Thursday, November 03, 2011


I went to a conference/training Wednesday morning.  The introductory speaker and a most others commented on how honored they were to work with us, advocating for the mentally ill - as were they - and doing so with great dedication in these difficult times (clear slam in tone and expression at budget cutters), giving of ourselves as civil servants...

Pouring ourselves out as meat-offerings for the poor, bleeding in the streets for the noble cause...

Well no, not that.  But this self-congratulation is part of every conference in human services.  We consider it part of our wages to tell each other how good we are.  I imagine it happens in most other fields, in one form or another.  People like to encourage, to give credit, to inspire.  It just rubs me the wrong way because the speaker so transparently includes him- (or more usually her-) self, yet seems not to realise that.  I likely am also bothered because I believed that for so longer, and ate that stuff up.


Boxty said...

My wife's friend was dating a guy that seemed very smug about being a licensed social worker. That would be fine except he failed to recognize that the businessman that employed thousands of people and paid all the taxes that make social services possible was doing just as much if not more for society than the social worker.

Dubbahdee said...

Yeah...that happens at sales meetings too. ;-)

karrde said...

Well, when a bunch of technicians/engineers get together to celebrate a project, there are two factors at work.

(1) celebration at overcoming challenges
(2) celebration if the company thinks that the project will be a net positive on Accounting's balance sheet.

Some members of the team may brag on their own intelligence, but I've never seen much sense of we're good people because we do this. And I suspect that anyone who's has done more than one project with a team realizes how hard it is for a single individual to do the entire task.

However, the culture at large (especially as influenced by the Arts & Humanities tribe) doesn't think that, so why should a bunch of engineers and techs think that?

Although the team that works on things like this may have a different opinion.

However, I do wonder what the American engineers and industrialists of 1870-1920 would have thought and said.

That was an era that had popular culture exalting the engineer and businessman, to some extent. They were the wave of the future.

In the 1920's, a successful engineer and businessman became President of the U.S. Part of this was the cultural attitude that celebrated businessmen and feats of engineering.

Gringo said...

The self-congratulatory part of the speech was a pep talk. It is very easy to get discouraged in the social services field, especially in mental health, because there are often so few indications of accomplishment.

Clients keep coming back with the same old problems, not having made any progress. That gives one not a feeling of accomplishment, but a feeling of futility- that working in social services is like treading water, or pushing back the incoming tides at New Castle Beach.

I suspect that the pep talks keep a certain amount of people from quitting the social services field, by allaying feelings of discouragement.

One consequence of hearing so often that "we in social services are SUCH GOOD PEOPLE," is that taxpayers who do not like the expenditure of their tax dollars on programs that to not appear to accomplish much get labeled as BAD PEOPLE by those working in social services. We are good people doing good things, so those who want to cut off our funding are bad people. So Head Start, which has been documented to have done zilch in its nearly half century of existence, keeps getting funded.

One rationale for funding social services is that while clients may not make progress, those who are unable to care for themselves need assistance. Certainly the mentally retarded, for example, deserve assistance without the expectation that the assistance will enable them to become active members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce- because they cannot.