Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living – Use holding emails

Email communication is a very strong feature of modern working life for a high proportion of people. It can be a very convenient and helpful form of communication, but it can also be highly problematic in a number of ways. One such way is the common (but thankfully not universal) expectation that responses will be more or less instant. This can lead to two sets of difficulties. One is that the person receiving an email may feel under pressure to reply there and then (when perhaps a more considered response would be wiser) and another is that the person sending the email can feel they are being ignored if they do not receive a prompt response. One way of addressing this problem is for the recipient to send a ‘holding’ message, something like: ‘Thank you for your message. I will give the matter my careful consideration and come back to you as soon as I can’. This will prevent hurried ill-thought-through messages being sent and will also stop the sender sending follow up messages to see if their first message had been received. This technique also prevents us from feeling overwhelmed by email and therefore prone to getting stressed about it.

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Sociological insights to help understand people’s lives and their challenges

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Music for dementia

It is anticipated that there will be one million people living with dementia in the UK by 2021. Music is a powerful connector and has the ability to bring people together in the here and now. It can enliven, stimulate and enable people living with dementia to express themselves creatively through musical engagement. Research has shown and lived experiences demonstrate that music has the ability to help reduce the often-distressing symptoms of dementia, such as agitation, apathy and anxiety.

Music supports people living with dementia to communicate beyond words, helping them to connect with others. It supports emotional health and wellbeing, particularly at a time when emotions can be overwhelming or difficult to process or manage. It has a valuable role to play in enhancing quality of life and supporting carers in their vital roles.

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Time and Workload Management: An essential guide to managing a heavy workload

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Recognition Matters – A knowledge exchange and impact project

Respectful, inclusive processes that involve families have value in themselves. Family members need to feel ‘recognised’, in order to be able to participate fully in key decisions. When children are really vulnerable to harm social workers have to work even harder to create partnership with families where risk is present. For infants, babies, and very young children, as well as older children who are non-verbal or require constant care as they grow up, we need to find ways to work with risk that do not necessarily involve family separations.

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The Professional Social Worker: An essential text for all social workers

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Tackling race hate incidents in the workplace

Race hate incidents are acts of violence or hostility against people because of their race and are illegal in criminal law. If these occur in the workplace, they are also unlawful race discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and can amount to gross misconduct for example, where one employee threatens another employee with physical violence because of the colour of their skin.

Employees expect to be treated fairly and considerately in the workplace. When it comes to issues of race discrimination and race hate, fair treatment is a moral and legal duty and employers have a responsibility to investigate and respond to any issue they become aware of, as well as take all reasonable measures to protect employees from harassment for example, if a customer abuses an employee over the shop counter because of their accent.

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Connect with Neil Thompson online! For Neil's blog and more resources

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Neil Thompson’s Lesson for Living – Dress for the part

‘I should be able to wear what I want and not be judged’ said one participant on a training course I was running. I agreed with her, particularly the word ‘should’, but I had to point out that people do attach significance to what we wear, even though ideally that should not happen. Our clothing is part of nonverbal communication. Whether we intend it or not, whether we agree with it or not, what we wear provides information about us that other people will generally attach significance to. For example, you may be highly committed to a job you are applying for, but if you turn up for the interview wearing jeans and a T-shirt, it is highly likely you will be seen to be conveying a lack of seriousness towards that job. But less extreme examples apply on a much more frequent basis, so it is important to ask ourselves: is my choice of clothing today conveying the message I want to put across to people? This does not mean that we should always dress formally, but it does mean we need to be tuned in to what message our clothes convey in different circumstances.

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Ensuring every older person is treated with dignity as a unique individual

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Study suggests need for UK employers to offer employee mental wellbeing support

A survey of 2,000 UK consumers by digital health company BioBeats suggests that nearly a quarter (21 percent) of UK employees say that their mental health will be negatively impacted by extending remote working measures post-lockdown. Only 5 percent of respondents state that their mental health will improve as a result of extended remote working but alarmingly only 3 percent say they would ask for help in coping with this new way of working, which presents a striking gap between employees’ needs and their ability to seek support from their employer.

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It’s all about people: visit Neil Thompson’s humansolutions website

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Advice on supporting each other at work following the death of a colleague

The realities of Covid-19 means that there are additional challenges for people mourning the death of a colleague due to the lack of access to support from friends, family and colleagues. The British Psychological Society’s Covid-19 bereavement task force has launched a new document, ‘Supporting each other following the death of a colleague’, to help people understand their feelings and reaction if they do lose a colleague during this time.

Professor Nichola Rooney, chair of the task force, said:

“Sadly, many people have been bereaved during the Covid-19 pandemic, with some grieving the death of a colleague.

