – all have taken me on a roller coaster ride (that would have been my other image!) – but I still love being a manager in social care.”