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Facilitating Supportive Group Processes and Organization Factors




Facilitating Change-Supporting Processes inGroups 453

Group Member Factors 453 Relationship Factors 457

Social Network Factors: Assessing Organization Problems 465

Supportive Funding, Policies, Procedures, and Practice Guidelines 466 Supportive Knowledge 467 Supportive Values 467

Facilitating Supportive Organization Factors 462

Organizations 462 Organization Problems 462 Common Factors as a Framework for Organization Practice 463

Facilitating Common Factors and Change in Organizations 468

Social Worker Factors 468 Relationship Factors 470 Critical Actor Factors 474 Practice Strategies 478

Social Workers Roles in Organizations: Colleague, Critical Actor, and Change Agent 464


481 483 484

Practice Test

MySearchLab Connections

Competencies Applied with Practice Behavior Examplesin This Chapter

Professional Identity Research Based Practice Ethical Practice Human Behavior Critical Thinking Policy Practice Diversity in Practice Human Rights & Justice

Practice Contexts

Engage, Assess, Intervene, Evaluate


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Working in groups and working as a member of an organization are essential practice areas in social work. In this chapter we provide guidance for these forms of practice and specify the particular challenges they often present and how you can master these effectively.


Even when preparation for group work is thorough, group processes can place demands on members that will at least temporarily constrain the presence and availability of key personal attributes and their capacities to support and sensitively challenge others in their co-facilitation roles. In this section we discuss how group processes may inhibit optimal contributions of members and the ways in which social workers and other group members may act to facilitate restoration to a change-supportive group environment.

Group Member Factors

The well-being of group members can be tested by what can be stressful and challenging interactions in groups. Conflicts, at least in terms of points of view, may be common. Emotions and reactions of members to what is happening in the group can be exacerbated by members experiences of vulnerability. These may be increased when the challengesupport balance is thrown off by difficult and provocative processes. Part of the strain of groups is what can be the demanding nature of the role of co-facilitation, and this can be too much at times for some members. When the well-being of members becomes a concern more than occasionally, the challenges of co-facilitation should be considered as part of what may be making participation hard. Group members may need more support, or attention, than they may be getting, and the overemphasis for them of listening to, supporting, and being there for others may diminish their sense of getting what they need from fellow group members. Responding quickly to upset members shows sensitive attunement and can bring balance back to the group. Explicit consideration of the challengesupport balance may be helpful. Exploring with members their feelings about co-facilitation and their experiences of both giving and receiving from the group may surface problems in this area and suggest ways in which the group may help ensure that all members are helped as much as they are asked to help. Facilitators can say This has been an intense conversation, with lots of feelings. Is everyone OK? Seems like maybe some of us could have had very strong reactions here. Also, the facilitator can use self-disclosure to great effect in upsetting situations. For example, responding to group members complaints about some aspect of the group, the facilitator might say, I have to admit this discussion has thrown me off a bit, I wasnt aware group members were so upset about what has been happening here. I feel upset with myself that I have not been more on top of this. I am glad people have been so candid; I might need a minute to process what has been said and refocus. This kind of candor can be a great model for other members and encourage even greater and useful risk taking in the group. Emotions and reactions of members to what is happening in the group can be exacerbated by members experiences of vulnerability. These may be increased when the challenge support balance is thrown off by difficult and provocative processes.

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Acceptance of group members and their behaviors may be challenged, especially when members engage in disagreement or conflict. Group members may look to the social worker to adjudicate these situations and take a position for one member and against another. Ad hominem arguments are sometimes used by group members, which involve the expression of contradictory positions by focusing in some critical way on the group member being opposed. It is not difficult for group members to become impatient with one another and to become less accepting when important matters are being considered and their points of view may not be popular with other members. Scapegoating, in which a group member is viewed negatively and may be blamed for unproductive group processes, is common, but can be very hurtful and damaging to the scapegoated group member. On the other hand, some group members may be especially close or aligned on issues, creating a subgroup within the larger group. Members who are not members of subgroups may feel excluded or less accepted by subgroup members. These situations can constrain the members capacities for remaining accepting with all members. When members directly or indirectly suggest that some members are more valuable or more legitimate than others, this will likely become divisive if it is not discussed. If group members can express their concerns about acceptance among themselves in respectful ways, this can promote more sensitive interactions. In internal change groups, this helps members learn about how disagreements can provoke emotional reactivity and judgmental positions with others. This may lead to insight into ways in which personal hurts can become interpersonal intolerances. In these situations, a facilitator must draw group members attention to their lack of acceptance, but in a respectful way, not by attacking the attacker. In these cases, the facilitator honors the speakers right to express his or her point of view but shares a concern that the way it is expressed may be unfair or hard on the other member or members. Shelly, of course your point of view is important. I am concerned that it may have sounded a bit hard on Ted, though. Do you see that? Help group members understand that they have used a harsh tone and invite them to consider why they have done this, as opposed to putting them in their place, which models punitive interacting and may be experienced as condoning and perpetuating a less-than-congenial tone in the group.

Groups may make some members a bit cautious or guarded with other members. For other members, the desires to fit in, make friends, please the group leader, or be seen in a certain light might constrain how real they are, especially early in the groups work together. When social workers and other members make an effort to be genuine, this may model for others a way that they can be and help them take the risks that genuineness in interpersonal relating entails. Framing struggles with genuineness in a positive way, for example, as concerns about respect for others, can encourage greater candor. My hunch is you may have further thoughts here, Bruce. I appreciate how fair you are trying to be to the ideas already on the table and to other group members, but I would really like to hear more about how you really see this. Some version of this kind of statement, honoring efforts to be kind but encouraging genuineness, may open the doors for members reluctant to really get into things that may be difficult to share. I know this is a challenging subject. You seem to have more to say on this, do you want to say a bit more? Iknow it isnt easy .

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Social workers may also disclose when they might catch themselves failing to be genuine and also promote the courage to do so in others in this way. You know, I dont think what I said was really everything I was thinking there. I think I pulled my punches. Sorry, let me say a bit more about my take on this, if thats OK ? If the group can discuss this issue members may learn about the ways in which they may become guarded and artificial in their interactions with others in the group and also in their lives. Group members may be helped by encouraging one another to be honest even when their thoughts may be different from others, when they may want to say something challenging, or when they feel reluctance for whatever reason to express thoughts and reactions to group processes.

Engage, Assess, Intervene, Evaluate

Practice Behavior Example: Use empathy and other interpersonal skills Critical Thinking Question: Perhaps out of anxiety, social workers may tend to become more formal, or directive, or authoritarian when running groups. This is perhaps an understandable reaction to the high level of activity, quickly shifting and confusing lack of focus, tension, conflict, and all the other dynamics that are part and parcel of group practice. However, the retreat into the safety of an authoritarian approach may leave group members feeling less well supported, and the lack of connectedness may actually exacerbate group members struggles to relate and interact with other members comfortably. What are your tendencies when faced with challenging group processes? Can you find ways to remain genuine even when there is a tenuous sense of control or when there is tension in the group?


Empathy in group practice can be difficult to achieve as group members encounter multiple life stories, experiences, difficulties, and personalities. Some group members also may be seeking help with behaviors that are hard to accept and also very difficult to have empathy for. Allowing the group to reflect on challenges in empathy can help uncover motivations for this. Members self-disclosures about struggling to really walk in others shoes can aid this process if done sensitively. It is often difficult to disclose things to clients and others about ourselves, especially when they are the kinds of things that might not be pleasing to others or potentially cause conflict. However, when social workers are struggling to experience adequate empathy with others, respectfully and sensitively sharing difficult experiences may allow for a more real and in-depth consideration of difficult topics. Sorry Marie, could you say more about this? For some reason I am struggling a bit here; maybe I am a bit trapped by my thinking on this . Group members might respectfully ask one another about how they understand the experiences and thoughts of other group members. For example, when a group member expresses what appears to be a judgmental point of view, other members may be asked to consider where the comment might be coming from instead of just condemning the judgmental position and/or the group member.

Group members commonly have varying degrees of distress about the problems they are working on. In all types of groups, some members will be more concerned than others. In client groups, the nature of group members distress may be expressed in ways that may be uncomfortable for other members. Although we know that some amount of distress is a key factor in change work, an extremely distressed group member may not be composed sufficiently to work with and contribute to the change work of others. Distressed members can be very distracting and may affect the groups work and promote distancing or scapegoating on the part of other group members. Exploring the nature of the upset with the distressed member, while also providing the member with feedback about how his or her upset may have been experienced by other members, may be useful in helping the member work out his or her upset and learn something about how the ways in which he or she communicates concerns and upset may impact relationships with others. Karen, you seem so upset now. Do you want to

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456 Distressed members can be very distracting and may affect the groups work and promote distancing or scapegoating on the part of other group members. Exploring the nature of the upset with the distressed member, while also providing the member with feedback about how his or her upset may have been experienced by other members, may be useful in helping the member work out his or her upset and learn something about how the ways in which he or she communicates concerns and upset may impact the members relationships with others.

