The relationship between a supervisor and a supervisee is usually contract-based, and both parties negotiate. The working agreement defines how the two parties will work together and how they want their working environment to look and ensure they feel free to learn and explore safely. When an individual gets to a new workplace or field requires a supervisor regardless of professional experience (Enlow et al., 2019). These new members become supervisees and undergo a long learning process to give the best practices in their positions. However, the frequency of supervision differs based on the supervisee’s experience. There is a close link between supervision and professional development since supervision aims to enhance the supervisee’s professional competencies (Bernard & Goodyear, 2013). Before getting into a supervision contract, it is good for the two parties to reflect on the end goals, which are the supervisor’s input and what the supervisee is expected to achieve. Such reflection makes the agreement individually and mutually contracted. Formulating a working agreement between a supervisor and a supervisee ensures that the two parties clearly understand their rights, roles, and responsibilities. The evaluation focuses on analyzing the significance of the work agreement, its components, and its impact on the supervision process.
Significance of the Work Agreement
A work agreement in this alliance is an important document that defines each party’s expectations, goals, and responsibilities during the supervisory relationship. It assists in clarifying expectations for each party concerning what to accomplish and how to accomplish it. Such clarification enhances the responsibility and accountability of the parties as each is aware of what is expected of them and is accountable for all their actions (AASW, 2014). Secondly, the agreement assists in enhancing communication between the parties. The agreement creates a platform for open communications between the two parties. It is a platform where the parties may raise concerns, forming a collaborative approach in the supervisory process. The enhanced effective communication assists the supervisors in developing a workforce in human services. It becomes easier for supervisors to enforce organizational standards to enhance professional development (Park et al., 2019). Effective communication creates a favorable atmosphere where the two parties may solve any conflict that may arise between them by having successful negotiations. The work agreement thus builds a foundation for a mutually beneficial and productive supervisory relationship.
Components of the Work Agreement
Roles and Responsibilities
The work agreement’s major component is each party’s roles and responsibilities to enhance the supervisory process. The agreement defines three main roles and responsibilities for the supervisor. They include educative, supportive, and management roles. For the educative role, the supervisor is considered a professional developer expected to improve the knowledge and skills of the supervisee. Under this role, the supervisor applies clinical supervision where they use a reflective approach and give their experiences to make the supervisee practice through wisdom. Gibb (2004) stipulates that a nursing supervisor may educate the supervisee using the cultural challenges they have experienced as a type of workplace learning. Irwin (2011) stipulates that the supervisory relationship makes the supervisor reflect the connection between the task and the process within their work. With this in mind, the supervisor challenges the supervisee to take essential professional risks to enhance their professional growth by gaining new insights. The agreement outlines the educative role as a commitment to professional discipline.
Support is the second supervisor’s role. The supervisor should provide encouragement and motivation. It enables the supervisees to have resilience in their job. Kumagai & Kleiner (1995) stipulate that there are scenarios where the supervisee makes mistakes that make them negatively reflect the supervisor. In such a situation, the supervisor should encourage the supervisee to learn from the mistake. The agreement stipulates professional boundaries that make the supervisor always focus on professional performance. This supervisory role concerns the individual supervisee, which is why the contract is individually contracted.
The third is the management or administration role. It revolves around ensuring the work is done. It involves task allocation to the supervisee, assessing performance, and setting timelines. Under this role, the supervisor instills time management skills in the supervisee by ensuring they complete tasks as per the assigned deadlines (Enlow et al., 2019). The three major roles are outlined in the work agreement so that the supervisor knows what they are expected to do.
The supervisory relationship is mutually contracted, and thus there are roles for the supervisee. Supervisees’ roles are meant to contribute to the effectiveness of the relationship to enhance their professional development. One role is demonstrating active participation in different activities such as meetings and teamwork to portray their commitment towards professional growth. Gibbs (1988) states that learning by doing is the best learning method; hence, active participation is essential. They should adhere to all the ethical guidelines and professional standards, which shows they are demonstrating integrity and maintaining confidentiality. They must also be receptive to the feedback they will receive from their supervisors. They should improve or adjust according to the feedback to enhance professional performance. These roles are essential for professional development success. However, the role may differ depending on the organizational policies concerning supervisees.
Communication and Feedback
This component defines the expected communication channels the two parties will use, feedback mechanisms, and communication frequency. The agreement may give communication channels such as phone calls, face-face meetings, emails, and virtual platforms. The communication frequency depends on the complexity of the projects, the supervisee’s level of expertise, and the stage of the supervisory process. However, regular communication assists in sharing the progress and addressing concerns as soon as they arise (Lee & Kim, 2021). Feedback mechanisms are crucial in professional development; thus, the agreement defines the most preferred formats for giving feedback. It could be written or verbal, depending on the project or job position. Enlow et al. (2019) state that the supervisor and the supervisee should ensure respectful communication to have a constructive, supportive, and positive working environment and improve the overall success of the supervisory relationship.
Impact of Work Agreement on the Supervisory Process
As mentioned earlier, a work agreement is essential to the supervisor-supervisee alliance. It guides the two parties by defining their roles and expectations and thus has a positive impact on the relationship. It serves as a foundation of effective communication between the two parties, which fosters the exchange of ideas and provides feedback. Since the formulation is before the supervisory process begins, it helps build trust and rapport between the parties (Martin et al., 2020). There is a better understanding of each other perspectives as it is a mutually formulated contract. It becomes the base for goal setting and planning for the entire process. It ensures that the set objectives enhance the supervisee’s professional growth. Since it is a documented agreement, it acts as a roadmap to guide the two parties until the supervisory period ends. Therefore, it ensures that the two parties give their input for a successful process.
The negotiation for a supervision work agreement starts with a discussion between the supervisor and the supervisee, which assists in knowing what is important to each other. During negotiation, the two parties set their expectations for each other, discuss the priorities of each, and acknowledge the importance of supervision. Negotiating an agreement tailored to each party’s needs and the organization’s constraints strengthens the relationship’s importance. A successfully negotiated agreement considers not only the needs of the parties but also other stakeholders such as the organizations, colleagues, and to some extent, their families. The supervisor and the supervisee have a voice in the agreement hence modeling the importance of respectful collaborations and a method of learning.
Establishing a work agreement at the beginning of the supervisory process assists in having a shared understanding of the roles and expectations of each. As such, there are minimized conflicts and ambiguities as the parties work towards the supervisee’s common goal of professional development. It becomes easier to allocate roles and set boundaries, creating a framework of proper decision–making, and each party is accountable for their actions. Accountability and responsibility from each party create a culture of commitment and ownership, ensuring everything is completed as expected. The agreement is written, hence acting as a reference during the supervisory process to ensure the supervisor acts as a mentor to the supervisee throughout.
Therefore, a working agreement for the alliance between a supervisor and a supervisee is essential for effective supervision. It fosters open communication, enhances professional development, and creates a positive relationship between the two parties. It requires the two parties to apply effort and invest time at the beginning of the process to create a comprehensive agreement that properly reflects their roles, responsibilities, and goals (Park et al., 2019). By doing so, it becomes an easy process of enhancing professional development for the supervisee. Lack of adherence to the defined roles in the agreement, lack of proper communication, and several conflicts or misunderstandings cause a breach of the contract. As such, the supervisory relationship becomes strained as the breach compromises the trust and confidence among the parties hindering collaboration. The supervisee risk missing a lot of learning opportunities as there is no necessary guidance from the supervisor (Enlow et al., 2019). The two parties should always aim at remaining collaborative and keeping to their promises for a smooth process.
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