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Supervision discussion following feedback/complaint

Your CPD should be personal to you and your practice. These examples should not be viewed as best practice.

Supervision discussion following feedback/complaint

Example of CPD recorded by a registered social worker

Title of CPD

Supervision discussion following feedback/complaint

Date CPD completed


What was your role in this example?

Social Worker

What did you do?

Had telephone supervision, discussion with my supervisor following negative feedback from a colleague.

Did you use research/theories/frameworks to inform your actions?

Learning Styles. Humanist and Behaviorist learning approaches.

Has this helped you reflect on your own values and how they impact on your practice?

Initially I was really upset, angry. I felt that what she was saying was really unfair and unjustified and unprofessional and I was being accused of being unprofessional and this was really distressing. I considered with the support of my manager that the word that was chosen to describe my behavior has connotation for me as I have experienced aggression both in my professional and working life and as a Social Worker is it against my values and my professional discipline to be "aggressive" with anyone. I do not consider myself to be aggressive, rather determined, strong willed, willing to passionately advocate for what I believe is right. My manager asked me to consider that the person who said this will have their own experience of "aggression" and their own window on the world. As this person is not a Social Worker they would not understand my horror at being described in such a way. I did become really upset in the discussion with my supervisor as I do not ever wish to be viewed in this way. I still struggle to reconcile with this, I have reflected upon the comments I made and feel that they were neither aggressive nor inappropriate, I have tried to empathize with the person to try to understand how they may have perceived in this way, but found this very difficult.

I read several articles which discuss women in the workplace being viewed as aggressive, this was interesting to me as I have previously been considered too forceful or pushy in the past. I initially took this feedback as a positive- I have a very direct, blunt approach and although this may not be the most (green-learning styles) or tactful of approaches it is productive and provides clarity. The articles talk about how direct speak, firm objectives and clear ideas can often be viewed as undesirable qualities in a woman and particularly in a discipline such as Social Work, there may be a view that we should all be ("hippies, chilled out and airy-fairy")- from on line search. I feel very much that because I live in a western society where women have always been considered subservient my approach without the fluff and bluster, my directness can be seen as intimidating and threatening. I have somewhat had to adapt my approach over the past 12 months as a result of working with a student, she became very upset that my feedback was very negative and believed that she was failing her placement, upon further discussion it transpired that because I only gave feedback on the areas for development as opposed to provided praise for the things she was doing well, she felt that I only had bad things to say. I fully acknowledge that my preference is just to be told what I am doing wrong/ need to improve and am less interested in what I am succeeding in, so this was what I was doing, which was actually extremely unhelpful for the student and distressing. I did adapt my approach to make sure she was given positive as well as critical feedback.

I do struggle at times when working with people who are not direct, who do not say what they mean, it becomes really frustrating for me. I find myself becoming more (red- learning styles) and all of my skills which I have built up around being nurturing and reflective fall away. I fall back on being blunt and direct.

Aggressive is an uncomfortable word, to me it conjures up being nasty, spiteful, throwing my weight around because I can, using my power unfairly, intimidating others, making them fearful. Aggressive in the dictionary is described as "a forceful action or procedure, such as an unprovoked attack, especially when intended to dominate or master".

I felt that actually this was more a case of me having the professional knowledge and speaking with authority on this topic was not what was wanted, I now believe my participation in the conversation was tokenistic and that because I had opinions and I disagreed with the way things had been planned I was "messing it up". I think rather than the person being afraid of me they were somewhat embarrassed that I was bringing up things they had not planned for. I think that calling me aggressive was actually a defense mechanism. I do believe that there is a world of difference between being "aggressive and being professionally assertive".

How do you know that the changes that you've made to your practice as a result of feedback have had a positive impact?

Having reflected with my supervisor and having asked for her opinion on my behavior I am confident that I was not in fact aggressive, I do acknowledge that, in fact, that is irrelevant, the point that someone perceived this to be the case is in itself not acceptable. What if this had been a service user? Or a family member?

Having spoken to colleagues I now believe that because I felt that both people (two others were part of the conversation) were not listening to me or acknowledging my concerns and opinions I may have become rigid in my thinking, which may have then been viewed as aggressive. In future I will firmly but politely request that they listen to what I am saying. If they still do not agree/ understand, I will inform them that I do not agree and I will then leave this point. I will email my supervisor with my comments and ask for their advice and support, I will then go back to the people involved at a later point and reiterate my views/ encompass the views of others.

Did you use supervision to identify learning needs?

My manager suggested that I do further reading about how to have challenging conversations in the workplace and how to get my point across without being considered aggressive. The strategy outlined below was something we came up with together. She advised me she didn't think I was aggressive but that is because she is a Social Worker too and understands that at times, we can become very passionate about things which can be perceived as aggressive.

Thinking about this example, what would you do differently and how did this learning activity impact on your practice?

I will try to make myself wait before I respond. I will count to 5 before I say anything. I will be less direct and less rigid in my thinking and will try to demonstrate how I have incorporated the views of other parties in my thinking. If resolution cannot be found I will not persist in the conversation and my argument but instead will reflect further and email at a later point, maybe having discussed and sought the opinion of others. I will not take this feedback personally however, as my manager advised feedback is a gift. I think taking it personally would be too much responsibility when actually I think the person who said this needs to share a portion of that blame. I acknowledge that because of the industry I work in and because I am a woman and because I have professional curiosity and am confident and professionally assertive organisation and personal bias can be a factor. I will talk to the colleague and see if I can support them to find more constructive ways of giving feedback and remind them of the impact feedback of this nature can have on a person, it could cause serious morale dilemmas and damage careers and confidence. 


The views and opinions expressed are those of the social worker. We have not edited the content in this CPD record. It should not be viewed as best practice. Instead, it illustrates one of the activities which you could record as CPD to help you learn, improve and reflect on your practice. 

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