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say what your concern is? or some other way of alerting a group member to his or her intensity and inviting the member to consider it and calm himself or herself a bit helps the member and the group move past a tense moment to a consideration of how the topic may legitimately be upsetting, and provide an avenue of useful exploration for the group. It is also common for some group members to be minimally concerned about their problems or the problems the group is working on. When group members are insufficiently concerned about the problems and issues the group is discussing, they may invest little energy into the work. Exploring a members apparent lack of distress and investment may help him or her disclose the obstacles to greater involvement. Mike, you dont seem too worried about this? might invite someone to share his or her disengagement in a way that might introduce a point that the group had not previously considered. In some cases, this process may identify problems in the group that can then be addressed to the benefit of all members.

Hope or Expectation of Change

Members optimism about achieving their goals can be greatly bolstered by support and help from other group members. In some cases, members may lose some hope if they feel they are helping others more than they are being helped. The focus of discussions or the ways in which problems are conceptualized and actions are taken may not be satisfying or comfortable for some members, who may not feel at ease enough to vocalize these feelings. When one or more members appear to become pessimistic, withhold contributions, or seem resigned, group members should invite them to share what is on their minds. These kinds of things can be addressed quite directly: Kara you dont seem into the discussion? What do you think? It could be that these members may understand something that is being overlooked in the group, which may help all members to understand issues in greater depth and/or complexity.

Active Help-Seeking
Some members may be quite good at co-facilitation and contributing to group processes but may not ask for much in return or make specific requests of other members. Quieter group members may in this sense extend themselves to others by listening or perhaps modestly supporting others. Groups can make it harder for many people to advocate for themselves, especially in the context of sitting with other people who may have great needs and may assertively seek the attention and support of other members. This may lead to or be representative of a members loss of hope about what can be gained from the group. Exploring ways in which the group can ensure that all members have a chance to participate and get what they need from others can help participants realize that they have perhaps overlooked another participants needs. In some cases, speaking with the group member privately may encourage him or her to speak up a bit more in the group. In these situations, it might be an instinctive move on the part of the facilitator to call on the quiet member and pull him or her into the group. This might be helpful but be sure not to make someone feel on the spot, which might discourage him or her even more. It might be better to ask the group Are we doing a good job of considering the needs and contributions of all members? Does anyone have any concerns about this? I have noticed that not everyone has been as active as other members, and maybe we can talk to make sure we are doing all we can to support everyones contributions here.

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Group Members View Group Leader as Credible

It is important for group members to have faith in the Engage, Assess, Intervene, Evaluate group leader. If this becomes problematic, it may be difficult for the leader to explore this issue with group mem- Practice Behavior Example: Use empathy and bers as it directly invites criticism. In cases where the other interpersonal skills leadership is capable, group members who do not value group processes or who are made uncomfortable by group Critical Thinking Question: An obvious chalprocesses may displace their anxiety or upset onto the so- lenge in group practice is helping the quiet or cial worker. For some members, it may be less threatening disengaged member to participate in meanfor them to focus their upset on the social worker, who ingful ways. Social workers may overrely on they may see as primarily or exclusively responsible for simply directing these members to participate group processes. Group leaders must be willing to engage by structuring the group so that all members with members in discussions about how they might facili- have to participate or by calling on them tate group processes in ways that the members will find during discussions. This might succeed in even more helpful, as trying as this can be. I (Cameron) am bringing these members into the action of the fond of saying: Is this helpful? Is there anything I can do group but it can be alienating, and it does not to make this more helpful for people? I also try to often address the issue of the members reluctance remind group members that I want them to tell me if they or discomfort with engaging more actively. are unclear or unhappy about something in the group, that What kinds of things might be going on with it is an important part of my job to help people express quieter group members? Given their likely concerns and criticisms, and that I will do my very best to concerns, what might you do, aside from diconsider them and use them to try to make our shared ex- recting them to participate, to help them to periences the best they can be. Its important not to get de- become more comfortable and active in their fensive when group members criticize; criticism is likely contributions to group processes? a sign that you are doing something right and that group members trust you. Facilitators also must find ways to help members explore the possibility that their criticisms might be a way of displacing their frustrations onto the leader, and encourage them to understand the nature of these processes. What you are saying makes sense and I am glad you are sharing it. I wonder if it might also make sense to know a little more about what your experience in the group has been and how that has made you see things this way. In this way the facilitator reinforces his or her credibility by demonstrating a kind of competence that allows for honest mistakes, growing together, openness, and developing shared experiences through mutual trust, responsiveness, and a willingness to try new things even if they might be beyond our comfort zones. The credibility of the group leader is enhanced when group members are helped to become actively and productively engaged in group work, not so much by the leader taking charge or enforcing rules. This kind of respectful and empowering approach will be seen by most members of groups as collaborative and skillful, and will serve as a model of effective co-facilitation as well as healthy interpersonal relating and interacting.

Relationship Factors
Engagement in Relationship
In the common factors model, in which group members are seen as group co-facilitators, it is essential that relationships among members are such that members may experience one another as capable, caring, and dedicated to promoting each others change work. When members are connected to one another,

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group conditions and processes are enriched by the bonds that develop. Realistically, however, relationships among group members can be catchas-catch-can. Groups can have members with different interactional styles, personal histories, social classes, races, genders, levels of motivation for change, social skills, even different problems. All of these differences may challenge relationship development, and members may relate in a distanced way. Social anxiety may also make it difficult for group participants to engage with others comfortably. Anxious group members may have trouble empathizing with other members and extending themselves to others with discernible interest, care, and concern, and may communicate in ways that others may find off-putting. Anxiety may be misunderstood as arrogance or a judgmental attitude on the part of the anxious member, discouraging the interest other members may have in getting closer to the anxious member. Engaged relating may also be constrained by group members use of power in their interactions with other members that may not be optimally democratic. Social workers might believe that they need to run and be in control of group processes to keep things orderly. Group members may also act in overly assertive, directive, or dominating ways that may not allow for the active and equal participation of other members. Group work depends on democratic processes and non-coercion, and even subtle misuses of power can be significantly impactful and potentially hurtful to engagement among group members. It is important that distanced relating and misuses of power are addressed as soon as possible in order to avoid the establishment of patterns of counterproductive interactions. Without the common factors of acceptance, genuineness, engagement in relationships, active help seeking, belief in one another, and collaboration, change work will be diminished. It is best to examine problems in relationships and engage all group members in understanding and working to resolve these issues. Working to foster interpersonal learning and emotional learning embedded in these interpersonal problems among members can help not only to foster strong and productive ties among members, but can also reveal important thoughts and feelings of members about what is happening in the group. For example, when members are not fully engaged with one another, it makes sense to reflect with the group about the possibilities that there are real and meaningful differences among members, that group processes can be demanding and anxiety-producing, and that people may be feeling challenged and upset by the way in which the group members are interacting with and responding to one another. Helping members to understand why their contributions may not be experienced in the best light helps them to know more about themselves (interpersonal learning) and helps the group forge more positive and forgiving interpretations of members challenging contributions.

Engagement in Change Work

In groups, change work is primarily evidenced by members use of other members contributions to reflect on, examine, and challenge the perspectives, points of view, understandings, and positions they hold. When members can take in and consider the thoughts and experiences of their fellow group members in this way, they are enabling their learning and moving toward change. This might be discerned by members active use of direct and indirect communications revealing this kind of work, including facial gestures that suggest thought, and more direct communications that suggest that they have heard what others

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have said and are considering these ideas. Social workers may support engagement in change work by exploring what might be making it difficult for members to take more full advantage of what others have to offer. This process, again, can promote both interpersonal learning for the member and more productive processes for the group.

Productive Direct and Indirect Communication

Because group processes involve multiple contributors with differing points of view, manners of expression, and personal styles, it is inevitable that problems in communicating may occur. Generally, nonproductive direct communications may be considered as indirect expressions of group members concerns about their experiences in the group. Often, a group member acts as a spokesperson for the group, giving voice to concerns that others share but do not express directly. This dual focus must be a constant part of group facilitators reflections on members contributions to group processes. Individual members communications should be heard both as pertaining to the individual but also potentially serving some functional purpose for the group, such as avoiding difficult topics or interactions, or indirectly expressing upset with group leadership and processes. Working in the process by wondering about the meaning and function of indirect communications is an essential activity in maintaining the sufficiency of common factors conditions and processes supporting change work in groups. Typical problems in communicating in groups include tangential contributions, misunderstandings and misperceptions, communication of thoughts and feelings that are perceived as disrespectful and/or insensitive, and premature shifts in focus.

Tangential Contributions
Groups may easily lose their focus and engage in conversations that do not clearly relate to the problems group members are working on. Helping groups to regain focus is a critical activity on the part of the group facilitator. However, it is not optimal to redirect group processes. Rather, the facilitator can explore tangents by expressing curiosity or concern about a topic of conversation and ask how it might relate to the work of the group. By doing this, the facilitator may uncover a link between an apparently tangential discussion and the groups topic, and often, group processes as well.

Members contributions can be hard to understand, because they may struggle to put their thoughts and feelings into words. Part of facilitating groups is ensuring that all members share a mutual understanding about what is going on and that communications be clear and understood so that misperceptions do not entangle the work. Asking for clarification when a member is not expressing ideas in ways that other members can easily understand is helpful when done tactfully. Another helpful method is for members to share the way in which a communication was understood, putting the communication into different words. Group members may also pick up on other members indirect communications about confusion, such as facial gestures that suggest that there is a lack of understanding, and invite discussion of the points being made so that greater clarity can be achieved. Lack of clarity in communications might be an expression of a members concerns about how they are being viewed by other members, or may serve a purpose for the group, such as

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slowing processes down or articulating frustration with processes by provoking this emotion in other members.

