The supervisor is the overseer of the responsibility of the agency administration
work of another person to ensure its quality to institute and sustain a pattern of acti-
and completion within the stipulated period. vity, accountable to the community at large.
In this sense, supervision is employed widely
From the 1920's, psychiatry began to
in many fields of human endeavour, espe-
have a dynamic influence on casework in
cially the scientific, industrial, commercial Western countries, particularly in the
and educational fields.
U.S.A., and its effect was felt both in
Even in social work in its early stages, teaching and supervisory methods. The
supervision was employed to see that the advent of psychiatry created a new under-
framework of the policies and regulations standing of the worker-client relationship
set down by the agency were observed. with attention focussed on the worker's
Knowledge, information and training, just attitudes as they affected this relationship.
enough to fulfil this goal, were given and By a direct therapeutic effort, the supervisor
workers were shown how to do a particular hoped to modify the attitudes of the worker
type of work without indicating how by and to resolve any of his personality
so doing greater efficiency was achieved. conflicts. This therapeutic function con-
Training was by apprenticeship, largely imi-
trasted sharply with the administrative and
tative and lacked conceptualisation. The teaching components of supervision that
educational aspect of supervision, as under-
required the worker to be accountable for
stood today, was not developed, while the his own activity and progress in professional
administrative aspect was emphasized.
With t h e growth of schools of social work
In India, psychiatry did not have as
and scientific information in social work, much influence on supervisory methods as
improved supervisory methods were intro-
it had in the West, except in a few cases,
duced. Detailed case recordings were em-
where persons trained in the U.S.A.
phasized and used for analysis of the introduced the idea of therapeutic super-
worker's casework methodology. Regular vision into agencies where they worked.
conferences between the supervisor and the This phase, however, did not last long even
worker became an essential feature of super-
in the West. During the depression and
vision technique. Among other learning World War II the need for large scale pro-
principles, systematic teaching and proceed-
grammes in agencies and expansion of the
ing from simple to complex situations were social work staff to man them shifted the
advocated. These principles have been emphasis in supervision from its therapeutic
retained to a considerable degree in supervi-
function to more pressing administrative
sion even today.
and educational matters.
Supervision is necessary because in social
Supervision has, today, emerged in
work it is the public support that counts and social work practice as an administrative
makes it a specific welfare service rather process, in the conduct of which the
than the private practice of a group of pro-
supervisor has two main functions, namely
fessional social workers. It becomes the administrative and teaching (Berkowitz,
* Mrs. Roshan H. Dastur is a member on the Faculty of the Institute of Social Services,
Nirmala Niketan, Bombay-20.

1952: 419-423). Though both these functions enabling an understanding of each other's
are given due recognition, there still need. Towle (1963: 403-415) has very aptly
remains the predominant attitude that described the supervisor's role as the
administration is something separate from "mid-position" role. Decision making
professional practice, and that the skills should be a two-way process. Certain
required for administration are quite decisions may be made by the supervisor;
different from those required for the but they must be conveyed even to the
practice of social work. For executive and junior-most member of the staff. However,
managerial professions, the knowledge of the supervisor should not be empowered to
administrative theory and practice has make all the decisions; certain decisions
traditionally been regarded as essential. It must be left to the workers. The channel
is now recognised that for social workers of communication must be easy and free
too, an understanding of administrative as between the supervisor and the executive,
principles should make for more effective and the supervisor and the workers. Both
use of their professional skills. Adminis-
verbal and written communications should
tration is often described as a function of be used, and channels of communication
only the executive arm of an agency, always kept open to avoid a build-up of
excluding its other members of the staff. silent hostility in the workers.
However, "when administration is regarded
An important function of the supervisor
as a system of cooperative effort, the stake is to organize, assign and distribute work
of all staff members is considerable, not in accordance with the worker's ability and
only in managerial competence, but also in skill, and time available for the same. In
making their own appropriate contribution a good administration, the resources
to administrative process" (Stein, 1965). It should match the tasks required, for
must be recognised that dynamic
example, if the workers are expected to
administration does not exist as something keep case records, they should at least
apart from the rest of the agency's be provided with paper, files, filing
cabinets and so forth. The supervisor must
judge what facilitates or interferes with a
worker's activities. This ability will depend
upon his own developing professional
Administration is an enabling and skill. At the same time he must understand
directing force, continually trying to create the psychology of having to be an
conditions to improve the quality of the administrator, just as much as the psycho-
agency's services and to enhance its value logy of those being administered by him.
to the community and to the field.
