THE PERSONALITY OF THE COMPETENT SOCIAL WORKER
The term “personality” is defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary as the distinctive character or qualities of a person. For these purposes, twenty personality qualities have been distinguished. These twenty qualities have specifically been selected due to their relevance to the present welfare situation as well as the extent to which they appeared in most of the recent and relevant literature. It is particularly important to remember that, like the knowledge base, value base and skill base, personality qualities that are regarded as necessary to be a competent social worker, can be learned and developed. This, therefore, poses a challenge to every social work student and practitioner.
Love of people
A love of people is usually the greatest motivation for social work students and practitioners to become involved in the intervention. A pre-requisite is therefore that a social worker must like and be interested in people.
Emotional maturity suggests a complete developmental state but is something that each social worker can strive towards. It implies, amongst others, that a worker must have a sober image of reality, be able to work independently, cope with frustrations, control impulsive behavior, recognize related factors and take definite action. An emotionally mature person is also able to realize and acknowledge his/her human feelings. Such a worker can work through hurt feelings and can identify, examine, acknowledge, and correct their own faults.
Self-awareness implies that the social worker is striving towards self-knowledge by being in touch with his/her own needs, motives, and values. The worker attempts to be in control of his/her feelings and behavior is not easily threatened by others and is comfortable with him/herself. The worker is aware of personal unresolved conflicts and makes every attempt not to allow this to harm others.
Interpersonal communication abilities
Communication must constantly be maintained at all levels. This implies therefore that communication must be both tactful and acceptable. The ability to listen should be equally good as the ability to talk and the social worker must be aware of the effect that his/her verbal and non-verbal communication has on others (this includes appearance).
Not all people can enter into another person’s world of experiences with the same ease. Empathic understanding involves being able to think with someone by separating yourself from your own frame of reference. This must however be an objective action so that you do not take on others‟ problems.
Eager to learn
No social worker can ever be truly competent if he/she is not eager to learn. This involves an ambition to know more so as to deliver a better service. This is achieved through self-development. Although basic intelligence is necessary, it is influenced by the workers’ openness toward learning. Statements such as “I work from experience”, “I have an intuitive touch” and “I do not like studying” usually indicate a learning block that can seriously hamper competency.
It is becoming all the more important for the social worker to act assertively with systems. This involves the manner in which the worker handles, expresses, and asserts him/herself in the face of others. This involves the capacity of the worker to convey, for example, knowledge, values, and skills in such a manner that the rights of all participants are respected (including the rights of the worker). This does not imply passivity or aggressiveness.
There is a tendency, both nationally and internationally, to expect social workers to provide more assistance with fewer resources. For this reason, the social worker must be tenacious because progress, development, and change is sometimes laborious and slow. Challenges must be accepted without hesitation and should have a motivating effect on the worker.
As professional people, social workers work, to a large extent, autonomously. A great responsibility is owed to the clients and the community. In order to comply with these said responsibilities, the worker must be self-disciplined and primarily responsible to him/herself. The responsibility of the social worker is comprised specifically of professional responsibilities, such as maintaining the confidentiality and general ethics. If the worker does not take basic responsibilities seriously, his/her professional position will be seriously compromised and can be regarded as equal to that of the client system.
In order to influence and motivate others, the worker must believe in change and development and must be self-motivated. This can only be realized by maintaining a positive view of life. A person, who revels in the negative aspects of life, will have difficulty serving as an instrument of growth for others. This, therefore, involves an optimistic belief and the ability to convert obstacles into positive opportunities.
In order for intervention attempts to be regarded as credible, the social worker must be enthusiastic. This involves an intense interest, desire, and “bubbly” zeal. This is usually accompanied by a sense of humor that is both contagious and motivating.
The social worker should also display humane feelings. The application of techniques does not mean being rigid and artificial. Unforced and unplanned expression of feelings in the course of natural exchanges is therefore sometimes necessary to motivate change, growth, and development.
Involvement in other people’s problems and needs should not be out of a sense of duty. The relationship with clients should be sincere and radiate warmth. If this is expressed both verbally and non-verbally, then it ought to be easy to connect with people.
The social worker ought not to be reticent with the client system, as this can hamper trust in the worker. It involves the worker knowing how to reveal him/herself and how to be a ”familiar” person, without contributing to the discomfort of the client system
In order to be regarded by the client system as credible, the social worker should be honest in his/her actions and motives. This requires sincerity in the way in which the worker expresses him/herself so that there is uniformity between behavior, words, and attitudes.
In social work it is frequently necessary to create something from nothing or to change and develop things, therefore the social worker must be creative. This requires being original in the course of the intervention process and, in particular, the ability to present the abstract in a concrete manner.
Social work has to do with attempting to bring about change – for that reason, the worker ought to be able to adapt him/herself according to the changes and circumstances. This implies an easy transition from one person and situation to another.
The nature of social work requires the worker to continuously make judgments in accordance with accurate and objective insights. This involves choices and decisions regarding ethical issues, strategies, processes, etc.
The dynamics of social work require of the worker to be vigorous, reflecting his/her energy. This means the worker’s energy is required to initiate change and development and correspondingly will determine, to a large extent, the energy that the client system will need to invest in change and development.
Social work requires the worker to provide continuous leadership. The worker must be able to utilize his/her leadership potential in all situations and on all levels to influence people as to the benefits of intervention. This includes, amongst others, fulfilling a variety of intervention roles.
Engelbrecht L K (1999), INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL WORK,
Love is an important aspect of a social worker. The loving nature of a social worker supports him/her to understand the person’s difficulty and deal with the problems.
A social worker should be mature to control emotions. In day-to-day life, the social worker himself has felt (Positive and Negative) which might impact during intervention with clients. Thus, the social worker should have gained the maturity to control his/her emotions.
Understanding of self is also an important aspect for the social worker. She/he should be able to understand her/his strengths and weaknesses. This will help the social worker to limit his engagement while dealing with a person with problems.
The social worker should be able to understand the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication helps to understand what the client says, non-verbal helps to understand what the client could not say or either she or he is saying right or lying. The social worker should be smart enough to communicate with beneficiaries verbally as well as non-verbally. Non-verbal communication like gestures, body language, and so on.
The “9 and 6” methods of understanding the problem are essential skills for a social worker. The issues shared by beneficiaries might not be a big issue for the social worker but for the beneficiaries it might be a lot. So, the perception of social workers regarding the issues should be empathetic. The social worker should see the issues/problems from the eye of the beneficiaries rather than making any judgment.
Social science is dynamic. No perception is right all the time. The policies, services, patterns of problems, approaches, and methods are changing. So social workers should be eager to learn. The learning attitude of the social workers supports beneficiaries to understand the issues and deal with it, as the best possible ways.
Beneficiaries come to the social worker with belief that the social worker helps to sort out his/her problems. So, it is the social worker’s responsibility to support beneficiaries in all possible ways to sort out his/her problems.
The social worker should have a positive attitude so believe his/her knowledge, skills, and attitudes to solve the problems of beneficiaries. If the social worker himself thinks the solution is not possible s/he could not contribute to convince the beneficiary to deal with his/her problems. A positive mindset and optimistic to change the situation help social workers as well as beneficiaries to deal with the problems of beneficiaries.
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