Communications Perceived as Disrespectful or Insensitive

Of course when there are many opinions and views it is possible for someone to experience and react to a different or challenging view and the way it is expressed as being disrespectful or insensitive. This may or may not have been intended by the communicator. It is possible for respectfully sent and legitimate points of view to be taken by others in ways that are not intended, provoking upset. It is also possible of course for people to say things or to say things in ways that express hostility or frustration or other thoughts or emotions that do embody a failure to maintain sufficient respect and sensitivity. We all at times express our upset with others, and though this can be done respectfully, many of us, in moments of stress, may not take the second it would require to compose ourselves and articulate our upset as respectfully as we might. Some of us, unknowingly, have ways of speaking that may seem to others to be disrespectful or insensitive. Sometimes eager members may begin their comments before another member finishes speaking, further compounding the chance for upset. Challenging comments and cut-offs can create considerable tension in the group and can derail focus. Ideally, upsets should be explored in the context of the groups focus and processes. As with other interpersonal issues, reactive communications should be considered as containing messages about the issue being discussed but also possibly as saying something indirectly about the way in which the group is working together. Challenging comments and contributions made with anger or hostility may be expressing anxieties, frustrations, and resentment about something happening in the group. Members may feel that they are not valued or that the group is not helping them enough or in ways that they are comfortable with. In moments in which a group member is uncomfortable with another members contribution, the upset member should be able to express concerns about the communication, and the member expressing the challenging thoughts should be helped to clarify his or her intentions. The facilitator may support the reacting group member and invite this person to share his or her reactions and concerns. Group members who are participating in challenging and/or negative ways might be helped to better understand their motivations for challenging or upsetting others, to know more about how his or her contributions come across, and what affect they might be having. Members contributions that are hard to consider because they are delivered in a challenging or uncomfortable way should not be minimized or dismissed because of the way they are delivered. Rather, members should help to clarify that the message is worth considering while the delivery might be a bit challenging, making the point difficult to hear and think about. This kind of dual consideration, one of the message, and the other of the way it is delivered, may help model for others a way to give due consideration to contributions that may be challenging because of the way that they are delivered, and to not default to a reactive close-mindedness.

Premature Shifts in Focus

Because group conversations can engender lots of spontaneous thoughts and communications, shifts in direction can take place quickly and in unanticipated ways, and focus can be lost. When this happens, issues that are important may be given inadequate consideration, and resolution may be suboptimal

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or not attained. A premature shift in focus, by definition, precludes the possibility of adequate exploration, limiting learning and the development of awareness and insight, and minimizing change work. In these cases, it can be helpful to identify the shift in focus, and explore the possibility of its functionality for the group. As with other challenges in group processes, shifts in focus may serve the purpose of protecting the group from some perceived threat, such as moving toward real but anxiety-producing personal change, changes in comfortable group processes, or external change that may be unwanted or feared by some group members.

Collaborating group members listen to one another, reflect on what is being said, and contribute in strategic and helpful ways. Collaboration may be limited by challenges that are common in group processes, including authoritarian participation, groupthink, and rushing to solutions (aka fixing).

Authoritarian Participation
When group processes are not adequately collaborative and respectful it may fall on the social worker to act quickly to protect group members and to help ensure that members exchanges are not hurtful. Assertively intervening in challenging interactions may not be comfortable or provoke reactive emotionality in those intervening, and social workers and other group members may, out of anxiety, set limits too quickly or too sternly. It is important, even in difficult situations involving conflict among group members, that social workers and group members act respectfully though they are acting assertively. Here, sharing perspectives about the likely effects of problematic collaboration on group processes and productivity is preferable to directive or punitive responding.

Group members routinely experience pressure to agree with other members. Groupthink (Janis, 1971) occurs when there is pressure felt by group members to achieve consensus in spite of differences in views. Groupthink may prevent participation of members whose views may be different from others but who fear losing their good standing in the group. The most productive group processes create opportunities for the genuine expression of multiple points of view. When groupthink appears to be operating, this should be explored, and the underlying functions should be identified.

Rushing to Solutions/Fixing
A phenomenon related to groupthink involves a kind of over-efficiency, or rushing to solutions. This occurs when one or more group members urge the group to take a very practical, outcomes- oriented approach to the work that limits or prohibits adequately in-depth exploration of issues. Identifying rushed processes and inviting members to consider what may be causing undue expediency in the work and what might be lost in the process can help members see how they might be avoiding difficult emotions and anxiety-provoking interactions with others with whom they have differences. Fixing is not a common factor; group members engage in change work to the extent that common factors conditions and processes can be utilized in

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462 Organization problems can be thought of as those ways in which organizations fail to help clients effectively, compassionately, and in timely and accessible ways. Because these kinds of difficulties are commonplace, social workers must be able to identify them and include as an essential aspect of their practice efforts to help make their organizations as responsive as possible to clients needs.

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ways that respond to the issues of group members and their unique ways of engaging in the work that are really needed to help them achieve their goals.


Group work is an important type of social work practice. We most often talk about group work that takes place with clients, but an important type of group practice also takes place with the organizations social workers work for. In this section we consider how social workers may work to help ensure that the programs and agencies that employ them can be helped to achieve excellence in the services that they provide.

Though some social workers may work as private practitioners, the majority of social work practice is supported by and takes place in organizations, such as counseling centers, government agencies, schools, hospitals, residential treatment centers, and other similar organizations. As bureaucracies, organizations provide purposes, structures, and cultures that shape the nature of the practice that they sponsor. Along with the knowledge and values gained from professional education and professional standards, organizational realities also impact what social workers do quite directly.

Organization Problems
Without organizational support, social work would likely not exist. Although organizations are important and necessary for social workers, problems are produced by the nature of organizations in which social workers work. For example, the policies and procedures that have immediate impact on client services, including eligibility, may be difficult for clients to understand or navigate. Needed programs or services for local client groups may be nonexistent or inadequate to meet needs. The appropriateness or quality of services may also be limited or compromised by challenges of bureaucratic structures, processes, and funding. We suggest that organization problems can be thought of as those ways in which organizations fail to help clients effectively, compassionately, and in timely and accessible ways. Because these kinds of difficulties are Social workers must work together to help make their organizations the best that they can be.

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commonplace, social workers must be able to identify them and include as an essential aspect of their practice efforts to help make their organizations as responsive as possible to clients needs. Identifying and assessing the problems of organizations is fraught with challenge, however. Unique characteristics of human service agencies differentiate them from other types of organizations (Hasenfeld, 1983; Netting&OConnor, 2003). These include a limited ability to accurately evaluate the outcomes of individual practitioners work with clients and programs and services more generally. Second, social workers and other human service practitioners are thought to use indeterminate technologies (Netting & OConnor, p. 46), meaning that it is never clear what practice approaches might need to be used to be effective with any particular client. This makes assessing the quality and appropriateness of practice very difficult. The stated goals of human service organizations are generally described only abstractly, also making precise measurement of goal attainment virtually impossible. Finally, it may not be politically palatable to raise concerns about effectiveness with colleagues who take pride in their work and their organization and may not be comfortable with discussions of effectiveness, as they may be experienced as critical and negative. Further, social workers, even if conscious of and concerned about inefficiencies and gaps in service, may generally be reluctant to engage in change processes that may bring them into conflict with colleagues and superiors (Reeser & Epstein, 1990; Reisch & Andrews, 2001; Specht & Courtney, 1994; Wasserman, 1971). Social workers value relationships and respect both clients and their coworkers, and are hesitant to ruffle feathers or harm their standing with those with whom they work and care about. In our experience, for example, social work students may be quite reluctant to talk with their field educators about issues in their supervisory relationship, fearing that they will upset their field educator and possibly be evaluated more poorly for raising their concerns (Cameron et al., 2009). Although organization practice is essential to maintaining and enhancing the quality of social work practice and services, it appears as though social workers experience obstacles and trepidations regarding engaging in this kind of work in ways that severely limit the impact of change practice on organizations, profession-wide.