For effective administration it is not
sufficient to be just 'one of the boys'
(Smalley, 1968 : 160-161).
The supervisor is also responsible for
The supervisor's position in the
the students of schools of social work
administrative structure is unique. He is undergoing field work training at the agency.
the link that binds such diverse groups as Many schools of social work send their
the board, the executive and the staff, and own faculty members for supervising
works for understanding between them. He students placed in agencies for field work.
establishes a two-way communication This system has its advantages as well as
between the staff and the executive, drawbacks. Such a supervisor naturally has

a closer relationship with the school and consequently to the agency and their
its total curricula; hence he has greater clientele.
facility in the teaching aspects of super-
Characteristics: In planning a staff
vision. He would know what is possible for development programme, the workers'
the student to do at a particular stage, existing knowledge and skills, and their
what is educational for him and would be intellectual and emotional readiness should
able to keep the focus on the student's be taken into account. The programme
professional growth and development.
should proceed from here to a level
However, the faculty supervisor is not an commensurate with the functions to
integral part of the agency and, therefore, be performed. The staff should be actively
does not experience the same kind of involved in the programme in order to
necessity and accountability for service acquire an appreciation of it and to feel
that is true for the agency-employed partly responsible for its success or failure.
supervisor who has the unique advantage
Staff development should be continuous
of helping students become professional and progressive. There should be expec-
social workers through giving an agency tation on the part of the staff and the
service. "This administrative requirement administration that educational opportu-
constitutes a powerful impetus which the nities will be provided in an uninterrupted
student feels and incorporates as agency manner. The executive's reactions to these
responsibility for service" (Smalley, 1968: programmes will depend upon the way the
297). The student acquires knowledge and supervisor represents the profession to him
skill through this requirement of giving and the importance the supervisor himself
service rather than depending entirely on gives to these programmes as a means of
the motivation of his own professional improving the agency or departmental
development for his learning. No matter services.
who is supervising, the agency administrator
Another essential characteristic is that
(the supervisor of the agency staff) being staff development should be planned. Time
in overall charge of the students should and financial support must be planned for
serve as a liaison between the school and and carefully safeguarded by the supervisor
the field work supervisors on the staff of along with the executive (Schroeder, 1966:
the agency, to ensure that students get a 38-50).
meaningful learning experience in relation
Content: (Finestone, 1966: 51, Wax,
to the theory covered at their school.
1966: 78-82; Meyer, 1966: 98-118; Miller,
1960: 69-76). The content of a staff
development programme will depend upon
the set-up of the particular agency or
It is the responsibility of the supervisor institution which engages social service
to create and provide the best working staff. In a primary setting it may be simpler
conditions for optimum performance
, r the staff and the community to under-
efficiency and productivity, and to organize stand the role the agency plays in serving
and implement staff development pro-
its clientele or the community, while in
grammes. He must decide a clear and a multidisciplinary set-up or a secondary
consistent staff development philosophy setting, e.g., a hospital social service
along with staff development programmes. department, it may be difficult for the new
The staff must first be convinced that the workers, the other staff and the community
programme will be beneficial to them and to understand the particular role and

function the department is expected to administrative channels, and get consulta-
perform. In a setting such as this, the new tion from any other person in the depart-
workers have to understand the meaning ment or agency, who has specialized
of the "ultimate medical authority" in a knowledge of the area in which her
case situation, the idea of working in a problem lies.
team and so on.
5. Preceptorship: For inexperienced
1. Orientation programme: New wor-
workers the supervisor may have to create
kers, whether they work in primary or a situation where learning and teaching
secondary settings, must be given an are accomplished by direct observation and
orientation, so that they can understand participation. This device of staff develop-
fully the role played by the particular ment is called preceptorship. The supervisor
agency or department in serving the can provide an opportunity for the in-
community, policies and programmes of the experienced or the untrained worker to
agency and the type of clientele served by watch the skilled worker (the preceptor) in
it. This can be done individually or in actual practice.
groups by giving a descriptive talk or
6. Role-playing: Role-playing is another
conveyed through reports or journals of device which can be used for training the
the agency concerned.
staff. One staff member can take up the
2. In-service programme: Of equal role of the interviewer and the other, that
importance to the orientation programme of a client. If the interview is well conducted,
for new workers, is the in-service pro-
very lively and stimulating discussions
gramme for untrained or partly trained follow and the leader of the group or the
workers. In our country many welfare supervisor is able to select many areas for
institutions still employ untrained workers learning.
