As a social service worker, you have to interact with people of all ages, gender, and even different background. Working in the community or an institution can be interesting and at the same time challenging. I am a Canadian woman social worker based in one of the colleges. Recently, I had a client who needed my assistance. The client was a male who needed some help and advice from a social worker. The male client explained his problem to one of my colleagues in the college, and he was referred to me because I was the best person to address the issue. My colleague explained to me the issue, and I promised to get back to the client the following day so that I could give him advice on how to cope with the issues he was undergoing in college.
Unfortunately, when we met the following day, the client seemed different. I felt as if that was not the client that I was sent referred to because the look that he gave me communicated to me and I felt something uneasy. The client seemed arrogant and shouted to me as if I was a stranger to him. He showed some disrespect by the way he was yelling at me. I tried to cool him down and provide a comfortable ground so that we could discuss his problems but he continued shouting at me. He showed some disrespect to the extent of leaving me alone, and he did not listen to my advice. I remained calm and polite and did not utter any abusive or harmful word to my client. I knew that as a social worker, you ought to have a humble heart to avoid hurting your clients. According to me, he did not expect to see a female social worker who was going to address his issue. He thought that he could get a male worker and a person who was much older than in was. However, there was this perception of him that a social worker is a low person in the community with low salary and low standard of living. Most students in the college do not have respect for social workers because they feel that profession of a social worker is very low in the community.
I left that place very disappointed, and I was psychologically tortured. Following the incident that happened to me, I spent the entire day sleeping and meditating on that incidence. I tried to understand why this client had to disrespect m and even showed that I was of no help to him. I had to sit and rethink if I was fit to continue working as a social worker in such a harsh environment with very disrespectful people. It left me wondering why people have negative stereotypes and attitudes towards social workers. I realized that the work of a social worker is disregarded by most people in the community. Although I went through psychological problems, I had to encourage myself because that is my profession and I must learn how to handle such clients.
The Erikson psychological theory has got eight developmental stages that happen to human beings. The sixth stage of Erikson developmental stage is intimacy versus isolation. According to this stage, intimacy versus isolation occurs in the young adulthood between 18 to 40 years. At this age, people begin to share intimacy with others while others face isolation from their peer and family members. People try to explore relationships that would lead to longer commitment with their loved ones or their family members (Matija, 2014). Successful completion of the intimacy versus isolation stage can result in happy relationships, and one may be determined to remain committed. However, if one avoids commitment, intimacy and even relationships they would end up in loneliness, depression and even isolation from their peers and family members.
Following my incidence, I was left in a psychological torture. I was left wondering that, if my clients could not show some respect to me and yet I was there to help them, how could I build a good relationship. At my age, I should be building an intimate relationship, but following the incidence I had, I was not certain how I can build a strong relationship. I was left to fear that even the intimate partner I will get will not respect me. I also fear that my peers will not respect me because if my clients do not value and respect my profession, how could other people value me. Despite the fact that I am a woman, that should not be the reason to be disrespected. As a woman social worker, I expect to receive the best from my clients and even people I interact with in my daily life. Therefore, I am in a conflicting situation of the kind of relationship I will build with people around (Sudbery, 2010). I would enter into any commitments because of the fear that I might be disrespected in future by my partner.
According to the sociocultural perspective theory, it seeks to understand human behaviors. It seeks to figure out why human beings behave the way they behave as they interact with other people. Also, the theory seeks to understand the human behaviors as well as personality development by examining the rules of a subgroup or the group they are in. According to this theory, factors such as age, gender, race, religion, social class, and ethnicity may influence a person’s behavior (Cherry, 2016). For example, people from different genders may have difficulties while interacting with each other. The differences in their age and sex may influence their personality as well as their behaviors. Also, the sociocultural perspective can help understand how a similar behavior can be interpreted in various cultures.
From the sociocultural perspective, it explains why human beings behave in a different manner as they interact with different people. From this point of view, the behavior of my client was influenced by the fact we had a lot of differences. For example, he was a male, and I was a female, and that is why he was disrespectful to me. According to me, he was not comfortable to be advised by a female social worker just because we were of different sexes and ages. Also, the age of a person may influence their behaviors. The fact that I seemed slightly older than my client made him disrespect me. However, maybe he could be comfortable dealing with an order adult unlike dealing with a person almost their age. Also, the cultural and ethnicity differences might have influenced how my client behaved towards me. Therefore, the sociocultural perspective can help a social worker learn and understand how they should deal with their clients to avoid misunderstanding and conflict (Cherry, 2016). By understanding the individual differences, it may help to build a better relationship with your clients regardless of the differences.
The cognitive perspective seeks to understand and explain the human behaviors. It understands the mental process of human beings such as their perception, memory, problem-solving and their thinking and how they are related to the behaviors. The cognitive perspective explains that human behaviors are as a result of s stimulus that could either be internal or external (Sudbery, 2010). One may perceive something, and they may learn or remember and thus influence their behaviors. These behaviors take place during social interactions. It could be a context of competition, cooperation, exchange with family members, group members among others. Therefore, these interactions can highly influence how individuals react or behave.