Common Factors as a Framework for Organization Practice

In response to these realities, we suggest that the common factors may be used as a framework for approaching organization practice in a way that may help practitioners promote and make use of the conditions and processes that facilitate organization change work, while addressing the understandable concerns of practitioners regarding use of extraordinary efforts that may be less comfortable for them and less consistent with their values and the types of strategies and skills that they are more comfortable using and engage in more regularly in their practice with clients. The essential philosophy is identical to the micro-practice one: Practitioners adopting certain helpful attributes and ways of relating to others, helping others develop key attributes associated with successful change work, and acting strategically and skillfully can facilitate processes that help produce new ways of coping, thinking, and acting. On the organization level, this approach suggests, again, consistent with the common factors model, that the specific methods social workers might employ to work toward organization change are important but not more important than these foundational qualities, processes,

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and attributes. In other words, organization practice might best be understood as an ongoing, relationship-oriented way of being and interacting with colleagues, rather than a discrete, extraordinary function, separate and apart from social workers usual day-to-day obligations and routines. In this sense, social workers, committed to clients and their organizations, and engaging in the standard processes within their organizations, are always thought to be working toward organizational excellence through promoting care-based consideration of its work, processes, and products as a routine aspect of their interactions with colleagues in meetings, supervision, informal get togethers, and so forth. Organization practice is always happening. And of course, when extraordinary efforts are called for, social workers may engage in these as well to the extent that their ambition, courage, and political realities may support them in these endeavors. This sensibility and approach is consistent with literature on organizational culture and models of organization management such as Total Quality Management (TQM) and Model Z, which emphasize the importance of cultural values, norms, rituals, and other aspects of organizations as determinative in organizational decision-making processes about commitment to excellence, and the extent to which change may be possible (Netting & OConnor, 2003; Shafritz, Ott, & Jang, 2005). Specifically, these models stress the importance of the democratic, collaborative, and holistic relationships among organization members as essential to motivating excellence and dedication to work. Trust among organization members is seen as an essential factor in successful teamwork and productivity (Ouchi, 2005). Further, these models suggest that shared visions about the nature of the work create energy and focus that lead to production in ways that make bureaucratic supervision and direction less necessary. Workplace cultures that promote respect, relationship, and shared visions produce excellent work. These models are entirely consistent with a common factors perspective. We might think of the common factors as representing ideals regarding the culture that is established in social work practice among social workers, clients, and other participants in the work. Factors pertaining to the ways of being and relating and working together in practice constitute the cultural values, norms, climate, routines, and so forth, of this group of people working together. At the level of the organization, common factors may be thought of as articulating ideal values, norms, and ways of thinking and acting that are the conditions and processes that facilitate change at that level. In both cases, the common factors approach envisions change mostly as a product of genuine, caring, focused collaboration among trusting partners. In the rest of this chapter, we will describe ways in which social workers can integrate organization practice organically into their daily work with clients and colleagues and help make their organizations common factors organizations, facilitating positive change in ways that are collaborative as well as ongoing.

First, it is important to recognize that social workers have different roles within organizations. In organization practice, the essential foundation role of the social worker is that of colleague. All social workers inhabit this role.

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In this sense, social workers can be thought of as making a positive contribution to their organizationpracticing wellif social worker common factors and relationship factors are present and active in their interactions and relationships with their coworkers. This means that social workers bring to their activities with colleagues the same attributes and ways of relating that are essential to good work with clients. Social workers who can achieve this way of being with and relating to their colleagues add positively to the culture of their organizations, which promotes productive work processes likely to benefit clients. Importantly as well, social workers who develop strong relationships with colleagues are positioned to work with them cooperatively and gain their trust in ways that allow openness among them and the useful exchanges of ideas, positions, and the possibility for successful advocacy on matters of importance (Brager & Holloway, 1978). Social workers are also colleagues with the people with whom they work from other organizations. In the same ways, social workers should think of these individuals as their colleagues and invest positively in their relationships with them. This is often the basis for strong inter-organizational cooperation, which can benefit clients greatly. Additionally, when social workers are in administrative and supervisory roles, we believe that those common factors pertaining to clients are ideally present. Why does this make sense? Critical actors, those organization colleagues who have the ability to make decisions that shape services and programs, such as program directors, supervisors, and other management personnel (Brager & Holloway, 1978), must be concerned about organization quality in an ongoing way and remain open to suggestions and actions intended to promote excellence in their organizations. In this sense, the organization administrator or supervisor is ideally thought to be always seeking to make positive changes, in this case, to services and programs to benefit clients. Finally, social workers who are not in administrative or supervisory roles but have concerns about their organizations and decide to engage in systematic efforts to produce change may be thought of as change agents. In this role, social workers identify deficiencies in their organizations services, policies, or culture, and use the common factors as a framework for facilitating interest among colleagues and critical actors to work toward enhancement of the organizations performance. Change agents are loyal organization members who are genuinely motivated to invest in working toward program changes that will more powerfully assist those whom they serve. The common factors framework suggests ways in which social workers in each of these roles can work to assure that they are contributing positively to their organization and working to enhance the quality of its services.


Assessment in organization practice is, unlike practice with clients, not generally done systematically or in a formal way. In other words, it is probably the uncommon social work setting that asks its practitioners to collect data, make judgments, and recommend action plans regarding organizational

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functioning and quality. (Closest to this kind of practice, perhaps, is the effort made by administrators to monitor organization operations. But due to the problems in validly assessing quality in social work, oblique goals, indeterminacy in practice approaches, and political factors discussed earlier, it may be the case that even work on the part of administrators to act as organization practitioners may be limited and relatively inconsequential.) Social workers will most likely recognize organization shortcomings in their work with clients who are experiencing problems qualifying for the services that they need or paying for services, or who have concerns or complaints about the accessibility, appropriateness, respectfulness, or effectiveness of the help they are receiving. Assessment practice, then, requires social workers to be careful to explore these issues when they arise with clients. Social workers may identify limitations and challenges in service delivery in reflecting on the ways in which organization factors may appear to be keeping them from meeting clients needs. Even without a complaint or concern being raised by a client, social workers may recognize that the typical kinds of practice sanctioned by their agency and/or encouraged by their supervisor may not in all ways be meeting clients needs. For example, in some cases, clients may be placed into groups when they may prefer or potentially stand to gain more from individual or family work. Limitations on home-based services may prevent social workers from really impacting the family life of some clients. Strict requirements regarding use of self-disclosure or ways of interacting with clients may compromise the engagement and collaboration needed to potentiate the work. Finally, social workers who work in agencies that survey clients or who do this themselves may make use of data collected from clients regarding the usefulness of the services they were provided to ascertain levels of program quality. Although these data may most commonly be used by administrators, if and when they are shared with nonadministrative social workers, it is incumbent on them to consider the data carefully and draw conclusions judiciously about the implications for organization change work. For example, if clients report modest change in their difficulties, then this should be taken seriously as a sign that services could be improved in some way. Problems in functioning at the organization level may be understood as relating to problems in one or more social network factors.

Supportive Funding, Policies, Procedures, and Practice Guidelines

There likely is not an organization in which social workers practice that could not use more money. This is a pervasive problem in human service fields. Funding problems mean absent services and understaffed programs. Funding issues are formidable challenges, and social workers in nonadministrative roles may lack the time, information, and support to work in this area, which generally is the purview of the critical actors. While intended at least in part to promote effectiveness in service, policies, procedures, and practice guidelines may not be as supportive of good practice as might be possible. Policy problems might include eligibility

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for services, fee structures, insurance acceptance, cancellation, hours, and how clients are assigned to practitioners. Problems with procedures include rules regarding payment of fees, paperwork, the interactions of clients and support staff, and other conditions and processes related to the interactions of agency personnel and clients in regard to the services they receive. These may not allow for supportive, responsive clientagency interactions. Practice guidelines may not provide the support or may limit practitioner decision making in ways that again may not allow for best practice based on the unique needs of clients. In some cases, practitioners may be asked to work in ways that primarily support agency policies and values rather than assessed client needs. For example, supervisors may instruct social workers to require clients to obey strict behavioral rules that may not account for clients honest struggles with behaviors that may have been the reason for the client seeking services (e.g., problems with anger, noncompliance with rules in school, other skills deficits). In contrast with funding problems, organizations rules, including policies, procedures, and practice guidelines, may be more amenable to change.

Supportive knowledge
Organizations may not be able to keep up with the latest developments in practice research and theory. They may also be beholden to ways of operating that may be unnecessarily bureaucratic, lessening responsiveness to clients. An example is the use of practice theories that are encouraged to be employed with all clients, in spite of their unique needs. Practitioners may not be given the flexibility that they might ideally need to make decisions about their work, employing case knowledge as well as responsive procedural knowledge based in an understanding of clients as well as research on best practices, including common factors.

Supportive values
Social work is hard work and is stressful. Understandably, this may at times make it hard for social workers to relate with clients in ways that are in keeping with social work values based on caring, democracy, and respect. This also goes for relationships with colleagues. Sometimes, for example, stressed practitioners may express their frustration by discussing clients or co-workers with colleagues and in supervision that are not optimally respectful. Further, social workers may feel pressured by work demands that may make them feel as though they may have no choice but to find shortcuts in their practice with clients, diminishing their effectiveness. Another way of thinking about supportive values is in regard to organization practice itself. When social workers value their organizations, the cultures within, and their colleagues, the chances for programmatic excellence are markedly increased. There is a section in the NASW Code of Ethics that calls on social workers to dedicate themselves to working toward excellence in their employing organizations (see Box 15.1). These ethical standards clearly support each social workers responsibility to be an organization practitioner.

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NASW Code of Ethics Ethical Standard 3.09: Commitments to Employers

should take reasonable steps to ensure that their employing organizations practices are consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics. (e) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate discrimination in the employing organizations work assignments and in its employment policies and practices. (f) Social workers should accept employment or arrange student field placements only in organizations that exercise fair personnel practices. (g) Social workers should be diligent stewards of the resources of their employing organizations, wisely conserving funds where appropriate and never misappropriating funds or using them for unintended purposes.

