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Factors which can result in a power imbalance in professional supervision and how to address them

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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For this assessment criterion, you will be required to explore the factors that can result in a power imbalance in professional supervision and how you can address them.

Supervision should be a collaborative process and both supervisor and supervisee should have mutual respect for one another and value each other’s opinions. Because of the hierarchical nature of organisations and your position of authority as a manager, some team members may harbour negative feelings such as being intimidated or resentful. You should be aware of how your position may affect others and take steps to reassure team members that, where possible, you will lead in a democratic and collaborative way rather than being authoritarian. This will ensure that they feel comfortable raising concerns with you, discussing ideas and being open and transparent.

There will be times when you must make decisions or take actions that are unpopular and, in these cases, you will need to use your position of power to overrule others. However, it is important that you discuss the issues with team members first and consider their views and ideas. You should also ensure that you take the time to explain the reasons for your decision, backing it up with evidence and logic where you can. The unit on decision-making provides further information about this.

Difficult situations and conflicts may arise during supervision following a disagreement. Disagreements may be the result of a difference in values (relationship-based) or a difference in approach (task-based). It is important that conflicts are addressed early and discussed to prevent disharmony amongst the team. Approaches for conflict management can be found here. It is important to remember that conflict is not always negative and if dealt with effectively, it can lead to improvements in the way that services are delivered as well as personal and professional development.

Following formal supervision, it is important that both supervisor and supervisee have access to systems of support. This could mean offloading to a peer, getting guidance from a colleague or escalating concerns to another manager.

The supervision process should feed into the annual appraisal process and vice versa. During the appraisal process, the appraiser and appraise will celebrate the achievements of the previous 12 months and make development plans for the following year. Progress towards the appraisal goals should be reviewed during supervision and adjusted if required.

Assessment Criteria

Learners explore management supervision practice with regard to:

  • Addressing possible power imbalances in formal supervision
  • Managing difficult situations and disagreements during formal supervision
  • Managing conflict in formal supervision
  • Managing challenges arising during and after professional supervision
  • Support systems available to them after formal supervision
  • Current appraisal processes used alongside supervision to manage and improve performance with those they manage
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