Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Essay Question: What do you think?

This is essay day on Rolling Around in My Head. I'm going to give you a brief scene, which I witnessed a couple days ago, and I'd like you to respond in the comment section. I'm doing this because I'd like to hear other's reactions before I weigh in with my own. So, here goes:

He was being very methodical, and, in truth, taking a bit of time. I was in line behind him, with no one behind me. I was not in a rush, and said so using my favourite line in these circumstances, 'Take your time I'm comfortably seated.' The support worker with him watched with growing impatience and then reached over, took his wallet from his hands, retrieved a bill from the wallet and handed it to the clerk. The clerk looked, as I did, a bit shocked.

The young man said to his staff, "I can do it on my own."

The staff said, with a laugh which seemed intended to lighten a suddenly tense situation, "I know but I just need to feel helpful."

OK, Discuss!

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thank the staff overstepped. They took the position is most able do that if they can do it faster they should be the one to do it. IMJ, in the circumstance you were in, self-sufficiency was better than assistance.

Anonymous said...

Helpful to who? Not helpful in making it easier for the person with the wallet.
Sharon

Terri H-E said...

Hm. Staff is not paid to meet their OWN needs. Especially when those "needs" fly in the face of the carer's boss's expressed preferences. To me, this is the essence of a lot of the struggle our family faces with our 11 year old with disabilities. People often see her and think of themselves - how can they get in her business to feel good about themselves. It's not often strangers consider her sense of self before they interfere. At school her classmates get tickets and prizes for kindness to anyone. Kids think she doesn't know the difference between those who are kind to her because they are fond of her and expect reciprocity, and those who are doing it for a ticket. That's not kindness. And this fellow was not helping, either.

Colleen said...

I agree with the comments so far - the staff is behaving inappropriately. He or she is not there to meet their own needs. What he or she did was profoundly disrespectful to the man paying for his purchase. He is not a child. Reaching into another person's wallet without permission is not acceptable behaviour in any other circumstance. The most helpful thing that staff could have done was get the heck out of the way!

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

The 'staff' person's job is to wait until assistance is ASKED for - I can't believe how arrogant stepping in like that was. And how self-serving.

Sadly, it is COMMON. Treating people like children is common - and even there children probably get more consideration.

I feel sorry for that young man, having to deal with that kind of demeaning 'help' daily.

Alicia

Connie said...

It may not be diffuclt to learn how to ask, "Would you like some help?" but learning to accept "I can do it myself" is harder.

Jan Goldfield said...

Seems to me Staff needs another round of inservice training focussing on his/her interference with his boss' needs, desires.

Louise said...

Firstly, the 'need' of the staff to feel helpful is neither here nor there. They are paid to support the person to live his own life, and this one wasn't doing that.

But secondly, if the staff wanted to feel helpful, well then, be helpful. Smile at the other people in the line, create a friendly atmosphere to put the man at his ease, and if necessary, practise with him at home so he can speed up his checkout transactions, if he can.

Louise said...

Firstly, the 'need' of the staff to feel helpful is neither here nor there. They are paid to support the person to live his own life, and this one wasn't doing that.

But secondly, if the staff wanted to feel helpful, well then, be helpful. Smile at the other people in the line, create a friendly atmosphere to put the man at his ease, and if necessary, practise with him at home so he can speed up his checkout transactions, if he can.

Princeton Posse said...

I agree with Terri H-E, whose needs are being met? Who is being served? Certainly, the guy with the wallet didn't need her help, he was getting the money out to pay. There doesn't seem to be any impatience with the clerk or other customers in line. So what was the problem? Worker needs to examine why she felt the need to step in and feel helpful. And then, figure out why she thought this action would be helpful? To who?

Feminist Avatar said...

I don't want this to be read as a personal attack, but I do wonder why you said anything (I presume the 'I' here is you). I find when people say comments like that to me, I just feel more stressed, not less. It highlights that I'm taking longer than expected, being aberrant. In practice, we all stand in queues behind all sorts of people for all sorts of lengths of time without commenting - so when people do say something it makes me nervous, even when it's meant kindly. At what point, does this kind of comment become a signal to a carer to intervene (to 'be helpful') - so that they feel a need to respond to their own social stress? This doesn't make what the carer did right, of course, but it probably makes what they said true. The carer felt stressed and acted badly, knowing they were acting badly.

Maggie said...

I'm glad the staff person at least KNOWS it was their own need they were satisfying.

Next step: discovering that, as staff, they can FEEL a need and refrain from DOing anything about it.

Intermediate step: apologizing to the person whose wallet they invaded.

Unnecessary step: trying to ingratiate themselves with other people in line, cashier, etc rather than attending to the needs of their Employer.

Flemisa said...

The Staff was being helpful by being there to ensure he could manage safely and learn more about dealing with the world around him. Even if it is just part of the job. Taking over his wallet is overstepping the line and is something that should be practiced at home. They would have been much more help being outgoing to those around him.

Yes, having someone say there is no rush does stress me a bit but I would rather that than someone obviously angry about my slowness. And especially if someone took my wallet from me to hurry me up. That would become major stress and anger.

Ron Arnold said...

"I just need to feel helpful."

No.

Apparently you needed to reduce your own anxiety rather than allowing the fellow you're supporting do his thing independently.

In his own way - he's not very different from the fellow that ran up to you and prayed an unbidden blessing over you. Subtle violence and control is still violence and control . . . .

Julie said...