(a) Social workers generally should adhere to commitments made to employers and employing organizations. (b) Social workers should work to improve employing agencies policies and procedures and the efficiency and effectiveness of their services. (c) Social workers should take reasonable steps to ensure that employers are aware of social workers ethical obligations as set forth in the NASW Code of Ethics and of the implications of those obligations for social work practice. (d) Social workers should not allow an employing organizations policies, procedures, regulations, or administrative orders to interfere with their ethical practice of social work. Social workers

Source: Code of eTHiCS of the National Association of Social Workers (2008); copyrighted material reprinted with permission from the National Association of Social Workers, inc.


No matter what the sources of an organizations underperformance might be, the essential practice tasks involved in improving organizations will be based primarily on social workers use of the common factors in their day-to-day relating to and interacting with their colleagues. As in practice with clients, organization practice, to be effective, requires that social workers establish the essential conditions and use important processes to facilitate change work on the part of colleagues and critical actors who can make decisions regarding the modification and expansion of programs and services. Using common factor social worker factors and relationship factors with organization teammates is indispensable to this kind of practice. Although social workers may have great ideas about improving or expanding services to clients, and may present these thoughtfully to others, without foundation common factors conditions in place, even determined and well-considered efforts may go nowhere. These factors apply to all three organization roles: colleague, critical actor, and change agent. Here we discuss the ways in which social worker factors and relationship factors form this critical foundation for organization practice.

Social Worker Factors

Although social work is a remarkably challenging calling, it is incumbent on social workers to find ways to manage the stresses and frustrations that may result. Social workers may damage relationships with others if they vent

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or act out their emotions in ways that might be off-putting to others. Acting out of frustrations increases the level of tension in organizations, and too much tension can minimize colleagues openness to change ideas, as these may be experienced as increasing an already uncomfortable level of stress. Social workers who conduct themselves with others in ways that engender good feelings among and respect from others are more likely to have their ideas and recommendations considered seriously by others (French & Raven, 1959). We are interested in people that we like, feel good about, and like to be with, and as part of that we are more interested in how they think about things. Social workers who keep from displacing their frustrations in their interactions with colleagues protect their relationships and enable open communications with them. For example, social workers who raise concerns with their colleagues about organization issues as a way of venting their spleens and in ways that appear to be excessive or irrational may risk putting off colleagues who are uncomfortable with overly intense or displaced emotions. Additionally, the concerns raised may be discounted due to the emotional context in which they are presented. Social workers supervising other social workers can help their supervisees to examine and effectively manage the strains and emotions that inevitably result from their work and avoid acting them out with colleagues.

Related to this, social workers must accept the views and actions of colleagues when they disagree and even when they might find their actions problematic or objectionable. Being judgmental with others erodes trust and limits the extent to which others will be interested in your views. It also may engender a kind of reciprocal close-mindedness or hostility to your positions. Approaching colleagues with concerns in nonjudgmental ways is the best hope of helping them understand others views or to work through professional stress. Accepting others involves considering the kinds of real concerns and initiatives that may be behind a colleagues comments in ways that help you understand and appreciate their concerns and point of view. A great example of a failure of acceptance with colleagues is eye-rolling in response to comments that cause a reaction of irritation or vexation. When social workers maintain a respectful demeanor, trust is preserved and the foundation for exploring issues is strengthened.

Social workers strive to act professionally, meaning respectfully, democratically, and with concern for others. This should not, however, force practitioners to adopt disingenuous positions or relating with others. Within the context of respect for others, social workers should feel free to express themselves, their personalities, and their points of view. In organizations, this may be difficult when individuals views may differ from majority views. Social workers need to maintain a differentiated professional self, meaning that they feel free to hold and express their unique views on matters of importance, even if they may not match the surrounding consensus. Of course, expressions of difference should be balanced with respect for others views and care for the importance of ongoing relationships with colleagues. But it is often to the great benefit of organizations that different points of view emerge

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in conversations, as these can lead to better solutions than when everyone seems to be on the same page (Johnson& Johnson, 2008). Social workers should find ways to diplomatically express different and even controversial points of view, knowing that this is in service of processes that lead to full consideration of important issues and can create ways of thinking about issues and acting on them that would not be possible otherwise. It may be tempting, for example, to not disclose your candid reactions spontaneously but then share them with others out of the fear of hurting feelings or engendering disagreement. However, this can create counterproductive triangles that can often conclude with information getting back toacolleague indirectly and in ways that may be detrimental to trust anyway.

In organizations, empathy may be used to help you to imagine the ways in which bureaucratic structures and dynamics may be influencing others actions and positions on issues. It is clear that role, status, and cultural factors shape how we act within the walls of the agency (Johnson & Johnson, 2008). This kind of consideration is also beneficial to social workers reflecting on their participation as part of their collegial group, and can help to both allow for supportive, appropriately contextual interpretations of social workers own behaviors and suggest ways of improving their functioning as teammates with others. An especially important use of empathy involves demonstrating your understanding of and appreciation for others points of view during discussions, especially when there are different points of view being discussed (Johnson & Johnson, 2008). For example, if you are discussing your concern that clients are made to wait longer than is optimal to be seen by a social worker, a colleague may respond that there is just too much demand and nothing can be done about it. A facilitating response would reflect this reality and the speakers sense that it may necessarily impose unfortunate restrictions on what he or she can do, but also reaches for the speakers underlying concerns. The social worker might reply with something such as, Thats true, we are really up against it. It sounds like not being able to help everyone right away is something that you have given some thought to and perhaps have felt frustrated by this? Do you think that we just have to live with it? Any sense at all that we might try to see if there may be some creative solution here we did not consider? This indicates hearing what the other person is saying, and signifies respect, and also attempts to reflect a thoughtful consideration of the speakers concerns and experiences. It also cautiously requests that the subject not be dropped. If the speaker senses respect rather than antagonism in the response he or she receives to the expression of his or her concerns, it is much more likely that the speaker will keep an open mind to what you have to say (see Box 15.2).

Relationship Factors
Engagement in Relationship
Social work and multidisciplinary professional teams benefit from their members knowing and relating well with one another. Social workers should make a point to get to know their colleagues and find ways in which

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Box 15.2 Social Worker Factors in Organization Practice: Responding to Stressful Organizational Communications

he importance of well-being, acceptance, genuineness, and empathy in organization practice may be especially crucial when social workers receive messages from colleagues that are experienced as stressful, challenging, or less respectful or sensitive than they might be. This perhaps most typically might occur in a meeting, during supervision, or in an email or memo. A colleague might say something that worries or concerns you or makes you angry. He or she may propose an idea that may make your job more complicated. Someone might speak disparagingly of a client. Someone may respond to a remark you have made with a dismissive tone. Of course you might be tempted to respond reactively and in a way that expresses your emotion that will be experienced negatively. The common factor of well-being suggests that you pause, take a breath, and find a way to respond that does not primarily involve venting your spleen (and upsetting others). Acceptance involves thinking about how someone might be genuinely trying to express something important or contribute to the consideration of an issue, even if your reaction is a strongly negative one. Genuineness involves finding diplomatic ways of sharing honest thoughts about what someone has said, not pretending or concealing what your real reactions are in a disingenuous way. empathy can be used to understand the communication as a product of organizational structures and pressures, and helps you to avoid blaming someone when these

factors have a lot to do with the nature of what someone is saying to you. All of these common factors are put into action when you respond to stressful and upsetting communications with poise, a productive tone, and avoiding criticizing or blaming. Challenging comments in meetings should not be dismissed or ridiculed, and you should give consideration to what someone is trying to say or achieve in what he or she is saying, even when it might be very different from how you think about things. When a supervisor says something critical or makes a suggestion about your practice that causes you concern or upset, you should do your best to share your concerns, inviting further dialogue about the issue. An email or memo that may strike you a certain way may call for a response that expresses your disagreement, but it will likely be most effective if you demonstrate respect in your wording and make a point not to try to put someone down. Avoiding harsh back-and-forth emails that include others via the reply all button is a good rule. A basic principle here is to avoid ad hominem arguments in which you are criticizing or attacking the other person; instead, state your positions clearly and provide supporting evidence that demonstrates that they have merit. even better, it is often best practice to go speak with someone privately after a meeting or in response to a troubling communication. This shows respect and an appropriate and useful personal approach.

they can relate both professionally and as human beings. Work teams often benefit from sharing lunch, celebrating special occasions, meeting for coffee, and so on. This might be especially helpful when getting to know colleagues from outside your organization, or when challenges in inter-organization cooperation might be helped by closer contact and more personal exchanges. It also pays to do simple things such as saying hello to others in the morning, leaving your office door open when you can, contributing to collections, and buying Girl Scout cookies from moms and dads selling for their daughters. Overall, social workers should strive to protect their relationships while pursuing agendas that are important to them and their clients. When relationships are minimized or harmed by the stresses of differences and conflicting positions on important issues, the possibilities for success in organization change work are likewise diminished.

