'Riding the juggernault': Tensions and opportunities in management supervision

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This chapter reviews some of the relevant literature and research findings on the specific features of management supervision and what we might learn from such a review for contemporary practice. Paying attention to some of the strategies and practice of managers in supervision systems, relationships and outcomes can help to challenge tacit or taken-for-granted modes of supervision as well as to challenge some of the negativity about the role that managers are seen to play and described in recent narratives of neo-liberalism. It is important to highlight the important functions of supervision that can be prioritised within management practice and the value given to creating a space for both managers and staff to reflect critically on the context in which they work and on the opportunities to lead change. Looking at supervision through a management lens highlights how supervision does not exist in a vacuum and at how wider organizational issues inevitably impact on the supervisory process. Giddens (1990, p. 53) used the term 'riding the juggernaut', to characterise the complexity of institutional frameworks and rapidly expanding information/ knowledge that comes with negotiating these. Cooper (2005) also pointed to clear tensions between surface and depth issues in social work often ignored in any ensuing critiques of social work practice following critical incidents. Cooper highlighted how managers may be only skimming the surface of some of the anxieties being contained in the organisation around the often difficult, complex and sometimes dangerous work that they and their staff are dealing with in social care. In this chapter therefore I will pay attention to some of the strategies that managers might use to mediate these uncertainties and to demonstrate balanced, nuanced and compassionate supervision practices which are also framed within maintaining and supporting the best standards of social work possible.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Social Work Supervision
EditorsKieran O'Donoghue, Lambert Engelbrecht
Place of PublicationLondon, New York
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021


  • management supervision
  • social work
  • critical incident management


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