due to various reasons. In-service training is
7. Group meetings: It has been
especially important in such agencies.
observed that adult learning is much more
3. Supervisory conference: Supervisory facilitated in groups of peers, i.e. groups
conference should be arranged once a week of adults who are relatively of the same
for new workers and, as often as necessary, age, of roughly comparable experience and
for more experienced workers. The learning training. By sharing experiences with other
in the supervisory sessions should be adults in the same situation, with similar
consciously geared to the demands of the problems, this procedure acquires the role
job and the levels of the workers.
of supporting the adult ego. Group meetings
With more experienced workers, the should be arranged regularly and should
proportion of teaching content would proceed on a planned basis.
naturally decrease and supervisory sessions
Where the number of staff members is
would become largely but not wholly not big enough to separate the experienced
consultations. These sessions are in the from the less experienced workers, as often
nature of two colleagues discussing happens in Indian agencies, particularly in
problems of casework or group work or multidisciplinary settings, common pro-
administration together.
grammes may be organized, but the
4. Open system: Another relatively experienced workers should be encouraged
new staff development device is called to participate with a view to enriching the
the "open system". In this system, a experience of the younger staff.
worker who has a special problem is able
8. Professional Library: Any staff
to step out of the supervisory or wishing to keep abreast of the current

trends in social work and interested in programme cannot be assessed. When-
professional growth should endeavour to ever a group programme has been planned
build a professional library of its own. This and put into practice, the final session
may be difficult in agencies with limited should be devoted to group evaluation
financial resources and rather small staff, and suggestions gathered for future pro-
very often comprising only of one or two grammes. Another evaluation method is to
workers. Where the group is larger and appoint a small "steering committee" of
better facilities are available, the adminis-
one or two experienced members, who can
tration should be made aware of the note reactions as the programme is
importance of subscribing to professional proceeding. In some situations the use of
journals and magazines, if not books. In written questionnaires may be desirable. All
a multidisciplinary set-up, e.g. Hospital, a members of the group may be asked to
section can be reserved for social service rate the value of each of the sessions or
in the medical library.
aspects of sessions, giving reasons for the
Journal review meetings of the staff can rating as well as suggestions for improve-
be arranged and can profitably be followed ment. As in planning programmes, in
by a general discussion.
evaluation too, the participation of the
Evaluation: (Austin 1952: 375-382; members should be sought.
Black, 1950: 223-229; Finestone, 1966: 59-
Individual evaluations should be made
60; Schroeder, 1966; Wax, 1966).
only at the "pivoted" points in the worker's
Evaluation of programmes and staff professional development, and at certain
evaluations are necessary, both for intervals, to assure him of his progress. The
administrative and teaching purposes. The worker needs to know where he has reached
idea of evaluation in work situation is still and how much further he has to go. The
unfamiliar and is often not accepted as a supervisor should set up reasonable average
necessary and normal part of employment. standards of performance, rather than
Due to this unfamiliarity there is often exceptional ones. There should be a
reluctance on the part of the supervisor to principle of automatic salary increments
evaluate his staff or the administrative operating within the administrative
set-up of the agency, or the staff develop-
structure with an efficiency bar or an
ment programmes he has introduced. The examination if necessary for higher grades.
workers react in a similar way and quite Individual evaluations would include such
often fears and anxieties are built up items as observance of administrative
around evaluation. Being evaluated should requirements, professional behaviour, and
be a formal experience, but certainly not worker's contribution to the agency and
a formidable one. The purposes of the community it serves. An individual
evaluation can be discussed in staff assessment of each worker is necessary to
meetings and the workers' feelings elicit pertinent facts like her present level
regarding these can be explored.
of competence, weakness that needs
While planning programmes, introducing strengthening, areas that could and should
new policies or modifying the existing be advanced. On the basis of this
ones, there should also be a concern for assessment of the individual's educational
evaluating the results. Unless emphasis is level, educational objectives can be set up
placed on this "feedback", i.e. the review and the ways in which these can best be
of a programme in the light of the result achieved, determined. In evaluating a
it has produced, the full value of the worker, certain personal factors like age,

her life circumstances, the type and intensity workers, the dual-role of the supervisor was
of her motivation, e.g. the motivation to accepted and proved useful. But during the
learn, to improve, to enhance income or last 25 years, the staff of social welfare
status or the desire to be left alone, agencies comprises mostly of graduates of
should be taken into consideration. The schools of social work. Fully trained social
worker's professional development will also workers do not like to be labelled
depend upon her willingness to assume "supervisees" in work situation and may
responsibility and take risks. Another point not feel responsible enough in their work.