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Engagement in Change Work

At the organization level, we think that engagement in change work is a call to duty for social workers to actively invest in making their organization the best it can be. Shulman (2009) has suggested that social workers adopt what he calls the two-clients concept, meaning that social work can be thought to have a mediating function that always involves clients and at least one other person or system. In this sense, social workers should consider their organizations as a second client with each person with whom they work. Using this perspective, the practice is mindful of and if need be focused on the ways in which organizational issues may be limiting clients capacities for goal achievement or may in fact be impacting clients in detrimental ways. Changing the way organizations work is sometimes the way to more productively or humanely helping a client or many clients achieve meaningful change in their lives. Schwartz (1961) believed that it was the efforts of social workers to promote organizational compassion and effectiveness with clients that constitute the most realistic way for practitioners working directly with clients to incorporate a macro focus into their micro practice. Social workers function includes changing policies and larger systems for the betterment of clients, but this kind of work is challenging and very time consuming in ways that may not be realistic for social workers, who may not be inclined toward macro practice, and are generally kept more than busy by caseloads, meetings, and paperwork (Reeser & Epstein, 1990). Social workers can achieve both macro and micro goals in their practice if they act to improve their own organizations and the ways in which they relate to and respond to clients and other organizations as well. For social workers who are critical actors, this suggests the value of welcoming ideas and suggestions about improvement, not simply defending the status quo. The critical actor who actively encourages colleagues to share concerns, make recommendations, and work toward change is likely going to create an organizational culture in which excellence is valued and clients are made a top priority. This requires, however, a willingness to allow criticism of policies and procedures which may in fact represent administrators ideas of best practices. While pride of ownership is of course understandable, the engagement of the committed agency administrator to change in order to ensure quality of services represents the best hope for achieving this.

Productive Direct and Indirect Communication

Just as with clients, communicating with colleagues indirectly conveys messages about how we think and feel about them (Stohl, 1995). Mindful of this, social workers should strive to be respectful, clear, and inclusive in communications with others. When speaking with others, we should always be interested in what they have to say and do our best to understand what they are saying to us, including indirectly. Unclear messages should be clarified by asking politely for greater detail or explanation. We should not assume when speaking with others that they know or understand things and should be willing to explain without reservation. Information should be openly shared with all colleagues as much as possible; openness and inclusiveness create trust and empower group decision making (Argyris & Schn, 1974). As we discussed earlier, Johnson and Johnson (2008) suggest that productive communication can be facilitated by actively demonstrating interest in and understanding of others positions and concerns. They recommend using

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paraphrasing in discussions to reflect appreciation of what others are saying. By first using paraphrasing before stating your position, you will demonstrate your interest in what others are saying and also help to better understand clearly what they are saying or the details of their argument. For example, you might say, It seems to me that your concern about how changes might impact the workload here are of course important. I think you are right to point out that we are already working very hard. Given your concerns can we think about how change might be possible while addressing this important issue? The reflection involved in listening closely and then formulating an empathic response also helps you to understand better what the underlying concerns, needs, and interests of others are, and can help you to formulate your suggestions in ways that might best respond to these. When your suggestions for change address concerns others have, the chances for success in implementing change are greatly enhanced. Demonstrating respect in communication is complicated by the nature of emailing, a ubiquitous method of communication. It is much harder to know someones intentionality and emotion when deciphering email messages, and misinterpretation is much easier. We should remember not to jump to conclusions when reading emails that may not be clear or may suggest uncertain intentions. Politely requesting clarification is best practice in these cases.

Mutual Agreement on Problems, Roles, Tasks, and Goals

Social workers in all three organization rolescolleague, critical actor, and change agentmust be willing to identify ways in which organizations might be improved for clients benefit. Social workers, especially in administrative and supervisory positions, may adopt a pro-agency posture that is seen as wholesome and positive but if taken on rigidly may prevent consideration of the challenges the organization faces in regard to executing its mission most effectively. All organization members must, in loyalty to their agencies, be vigilant about program quality and identify gaps in services, accessibility problems, and service effectiveness. Achieving a shared concern and shared vision about how to work to improve services can be a great challenge. Most important is that critical actors, those who can make decisions and influence decisions in organizations, be helped to see how the organization might perform even better, and how this will benefit clients as well as members of the organization. It might be said that all organization change work is the work of helping decision makers come to an understanding of the problems that you are trying to get them to become concerned about and therefore, also, a sense that change is necessary. However, it is critically important to remember that achieving shared understanding and concern is rarely the product of adversarial processes. We do not think that argument, or even persuasion, is likely going to be the organization practitioners most effective method in getting people to see that there may be a problem in need of attention. We think that engaging in conversation based on mutual trust and respect for multiple points of view is largely the vehicle that presents the best chance for raising consciousness. This involves firstly and foremostly a commitment to facilitating processes, and remaining engaged in positive relationships, and then working collaboratively toward goals. This entails slow, careful processes that take place over time and are not tense, conflictual, or especially dramatic.

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If and when agreement is reached on problems and goals, roles and specific tasks regarding implementing changes should also be discussed and decided on democratically. Change agents may not also be as actively involved in implementing new policies, procedures, or practice guidelines. This is fine; handing off to colleagues involves them in change in potentially productive ways and helps to create a sense of ownership in them for the new ways of operating.

Teamwork is critical to organization change. Social workers should be committed to their colleagues and be determined to approach problems as part of a collective effort. Democratic processes should prevail, and all points of view should be encouraged. Social workers in any of the three organizational roles should commit themselves to good working relationships with others and seek to establish and maintain processes that enable collaboration in their agencies. Again, this requires that critical actors who may have authority over others not use that authority in ways that might prohibit or diminish a collaborative spirit. It also calls for nonadministrative social workers to act as partners in tasks and not allow concerns about doing what they are told to inappropriately suppress genuine concerns or good ideas about bettering services. A key arena for this kind of teamwork is the committee meeting. When committee leaders commit themselves to facilitative roles rather than authoritarian ones, collaboration is more likely (Johnson & Johnson, 2008). These kinds of power-sharing or decentralized ways of relating are associated with successful organization change work (Brager & Holloway, 1978). Collaboration is fostered by the use of open communication, sharing of information, and seeking feedback. Administrators, supervisors, committee leaders, and all organization members who have information about organization functioning can help create a spirit of inclusion and respect by sharing what they know with other organization members in clear and timely ways and inviting others responses to this information. Likewise, responding to communications, acknowledging and thanking message senders for sharing important information, builds trust and team feeling (see Box 15.3).

Teamwork is critical to organization functioning and organization change. Social workers should be committed to their colleagues and be determined to approach problems as part of a collective effort. Democratic processes should prevail, and all points of view should be encouraged. Social workers should commit themselves to good working relationships with others and seek to establish and maintain processes that enable collaboration in their agencies.

Critical Actor Factors

In this section, we have translated client common factors into critical actor factors. This is because the goal of all organization practice is to produce changes in policies, procedures, and practice guidelines, which generally are the purview of agency administrators and supervisors. Of course, this sometimes means that these critical actors have to be helped to understand how changes may make things better and to consider recommendations about how to execute a planned change. Although, of course, social workers do not practice social work with critical actors or colleagues, the common factors may serve as a guide to working well with others, presenting ideas effectively, and achieving success in change work efforts.

Critical actors must be adequately concerned and, at times, appropriately distressed about problems with service quality in their organizations. As we have been discussing, critical actors in organizations must balance their view of

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Box 15.3 Relationship Factors in Organization Practice: Working Together Toward Shared Goals

elationships are fundamental to every kind of social work practice. in a sense this is particularly true in organization practice, because organizations, and colleagues in organizations, are not clients per se. Co-workers relate to you as a colleague, not as their social worker, and so although they may be quite open to your ideas and suggestions, it is not their purpose to be necessarily interested in these the way a client would be. So it is the strength of the engagement in relationship with you, the rapport, trust, and friendship that they might feel with you, that takes on greater weight in determining how much influence you might have with them. in a similar way, while clients are invested in engagement in change work, colleagues may not be. Social workers generally have little spare time and may understandably tend to limit their practice focus to their micro-practice activities with clients. Social workers who are not critical actors can help engender interest in organization practice by sharing their concerns and suggestions about organizational performance in ways that suggest that this is a healthy, normative, and potentially productive approach. When this is done in ways that are nonthreatening and at least on occasion spawn innovation or enhance services, the culture in the organization may come to value this kind of inclusive, positive, yet respectfully critical participation in an ongoing discussion about how to communally help make services the best they can be.

This can be helped by engaging in productive communications with others that both enable careful thinking about important organizational issues and convey respect for one another and everyones ideas. As we discussed earlier, key considerations are clarity, inclusiveness, reflecting, and responsiveness. This means that you take care to present your ideas in ways that all can understand; you share information liberally and in timely ways; you make a point to demonstrate your appreciation for others points of view; and you respond to emails, memos, and all forms of communication in ways that convey interest in and valuation of the person sending you messages. Mutual agreement means that people do not try to force or persuade others about innovations but rather that democratic processes and shared decision making are made a top priority. even though this may slow or even prevent some changes from taking place, organizational change that is imposed from the top down or is brought about in some manipulative way is likely going to either fail or produce hostile side effects. Collaboration may be thought of as the connected partnership among people in action designing and enacting new policies, procedures, and practices. The hallmark of collaboration is open communication, shared decision making, focused effort, and determination to achieve goals. Social workers who commit themselves to these forms of relating, communicating, contracting, and working together will likely help produce highly functioning, client-centered organizations.

their programs: they are expected to be proponents, but they must also remain open to ways in which things can be improved. In part, this balance can be achieved by remembering the bottom line: Clients need and deserve the best help they can get. It also could help to remember that although being prideful of ones workplace is positive it is not a personal affront when someone shares a concern or makes a suggestion about improvements. Critical actors who are both believers in what they and their teams are doing and are also always concerned about doing even better may be ultimately responsive to changing client needs. This may be accomplished by talking with practitioners about their work and what they see as service limitations. Critical actors may also promote client feedback, via surveys, representation on the organizations boards, and using other methods to stay informed about clients experiences and recommendations for improvements.