Following the incidence I had with my client, I view it in a cognitive perspective. A possible cognitive explanation for my client behavior is because they had developed negative attitudes towards me immediately they saw me. As a female social worker, my male client felt that my advice could be inadequate and that I could not fully solve his problems. The client might be believed that I did not have the ability to advise him on what to do with his problems. He overlooked my capabilities, and that ended up creating a negative perspective. He disrespected me maybe because of my age, and he did not expect to get advice from a person who seemed of the same age with him.
Another cognitive explanation is maybe the client had a negative perception of social workers in college. Maybe, the client had a previous encounter with a social worker which did not auger well. From there he developed negative attitudes towards social workers. Furthermore, the behavior could have been influenced by an internal or external stimulus (Sudbery, 2010). Therefore, the way people behave during social interactions may be influenced by several factors including their thinking, memory, and attitudes. Therefore, as a social worker, it is important to understand people’s behaviors as they interact with each other.
Most of the social workers and other health workers face harassment, disrespect, and abuse every day in their workplaces and as they interact with community members. According to Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, they define abuse as any form of threatening behavior, verbal abuse, harassment, psychological harm, disrespect and physical attack. Most of these harassments are most common among female workers than in male workers in most of the institutions. According to a study done to investigate the level of harassment in the workplace, over 10% said that they have gone through psychological harm from both their clients and workmates (Miedema, Easley, Fortin & Hamilton, 2009). The reason of disrespect from the clients is because of the negative perception they might have towards the social worker.
Additionally, the research showed that the most common abuse was verbal. The clients are used to talking ill about the social workers and even the health caregivers. The reason is that the clients do not regard or appreciate the services they get from the social workers and other healthcare workers in the community (Miedema, Easley, Fortin & Hamilton, 2009). Therefore, the issue of disrespect and other forms of harassment are very common in the workplaces and institutions. The disrespect could be as a result of a poor relationship with the clients or the negative attitudes the clients hold towards the social workers and other caregivers.
Several organizations and agencies are working in close collaboration with social workers to ensure their safety. One of the most known agencies for addressing issues facing social workers is the Canadian Association for Social Workers. The association supports social workers working in various settings such as children’s aid agencies, family setting agencies, schools agencies, hospitals among others. The association work with thousands of registered social workers in Canada to ensure their wellbeing. The Association receives cases of harassment, disrespect, abuse, physical attack among others from the social workers. The organization is aware of the challenges the social workers face as they help the communities. Therefore, if any social worker faces any challenge as they serve the community, they are encouraged to report the matter to this organization. Therefore, following the problem I encountered that had psychological impacts to me, the association will help me cope with the situation.
Besides, the organization works to ensure the social workers are comfortable and in the case of any challenge they give intervention. Also, the organization will contact the client to help him solve his issues in a better way. Also, they will want to know why the client was disrespectful and advise the client accordingly. Further, the organization will offer social support to the client and ensure they walk over their issues successfully. In short, the organization usually helps to solve issues between clients and social workers. They ensure that both clients and social workers have a good relationship as they interact.
Another organization is the Ontario Association of Social Workers. The organization acts as the voice of all the social workers in Ontario to ensure they speak out and represent the issues and concern of the social workers. The organization works to improve the programs and policies that may be affecting the social work client and the social work practice as well. The organization does not only work with social workers alone but also people from the community. That means the organization offers support to clients who might feel that the social worker did not help them. Therefore, the clients are also advised to contact the organization directly in case they have challenges that need to be addressed. Besides, the organization works to protect the social work from any form of abuse, disrespect, and harassment that they might face while dealing with the community members. It brings together the social workers to encourage them to share their experiences as they work with the community so that the organization can address the gaps.
For instance, following my case, I would advise the client to contact the organization for further support. The reason is that the organization is concerned with the well-being of both the clients and the social workers as well. Ontario Association of Social Workers deals with all clients such as clients with mental disorders, clients facing violence or abuse, clients with psychological problems among others. They meet the client’s need in case the client feels dissatisfied with the help of a social worker. The organization ensures that the client’s issues are solved successfully. It also encourages the clients to build a good relationship with the social worker because they are the contact people in the community.
Baukje Miedema, Julie Easley, Pierrette Fortin & Ryan Hamilton. (2009, March). Disrespect, harassment, and abuse. nih.gov, pp. 279-285.
Cherry, K. (2016, October 3). What is Sociocultural Theory. Retrieved from verywell.com: https://www.verywell.com/what-is-sociocultural-theory-2795088
Matija, S. (2014). Resilience in the context of Erikson’s theory of human development. New Brunswick: Rutgers.
Sudbery, J. (2010). Human growth and development: an introduction for social workers. London: Routledge.