for consideration is the amount of energy It is also felt that a worker will not be
and time the worker is willing to devote to able to accept teaching and help from a
professional pursuits. Other significant person who is administratively responsible
factors in individual assessment are the for evaluation of her work.
worker's ability and effort to teach, to lead,
Austin (1952) suggests that a person who
and her ability to give of her professional is responsible for staff development should
knowledge and experience, her emotional be a member of the agency's administrative
stability, her resilience in time of stress, staff, but should not hold line authority,
her integrity and her inter-personal skills i.e. should not be responsible for evaluating
as reflected in her dealings with the staff the staff and recommending promotions,
of the agency, other agency staff and the etc. This person would be responsible for
communicating formally any opinions he
Case records play only a small part in might hold about the worker's competence
the evaluation of the worker. The worker's and ability, both to the worker and the
ability to express herself on paper and to administrator; but he would not be entirely
record well does not necessarily indicate responsible for staff evaluation and for
a high degree of skill and competency in recommendations about staff reassignment or
work. The supervisor should look for continued employment.
change not only in paper and pencil
However, in the majority of agencies
performance but in actual working with abroad, supervisors continue to carry out
clients. The worker's evaluation of her own the dual function; in some agencies,
work can also be very valuable.
experienced workers are given only
minimum administrative supervision and
CRITICISM OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESS are free to seek consultation from a variety
of sources.
Though authorities like Towle (1963) and
In India, training for social work began
Berkowitz (1952) have recognized and only in 1936; hence the profession of
emphasized the administrative as well as social work is still young. Many of our
educational responsibilities of a supervisor, agencies cannot boast of trained and
there are others like Lucille Austin who sufficiently experienced workers among
feel that when these two functions are whom the functions can be divided. More-
combined in one individual, too much over, many agencies or departments have
power is concentrated in that person and no more than three to four workers on
that no one person can be equally skilled their staff and it is not possible to expect
in both administrative and educational two out of the four workers to hold
aspects, and consequently one of the areas authoritative positions, even where the
would suffer. She argues that when social agency feels the need for professional
work agencies were staffed with untrained supervision and a professional person to

structure is overshadowed by the assumed
If evaluation is accepted as a normal or the extant structure. In such a situation
and natural process in any work situation the supervisor's and the worker's roles and
and if it is also remembered that the person functions are not clearly defined and this
who evaluates the staff will himself be fact gives rise to confusion and conflict. It
evaluated by the executive or the board, so often happens that on paper the super-
and that his evaluation will depend to a visor is given the authority to carry out
large extent on how he has developed his certain functions or is held responsible for
staff in terms of improving the services of evaluating workers, but in reality situation,
the agency, it should not be difficult to he is hardly consulted at the time
conceive of one person performing this dual confidential reports on workers are prepared.
role. The writer feels that the person who This situation often arises in a multi-
implements programmes of staff develop-
disciplinary setting, for example a hospital,
ment is in fact the best person to evaluate where, in the manifest structure, the senior
the staff, because the programmes are based social worker is given certain authority,
largely on his assessment of the individual's but the Medical Heads of the Units to
level of knowledge and experience.
which the workers are assigned, do not
Thus in the writer's opinion, the said two recognise his authority in actual practice.
functions can be combined in one person, In such a structure, the supervisor may find
provided the administrative structure is of it difficult to make the social work staff,
a suitable type and the person selected to the medical personnel and the executive
be the supervisor possesses the essential accept his dual role. Moreover, he will
qualities required for such a position. Taking need to understand these various structures
up the first point, the meaning of the and recognise the significant difference
administrative structure should be examined. between the manifest and the assumed
The terms most frequently used to describe structures of his agency to be able to
administrative structure are manifest, recommend what may be the requisite
assumed, extant and requisite. The manifest changes. For, it often happens that when
is the official structure which is given in a structure is faulty, the requisite structure
manuals, reports, and so forth. This is the loses its significance and is not recognised
structure that is planned originally ac-
as something necessary for proper
cording to the needs of the institution or functioning of the agency. Very often, in
the agency and to implement working our agency situations it has been noticed
towards its goals. The assumed structure is that there is a lack of consistency in
that in which the staff believe they are enforcing policies. For instance, certain
functioning, but actually it differs in many policies are laid down in which the
ways from the manifest structure. The responsibility for taking certain decisions
term extant is used to describe the structure is delegated to the supervisor and the
as it exists in reality, which in actuality workers. However, in actual practice, this
may have no resemblance to the manifest is not consistently observed and the super-
structure. Finally, there is the requisite visor is not even aware when the area for
structure, the structure that is required for decision assigned to him has been taken
the most effective performance (Pettes, over by someone else. Secondly, the success
1967: 28-32).