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It is essential to note that when critical actors respond to discussions about the organizations challenges or change ideas with too much distress, however, they may be motivated to deny or minimize problems and curtail discussions that might expand exploration of what may be wrong. Critical actors may understandably interpret critical discussions about the organization as critical of them. It is incumbent on social workers to be very mindful of this and to approach critical discussions gingerly. Social workers also must evaluate the moment-by-moment responses to the concerns that they raise, and understand that if the distress level goes too high, then the foundation for change work will necessarily be diminished. The primary job for social workers in organization practice is minimizing the adverse reactions of colleagues to concerns that they raise. It is a common mistake to misunderstand or underestimate the capacities of colleagues and critical actors to react with upset to discussions and suggestions that imply some perceived inadequacy in the organization. This must be avoided at all costs. Of course, this balance of pride and concern is helped when critical actors see that action to modify policies, procedures, practice guidelines, and organization cultures will be beneficial. In part, organization members resist change because it may appear to be disruptive of routines that they have developed that help them meet their work challenges efficiently and comfortably (Lipsky, 1980). So the perception that proposed changes will be beneficial depends both on the perceived likelihood that clients will benefit and also that peoples routines and chosen ways of doing things will not be appreciably affected, if this is possible. Proposed changes have to be perceived as not just improving services, but also as achievable, affordable, and not disruptive to valued ways of doing things. When all these factors are in place, there is a much greater likelihood that change recommendations will be embraced. Social workers promoting change therefore should think small and not overshoot what is possible with overly grandiose suggestions or with plans that would appear to shake up comfortable workplace routines too severely.

Hope or Expectation of Change

Following this, changes must be perceived as benefitting not just clients but colleagues as well. Although critical actors may be intensely dedicated to providing quality services to clients, they may also be self-interested in ways that may not be consistent with promoting excellent client service. As we have been discussing, for example, the need to project a positive image of the organization may limit the critical actors capacity for openness to criticisms and his or her comfort in inviting frank feedback from social workers. And as we have also just pointed out, improving services may be expensive. Improvements may also disrupt routines, schedules, roles, or other aspects of the status quo that are comfortable and preferred by the critical actor (Brager & Holloway, 1978). Distress is a crucial common factor in organization practice, but if it is too high, it prevents change work from taking place. Social workers seeking change must approach these kinds of challenges as they would with a defensive, hard to engage client. Unless and until the critical actor is helped to see that he or she stands to gain by a change, he or she is likely to oppose it. Change agents must find ways of discussing concerns and suggestions that do not threaten others. Strategically, it is beneficial when there is some overlap between the change agents concerns and the critical actors.

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For example, if a proposed modification in policies or procedures can be used by the critical actor to demonstrate to the board of trustees, a regulatory organization, or important others the ways in which the organization is moving forward in an appropriately ambitious or pioneering way, this may make change work for them. Ideally, social workers will know and understand the specific concerns critical actors may have about program quality, and find ways to match their concerns with theirs.

Practice Contexts
Practice Behavior Example: Provide leadership in promoting sustainable changes in service delivery and practice to improve the quality of social services Critical Thinking Question: Social workers may make the understandable but unfortunate mistake of believing that arguing for organization change of some sort based on the merits of their concerns and the possible benefits to clients will carry the day and convince others to support their proposed actions. Organizational processes are rarely this simple and rational. There are many factors to be considered in proposing changes, and benefits to clients is only one. The concerns, interests, and anxieties of colleagues and critical actors must be considered and appealed to if change proposals are to be successful. Think about what makes an argument persuasive for you. Can you use your experiences and reactions to others attempts to influence you to help you to know how to be persuasive with others?

Active Help-Seeking

Critical actors who make it a point to seek the views and input from their colleagues will generally find this process extremely helpful. Group problem-solving processes are usually more productive than individual work, and the generation of various points of view and alternative potential solutions leads to better outcomes (Johnson & Johnson, 2009). We think that running an agency or program is ideally done as a shared process in which all team members are helped to contribute and decision makers do not do all the work. A particularly important aspect of this is creating a culture within the agency that supports the expression of different points of view. Critical actors interests in having full consideration of issues are not supported by yes men, those who tend to agree with an administrator simply due to their position in the agency. Organizational obsequiousness benefits no one and only artificially provides comfort to those who would benefit more substantially from honest expressions of ideas and feelings. When colleagues feel constrained in their capacities to share concerns with higher-ups, this may breed talking behind the backs of others, which can corrode team trust and cohesiveness and diminish capacities for working together effectively.

View Colleagues as Credible

Recognizing the expertise of colleagues and utilizing it builds team spirit and enriches the decision making of critical actors. Social workers in administrative and supervisory positions might make it a point to ask their colleagues about their areas of knowledge, and newer colleagues may be helped to acquire specific areas of knowledge and skill depending on the needs of the organization. Critical actors might assist practitioners in obtaining expertise by providing encouragement and material assistance in engaging in continuing education. Social workers should pursue the development of their practice competencies in an ongoing way and share new knowledge with others. When individuals are seen as having expertise that is relevant and useful to organizational mission and tasks, it is more likely that these people will influence others (French & Raven, 1959). Having in-house experts on a variety of subjects helps ensure that the rest of the team has access to the latest research and theoretical developments in areas relevant to the mission of the organization and makes it more likely that this knowledge is brought to bear in the assessment of service quality.

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Social Support
With regard to organization membership and change, we see social support as pertaining to the actions of critical actors to remain connected to their colleagues as people, not just as people who work for them. Critical actors should not separate themselves from colleagues due to perceptions regarding the appropriateness of hierarchical relating of individuals with rank or status within the organization. Friendships and caring should not be avoided due to position or responsibilities. Critical actors who are connected with their colleagues as people can receive substantial support and help from them and will engender good feeling among the team and inspire dedication to the organizations work.

Practice Strategies
For social workers in the roles of colleague and critical actor, striving to achieve and maintain these attributes and ways of relating with all members of the team helps others to be open to and respond to concerns that you may raise about the quality, accessibility, and appropriateness of your organizations services and programs. Change is possible only to the extent that these essential conditions and processes are present and operating in professional work teams. Who we are and how we are with our colleagues form the foundation of trust and openness that allows for difficult challenges to be articulated and embraced. True to the common factors perspective, it is these ways of being and relating that form the basis for change in organizations, as much as they are in work with clients. In this view, the particular efforts to produce change are secondary to these conditions and processes, and their success is greatly determined by these preexisting personal and interpersonal factors. In this sense, then, social workers continuously engage in processes that are intended as ongoing efforts to improve organizations. Their participation with one another in both formal and informal ways within the organization, ideally, will evince a dedicated interest in continuous improvement as a clearly held value. Each conversation among organization colleagues may be seen as an opportunity to facilitate positive change that will benefit clients. A social worker in this perspective is always an organization practitioner and always, therefore, in a way, practicing. We recognize that this represents an ideal as much as an easily achievable cultural norm, but nonetheless one worth aspiring to. This ideal has been articulated in the social work practice literature, including seminal works such as Brager and Holloways Changing Human Service Organizations (1978) and Gitterman and Germains The Life Model of Social Work Practice (2008). Even given the existence of these factors, organization change agents will sometimes need to make concerted efforts to help colleagues identify pressing organization issues and engage in change processes designed to solve them. In our view, social workers have the greatest chance for success in organization change work when they are able to use existing structures and normative ways of interacting with colleagues to promote positive changes. Staff meetings, supervision sessions, ad hoc committees, task forces, meetings with consultants, and staff retreats all present formal opportunities for the consideration of program quality and the possibilities for improvement. Informally, lunch and coffee discussions, talk among friends at work, and water cooler moments also present opportunities for concerned social workers to mention their observations and thoughts about organizational matters in low-stress and natural

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ways. When social workers who are well-thought-of demonstrate earnest care for the work done by themselves and colleagues in these ways, it is possible to spread interest in working for change in trustworthy and productive ways. Common factors practice strategies help guide social workers who decide to promote organization change in these ways.

Rationale for Change/Knowledge and Information

There has to be a good reason for change and a narrative that supports this. Discussing issues effectively means providing a persuasive perspective on what might be wrong as well as the hoped-for outcome of change efforts. If evidence exists beyond anecdotal concern, this helps. Organizations keep records of things such as client visits, missed visits, financial data, and other information that might be helpful. Satisfaction surveys can support the development of a rationale for a needed change quite persuasively. Additional surveys, such as needs assessments, might be done if there is a need for additional hard data and if there is support for this kind of extra effort to obtain it. Discussions of proposed outcomes of change work should also include what is seen as the benefit to the clients as well as to colleagues, and efforts to protect valued routines and ways of doing things should be clearly identified. The rationale for change can also be supported by providing knowledge from research and information regarding the practices of similar programs that have successfully developed responses to organizational challenges. Research on particular practice approaches and program design is of course relevant here. Also, colleagues may find study findings about the problems typical to agency clients to be useful in thinking about appropriate services in new ways. Information about the specific aspects of efforts of other organizations to implement new knowledge can be persuasive, as organization standards and what are understood to be best practices tend to be important measures of success to organization leaders. For example, a social worker trying to modify group practice within his or her agency might discuss recidivism rates among clients and also describe new group approaches that they have been reading about, citing their applicability to the program and findings regarding their success.

