Note: This excerpt is the introduction from the Case Manager's Manual for new case managers at White's Residential & Family Services.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: TEAMWORK 101
“Working With Other Staff”
One might be tempted to wonder why this section should precede the section on “Working With Kids.” After all, you did come here to work with kids, didn’t you? What’s the big deal about staff? Couldn’t they wait until a little later in the book?
The answers to these questions are “Yes,” “Read further,” and “No,” in that order. Yes, you did come here to help kids, but in a residential setting such as White’s, there’s a variety of staff members such as houseparents, assistant houseparents, case managers, therapists, teachers, coaches, school administrators, residential administrators, recreation supervisors, work supervisors, and surely some others I can’t think of at the moment. Since all are involved to a greater or lesser extent with nearly every kid on campus, working with kids obviously is a joint venture in which one must become quite adept in interpersonal relationships with adults. In an ironic sense, although our top priority is kids, working with adults is somewhat more fundamental in that, if we can’t work with adults in a reasonably successful manner, our best efforts to help kids will never get off the ground.
This is not to imply that working with other staff members is an unpleasant, pain-in-the-neck type of necessary evil (although it may be at times). On the contrary, for most people who learn to flourish in a setting like White’s, the many varied and unusual experiences one goes through with fellow workers over a period of time, lead to much good fellowship and very often forge bonds in which many of these co-workers actually become “closer than a brother.”
The purpose of this section is not to write a book on human relations. It would seem helpful, however, to point out that in this type of working environment, disagreements often do not arise over issues of right or wrong, good or bad, black or white, but rather right vs. right, one crummy, (but nevertheless unavoidable) alternative vs. one which is all too similar, and one shade of gray vs. another. It is in these instances that it becomes something of an art to be able to stand up for one’s own point of view, to be open to others’ perspectives, and at the same time be able to work out a solution which is in the best interest of kids. This is our challenge, and if you are to be a successful case manager it is these types of skills you must master.