Monday, October 13, 2008


Confidentiality. All through school I've had it drilled into me. Confidentiality, confidentiality, confidentiality. And when are the times you can break confidentiality?

- Threat of harm to self
- Threat of harm to others
- Abuse of a child

And that's it. You can't just go around breaking people's confidentiality for other reasons. This is where the enforcer and I disagree.

The situation is this. We have someone in detox who may know some more details about how a woman died (I wrote about her a few entries ago, she was found on the street, gone). It may be that someone pushed her down the steps. During his detox intake he disclosed it to the worker (we're called "crisis workers") who shared it in shift change.

Now the enforcer seems to think that we have a duty to report this to the police and I disagree. I say we have to respect people's confidentiality and that all we can do is encourage this person to report it.

Unfortunately, that is not what came out of my mouth though, and here's where I created my entire problem which lead to our entire fight, and I should have known better. I said something like, "as I social worker the only time I can break confidentiality is - see above". This is when the lecture started. The lecture about how I'm not a social worker I'm a crisis worker, and I can't say I'm a social worker while I'm working because I'm not. I say I'm I social worker wherever I am. That I am a registered social worker and breaking people's confidentiality like that could make me lose my registration with my professional institute.

The enforcer starts getting really mad, tells me that it doesn't matter. That I have to follow agency policy, which is to report things (since when?), and that I'll be prosecuted if I don't. He has me cornered, yelling at me, and my supervisor (who I love) jumps into it too, telling me I'm not a social worker there and I have to follow policy. The enforcer won't let me speak, keeps telling me I'm interrupting, so I let him have his thing. Then when I want to have a turn, he won't let me speak, and goes on about how hard I am to work with. This is when I exit to go the bathroom and cry.

When I'm semi calmed down, I go back upstairs and say "Okay, I'm taking into consideration what you said, I'll talk to our boss and my professional institute and work this out. I'm new at this whole social work thing, and still have a lot to work out". I go about my work, getting on my knees to fill up some sugar. The enforcer stands over and yells some more. I keep crying and remind him "I don't want to talk about it". "Why would you want to talk to our boss, don't talk to him". I tell the enforcer that if that's the policy I'll quit, because one job is not worth losing my registration over, and then the enforcer, my supervisor and I get into it again. I'm basically ready to quit my job on the spot, except it still seems like a really far fetched policy, and well, I like my job. a lot. So I leave. But just to go pick up some donations. It takes me an hour of driving, a clonazepam (klonopin) and some yoga breathing in a random parking lot, but by the time I come back, I'm actually mostly calmed down.

In the morning, I talk to my boss about it, first thing. Not the fight exactly, just what the policy is. Turns out, the policy is exactly what I wrote at the very beginning. My boss says "we're not the justice system, we'll never have any trust with these clients if we tried to be". So I was right, but it really doesn't feel very good at all, and I'm not planning on telling the enforcer that, why bother. I want to sit down with him and talk it out, but I don't think it's going to happen, at least not yet.

A collegue got to work the next day and already knew about our fight, how, they'd run into each other and the enforcer mentioned "I made still dreaming cry last night". Oh, so this is a point of bragging now? If I didn't love my job...


Caroline said...

I would suggest you ask to see their anti bullying and their grievance policy too - the bastard! You were right you were right you were right - hold your head up x

Chimera said...

Unfortunately social workers tend to get kicked around a lot. There are people who don't see us as educated, see us as meddling, or even dangerous, but unfortunately generally weak (we're not). They don't understand how much time was spent in our education and that for social workers the code of ethics is well ... I won't go as far as ark of the covenant, but we love our little green book. I would suggest getting a copy of the little booklet to keep at your desk so that if someone is arguing you at least have something to show them. And you're right - no matter where we are we have to live by our code of ethics.

I'm an LMSW and I protect my license like it was my child. I've worked with lots of people who didn't seem to think that was a big deal even when I compared it to their professional licenses. In the end social workers have to do just what you did and stand up and protect their own licensure. I love reading your posts and you remind me of me.

You are a good social worker and you care about other people, especially clients. I stayed in several toxic jobs because I thought that clients needed me, or a peer needed me, or because I just loved the job that I did. I was right - they did need me and I liked the work (not the environment).

Unfortunately, the anxiety was starting to completely overwhelm me. I never knew before how hard it was to live when half your life was in a place that sucked your soul out. I would never dream of telling someone what to do with their career, I am sure that you have reasons you would never post about to stay or go so I apologize if this comes off as that. I just see a little of me in you and I have made myself sick over work and wound up crying, and doubting my ability as a social worker. It wasn't until someone who felt the same way shared with me that I was able to think about whether or not I really wanted to stay or go. I hope if nothing else you don't feel alone -we've all had situations like this even in great places to work. You did exactly what you needed to do. I wish you luck, sorry for the long comment.

cb said...

It does sound like it's verging on bullying :( No-one should have to put up with things like that at work. I hope things settle down or that you are alble to address those things. Take care.

Reas Kroicowl said...

Never let the dude see you cry. It only empowers him more. I've worked with a couple of bullies and it was God-awful both times.

And you were right! Small victory but savor it. Because it's likely you'll be right again.