A great way to help others be open to change is to demonstrate openness. Modeling interest and concern for others points of view and positions, even those that are substantially dissimilar to ours, helps show others how this can be done and its benefits. With regard to specific change proposals, social workers may have the freedom to make modest modifications in their own practice that they may be able to share with others as a way of establishing the practicability and worth of the efforts. For example, a social worker hoping to promote practice evaluation in his or her agency might share the ways in which he or she does this, perhaps discussing the use of soliciting feedback early in the work or the use of client surveys.

All social workers benefit from honest appraisals of their actions and practice. We know that ongoing development of competence depends on this (Duncan & Miller, 2008). Of course, criticisms should be provided sensitively and in the context of being sought out for this kind of feedback. But failing to

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help our fellow organization members consider some difficult but important matters is failing to support their ongoing development as well as the quality of the organization's performance. We should feel free to talk with any of our colleagues about how they think and feel about the performance of the organization and their role in this, including their openness to consider new ways of doing things. Again, sensitivity is the key. But courage might be just as important, as talking with others, especially those higher up in the authority chain than you, can feel very intimidating. One way to achieve this is to structure opportunities for social workers to discuss their work with one another and get feedback on the difficult challenges that they are encountering in their work. Another important feedback mechanism is the client survey. Social workers should help their organizations seek input from clients about how well they are doing in their helping efforts. Inviting clients to participate on boards and agency committees can also be very helpful.

Ventilation, Exploration, Awareness, and Insight

When colleagues are concerned about an issue related to organizational functioning, letting them discuss this and exploring their concern is helpful. But when colleagues are not of the same mind, allowing them to tell you about this is as important. We all must be heard, and ventilation is often the start of change work. It can help assist colleagues to understand better why they may not share your concern; often, their worry that change might be detrimental to them is at the root of this. Exploration can help clarify this, diminish worry, and promote openness. Importantly, it helps to discuss ways in which organization structures and other organization factors may in some way be contributing to colleagues frustrations. Reframing issues as relatPractice Contexts ing to real constraining conditions, without blaming other colleagues or denying each persons real responsibilities in Practice Behavior Example: Provide leadermatters, can help alleviate some of the frustration, provide ship in promoting sustainable changes in better understanding for what a colleague is going through, service delivery and practice to improve and also develop a shared sense that some kind of change thequality of social services effort might be called for. Again, it is important that these conversations avoid a blaming tone and instead focus on Critical Thinking Question: There is a fine line between gossiping and talking with colleagues objective appraisals without negativity toward colleagues. Otherwise, potentially productive energy that might lead about problems in ones organization. it can to positive modifications may be siphoned off into combe counterproductive if discussions were plaint sessions, which can actually help perpetuate the overly personal or unkind in nature, but it can status quo in organizations and make change more difficult prevent important change if hard-to-discuss (Argyris, 1990; Wasserman, 1971). matters are avoided altogether out of a concern for politeness. Social workers have to find ways to have frank conversations about themselves and their colleagues without being disrespectful. Without these kinds of carefully courageous interactions, problems in organizations may never be addressed, let alone solved. How might you approach discussions about your organization and your colleagues in ways that demonstrate respect but also allow for difficult matters to be brought out into the open for consideration?

Suggestion and Advocacy

If there is openness to and support for innovation in an organization, social workers should feel free to make suggestions and strategically advocate for change. In organization matters, this involves discussion of a plan for modification in policies, procedures, practice guidelines, or in some matter related to agency culture. However, these efforts should always be approached informally with others before being discussed formally in meetings. It is essential to assess critical actors dispositions regarding your concerns.

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Making a formal presentation at a meeting including recommendations for change when decision makers are not supportive may ensure failure of the project at a very early stage in your efforts. Discussing issues informally, seeing where others stand, and floating your ideas as part of more casual conversations can help ensure collaborative participation in the development of change plans (Brager & Holloway, 1978). It also prevents making someone feel put on the spot in front of a larger group when he or she is hearing something for the first time, which may be uncomfortable, and may lead to a premature tabling or dismissal of the issue. Advocacy may also include reaching outside of the organization to local, state, and federal policy makers to promote changes at those levels to help fund and support social work services to clients. Social workers might consider organizing social workers and other professionals and stakeholders from other agencies to advocate for specific action and new legislation to better meet clients needs. In these types of efforts, it is expected that advocates will directly present their concerns, evidence supporting their upset about issues, and recommended solutions. Numbers are impressive here; the bigger the team and/or group behind an initiative, the greater likelihood that it will be taken seriously by policy makers.

Piloting (Desensitization)
It often makes sense to pilot a new policy or procedure on a small scale to see how it goes. Offering this as an option will help people who may be on the fence about it get on board knowing that there will be further discussion and the opportunity to modify the new approach or discontinue it if it is not successful.

Development and Practice of New Behaviors/Reinforcement/Success and Mastery

If change does go well, the outcomes of the change effort should be made well known and congratulations and credit should be generously shared. Change agents should be modest about their own efforts but effusive about others. Especially when colleagues and critical actors overcome concerns and uncertainty to take risks that pay off for clients and the organization, the courage in this should be noted. When we can celebrate our successes, we can meet our challenges more confidently, and together.

Co-facilitation on the part of group members involves being helped and helping others. Using the facilitation method and practice strategies, group members all contribute to the work of the group and the enhancement of the conditions and processes fundamental to it. When stressful group processes inhibit common factors, all members should be helped to act strategically to use difficult moments to promote members change work and elevate group processes to more respectful, collaborative, and change-supportive ones. Facilitating groups requires that social workers enable and empower group members to engage in meaningful mutual helping processes. It also requires that they be able to think and act on their feet to respond to group processes as they happen.

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Social workers and all group members must be ready to hear and use feedback about their contributions to modify their facilitation and model openness and willingness to try new behaviors, which are hallmarks of change work. Organization practice is a critical but overlooked aspect of every social workers practice. Working collaboratively with colleagues to identify ways in which clients may not be receiving the most appropriate, accessible, effective, and compassionate services is an ongoing task for practitioners. It is this kind of attention to social workers second clienttheir organizationsthat may most powerfully ensure that their own practice is supported in ways that best assure success. At its heart, organization practice in the common factors perspective requires each social worker to be a dedicated, respectful, engaged, and sensitively challenging colleague to other social workers. It is these ways of being and relating to one another that create organization cultures that can truly care about clients and about excellence in social work practice.

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The following questions will test your knowledge and understanding of the content found within this chapter. For additional assessment, including licensing-exam type questions on applying chapter content to practice behaviors, visit MySearchLab.

1. When group members become upset, it is best to: a. Have them take a break b. Tell them that they are being disruptive and ask them to calm down c. Explicitly consider group members experience of the challengesupport balance by exploring their feelings about co-facilitation and their experiences of both giving help to and receiving help from other members d. Ask them how they might better handle their feelings 2. Ad hominem arguments are counterproductive in group discussions and potentially hurtful to members because: a. They are manipulative b. They do not consider others points of view c. They change the subject d. They negatively criticize the speaker instead of addressing the speakers points 3. When a group member is quiet, it is best to: a. Challenge him or her on his or her nonparticipation b. Invite all group members to consider the ways in which they may support and encourage participation by all members c. Talk to him or her in private about his or her suitability for the group d. Institute a rule in the group that everyone must talk

4. When leading groups, social workers can create trust and confidence with group members by:
a. Supportively helping group members become actively

and productively engaged in group work, not so much by taking charge or enforcing rules b. Being strong and unemotional c. Strictly enforcing group rules d. Actively structuring group activities and processes at all times 5. Organizations may not always provide the most needed or highest quality services because: a. Funding shortages often prevent this b. Clients have a variety of needs c. Organizations are bureaucracies with structures and processes that may primarily serve to foster the stability of the organization d. Organizations have missions and purposes that are limiting 6. What is organization practice? a. Developing new programs b. Managing an organization c. Forming a union d. An ongoing, relationship-oriented way of being and interacting with colleagues, in which all are working toward organizational excellence through consideration of the organizations processes and products as a routine aspect of social work practice

7. While social workers focus on the work they are doing with clients, the organizational conditions under which they work may not always support their best practice. Helping organizations to become more responsive to clients needs is probably something that all social workers would like to do, but the nature of this kind of work, primarily, addressing concerns with supervisors and organization administrators, can be daunting. How might you do this kind of thing in your field agency? What obstacles would need to be addressed. How might the strategies in this chapter be helpful to you?


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Reinforce what you learned in this chapter by studying videos, cases, documents, and more available at www.MySearchLab.com.

Watch and Reflect

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Why do students tend to over-structure and over-direct their groups?

Read and Reflect

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Im Surrounded! Can We Do Even Better?

Assess Your Knowledge

Assess your knowledge with a variety of topical and chapter assessment. Conclude your assessment by completing the chapter exam.

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