There is help and then there is HELP. The first is welcome, appreciated and respectful. The second is shoved down your throat, unwanted, intrusive and disrespectful. We need different words to describe help that is helpful from help that is...well, I can't think of any polite words. The man in the story got the second variety. He's standing up for himself, which is really good. 1,572,368 more times of standing up for himself and maybe everyone will get it through their thick heads and we can all live in peace with, you know, help that is actually helpful.

Shaya said...

I agree with everyone that the action was inappropriate.

And I particularly like Maggie's comment about next steps. We don't know what happens next. I hope that this is a moment in which the caretaker realized they were working from their own need and is now taking the time to be self-reflective about how it is inappropriate to try and fulfill that kind of need at the expense of their client.

jesse-the-k said...

Feminist Avatar, your comment is important. I'm someone who gets anxious when wrangling my wallet in a queue.

Like Dave, I might speak up with the intent to say, "Hey, I know what it's like to be the center of attention. Enjoy the solidarity."

But like the staff, my speaking up puts my need to share my philosophy over the customer's need to pay the bill. That very well could make them more conscious of passing time, and therefore more stressed.

Anonymous said...

The staff is not being paid to meet his/her own needs. That person has a commitment to act in a professional way to support the best interests of the person s/he is paid to support. What if s/he said "I'm going to go shopping for myself with this client - I need to pick up something for my child's party this weekend." That's fraudulent use of the client's time - as is stepping over that boundary by taking money from him! This sickens me!

wheeliecrone said...

The staff person is paid to assist the person. His/her need to feel helpful is not part of the contract he/she has with his/her employer. His/Her employer has not given adequate training regarding what is and what is not help. He/She has failed to understand how undermining this sort of "help" is.
If the young man is never allowed to take his time and figure out what he needs to do in order to pay for an item or items that he is purchasing, how is he ever going to get better at it? It is by practice that we learn. That is how all of us learn - by practice.

Anonymous said...

It is a paragraph from an essay. And to a reader who is in tune with the circumstances; which I hope come across sufficciently (namly that it is about a sitution with "unequal" participants) it obviously provokes the right kind of thoughts and ideas.

I would not be sure if it provokes this response in the average reader.

But it is a well thought out paragraph.

Julia

Kristine said...

Why do these moments continue to baffle people? "Do I help? Do I not? Oh no, what do I do?" It's not that difficult! I feel like the same answer fits 99% of the time... You offer help, and accept the answer given. It would have seemed perfectly natural for the staff to quietly ask, "Would you like a hand with that?" Maybe he would have appreciated getting out of line quicker, if the help had been given in a more respectful manner. And maybe, as he stated, he'd rather do it himself. In either case, no big deal. There's no need to turn the situation into a huge ordeal, demeaning the young man, and putting on a show for everyone nearby.

As far as the appropriateness of the "take your time" comment, I feel like it depends on the situation. If the person looks stressed about holding others up, I'd try to offer some reassurance. If they weren't showing any signs of stress, I probably wouldn't say anything.

Rosemary said...

Staff needs to practice keeping his/her hand out of the person's wallet and personal business. Staff overstepped and did a huge disservice to the person he/she is supposed to be encouraging not demeaning . Staff should have apologized instead of trying to weasel his way out of the situation by making a "funny" comment.

B. said...

The support worker needs a vacation, to find a different job, or be retrained. It's sounds like the usual care-giver dominance.

Mary said...

To add to what has already been said - it's encouraging that the man making the transaction had the confidence to tell his staff "I can do it." I know that you know of a time when subdued compliance would be the only response of a disabled person to a support worker trampling them, I also know you know that time is not fully over.

With my most pointy Devil's Advocate hat on, thinking about it beyond my gut response, I think about staff training (or lack thereof), the fact that humans have fears and feelings, and workers' rights.

Training for support staff varies enormously and I'm sorry to say that it doesn't always include very clear boundaries about the role - where the line is between watching someone struggle and allowing someone to succeed.

Another issue came up when I got my power assisted wheelchair. Suddenly I didn't need to be pushed and my then-staff, while she was extremely happy to see me enjoying so much more autonomy and freedom, also had a concern that I wasn't going to need her any more. She did do the correct thing - asked to discuss it with me, started by acknowledging that it wasn't my problem, explained that she was anxious about her job security and although she was trying not to, she kept catching herself trying to prove that she was useful for things other than chair-pushing. It's not unreasonable for a low-paid worker to have feelings like that, and it can be difficult for employer and employee to navigate it successfully.

I also wonder if the staff might have been wanting to hurry things along because their shift had technically finished some time ago and they were getting antsy because they knew they were now running late for their next client/to pick their kid up from daycare/etc.

None of this excuses a support staff stepping on the toes of the person they are supposed to be supporting. Just acknowledging that neither employer nor employee should be presumed or expected to be perfect at all times.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we are all so quick to judge the staff member. Maybe it was his first day, and is still learning. Maybe he had just been reprimanded for being late and is now feeling that pressure. We have all done and said things that we wish we hadn't. Let's just hope that he learns to do better next time. Let's all try to be a little kinder.

Anonymous said...

I've been in situations like this, I've been anxious and nervous because there's a queue of people all watching and tutting and wanting us to hurry the hell up, try not to judge the support staff by saying that they "need to leave their job", they just need to be taught properly, trained properly. Not many support workers "get it", people who can be independent should be allowed to be independent, we are always learning and we are not perfect. The person handled it incorrectly, It could have been done in a slightly different way and it could have been okay for the service user, the support worker could have put the money in the service users hand for him to pay, instead of making it his job. It doesn't mean that the support worker does this a lot either.