of a supervisor in combining the two
functions will depend largely on the type
Difficulties in administration and in of authority he enjoys. He may have
educating the staff arise when the manifest

administrative authority, which goes with should prevail instead of sole dependence
position within the agency. Authority may upon the supervisor. The system of "open-
be derived from a person's seniority, his consultation" described earlier in the paper
knowledge and skills, or his personality. It should be encouraged.
has been observed that some personal
A second requisite to a proper environ-
characteristics inspire far more confidence ment for professional growth and
in workers and make the acceptance of development is "responsibility". This has
authority more easy than do others (Pettes, already been discussed at length in the
1967: 32-34). When these three attributes course of the paper, but it is worthwhile
of authority are combined in a supervisor, he emphasizing again that the supervisor
should be able to successfully perform both while enabling the worker to develop
the administrative and the teaching professionally must not turn her into a
passive receptacle. The initiative for
The success of the supervisor will also seeking help when she needs it must come
depend upon the type of climate he creates from the worker herself. The worker must
for maximizing staff development. Certain be helped to assume all responsibility
amount of freedom (Wax, 1966) is regarding her own practice. She should be
required for the growth of the workers. If accountable to the administrator or the
the supervisor is over-protective or too supervisor, to the executive or the medical
authoritative, the workers' professional authority, as the case may be. There must
and intellectual growth will suffer. The also be a responsibility towards her own
staff must have the freedom to examine, profession and her colleagues who will
question and challenge the administrative observe and comment on her professional
and professional practices and policies of behaviour.
the agency or department. The supervisor
Thirdly, the environment Should provide
should create an environment among opportunities for making professional
workers which would encourage them to practice as visible (Wax, 1966) as possible
participate in the decision-making processes so that the worker may get recognition and
of the agency. For doing this, they must respect for the services she renders from
have a free access to the necessary data her colleagues and other members of the
and they must feel free to comment on this staff. The worker may be allowed to present
data. The workers must also feel free to learn
a case at an inter-agency conference or at a
by experimentation — by the trial and medical conference in the case of a multi-
error method. They should be free to test disciplinary setting or speak in her speciality
out new ideas, to try new methods and to at a seminar, etc.
develop new skills.
It may not be out of place to emphasize
Another type of freedom to be fostered here that just as staff development
in an agency is the freedom to master programmes need to be on-going, the
anxiety. Supervisors at times become too supervisor's self-education and professional
protective and avoid all anxiety-creating growth should also be a continuous process.
situations for their staff. This protection Supervisor must explore and make the best
though well-meant can be a block to use of all educational facilities that he
professional growth and hamper the may have access to. He may need consul-
worker's ability to meet crises situations in tation and guidance and should be able
a constructive way. An atmosphere of free to recognise this need and to approach the
and easy consultation among workers right sources for help.

Austin, L. N.
"An Evaluation of Supervision", Journal of Social Casework,
1952, December
pp. 375-382.
Berkowitz, S. J.
"Administrative Process in Casework Supervision" Journal of
1952, December
Social Casework, pp. 419-423.
Black, B. J.
"Tools and Techniques of Administration", Journal of Social
1950, June
Casework, pp. 223-229.
Finestone, Samuel
"Concepts of Staff Development and Impact of Institutional
Environment", in Staff Development in Mental Health Services,
Edited by Magner, G. W. and Briggs, T. L., National Association
of Social Workers: New York, p p . 51, 59-60.
Meyer, Carol H.
Staff Development in Public Welfare Agencies, Columbia Uni-
versity Press: New York, pp. 98-118.
Miller, Irving
"Distinctive Characteristics of Supervision in G r o u p Work",
1960, January
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Pettes, Dorothy, E.
Supervision in Social Work, George Allen and Unwin Ltd.:
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Schroeder, Dorothy
"Basic Principles of Staff Development and their Implementation"
in Staff Development in Mental Health Services, Edited by
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Social Workers: New York, pp. 38-50
Smalley, Ruth E.
Theory for Social Work Practice, Columbia University Press,:
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Stein, H. D.
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"Place of Help in Supervision", Social Service Review, pp. 403-415.
1963, December
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