We spend a lot of time at work and often form close bonds with people we work with, so losing a colleague at a time when we may not have our usual support networks can be particularly difficult.”

The booklet gives advice on how to cope with returning to work following the death of a colleague and encourages employees to take advantage of the support that is available to them and allowing for the fact that work may be affected by the grieving process.

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A Career in Social Work: Part biography, part overview of social work careers

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Seth Godin’s blog – The dominant culture

One of the great cartoons involves two goldfish in a tank talking to one another. One responds in surprise, “wait, there’s water?”

When we don’t see the water, it’s a sign we’re benefitting from being part of the dominant culture. And since we’re not fish, we can learn to see the water and figure out how it is affecting us and the people around us.

Visit a country where they don’t speak English and you’ll probably remind yourself all day that you speak English, something you didn’t have to think about last week. You’ll have to work overtime to understand and communicate. Back home, that stress disappears.

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The Authentic Leader A new approach to leadership in Neil’s important book.

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Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living – Look for reasons not causes

People commonly talk about what causes a particular behaviour or reaction. However, as it is people we are talking about, it makes more sense to talk about reasons, rather than causes. Human beings exist in a social context that is very powerful in its wide range of influences and we are, of course, subject to certain biological forces and constraints. But none of this removes human ‘agency’, to use the technical term, the ability to make choices. If we are looking for causes not reasons, we can be neglecting some key aspects of how a situation arose or how it is likely to unfold. Of course, it would be naïve not to recognize that we do not have complete control over our circumstances, but it would also be very unwise to assume that we have no control over what happens to us, that we are just passive victims of circumstance. To make sense of a complex situation, we need to understand both the influences on choices and the reasons for the choices actually made.

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A practical guide to supervision of students & other forms of workplace learning

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50 Women for 50 Years project

The 50 women for 50 years project aims to share the stories of 50 women from a diverse range of sectors, backgrounds, age and experiences to highlight the ongoing challenges facing women in work, opportunities and pay. Friday 29th May 2020 marks 50 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act 1970; the landmark legislation which made equal pay for equal work a legal right for all. But 50 years on, pay inequality is still rife and the vast majority of UK companies still pay women less on average. Equal pay is possible, but we need your help to make the legislation a reality for women across the UK. Find out what you can to do support The Equality Trust’s campaign to end gender pay inequality.

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If you’re a social worker come join us in the Social Work Focus Facebook group!

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Making up with the Joneses: How Covid-19 has brought neighbours closer

In the 10 years he has lived in his house in Wavertree in Liverpool, Greg Schofield is not sure he had ever gone into the alleyway behind his rear garden, an unlovely strip of weed-strewn cobbles where some neighbours kept their bins. Though he and his wife are close to their immediate neighbours on one side, there were only two other families in the street they knew to say hello to.

Come lockdown, however, something changed. Someone set up a WhatsApp group and a couple of neighbours asked if anyone was up for tidying the alley. After most of the 14 households in the block turned up, each clearing their immediate patch, “It got people quite excited,” says Schofield. “People began to see how nice the cobbles could look without the weeds.”

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Effective Teamwork: The importance of working together

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Action for Children – What we do

“Without Action for Children, I don’t know where I’d be. Me and my children would have been homeless. But my support worker, she helped us in so many ways. I am so grateful.” Our vision is that every child and young person in the UK has a safe and happy childhood, and the foundations they need to thrive. We do this by working closely with children and their families, from before they’re born until their twenties.

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Learn with Neil Thompson: Sign up to Neil’s YouTube channel

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Spotlight – The Social Worker’s Practice Manual

The ideal practice guide for every social worker and social work student. Based on Neil Thompson’s extensive experience of bringing theory to life in a practice context, this invaluable manual is an essential guide for all practitioners, from student on placement through newly qualified worker to old hand.

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Emotional Competence Learn to develop your emotional intelligence and resilience

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Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living – I-Thou, not I-it

This distinction comes from the work of Buber, a theologian. I-Thou refers to interactions that are premised on dignity and mutual respect. These can be enriching and humanizing for both parties. I-it interactions, by contrast, are purely instrumental, purely about getting the job done with the minimum of human connection – not necessarily rude or discourteous, but with no warmth or feeling. These interactions can be dehumanizing not only for the person on the receiving end of such an approach, but also the person who initiates this type of interaction. Some people rely on I-it interactions because they have no motivation to rise above simply getting the job done. However, even people who are committed to I-Thou interactions and the advantages they bring can slide into I-it interactions at times – for example, when they are under high levels of pressure, are working in a context of low morale or have other concerns that are distracting them from doing their job to the best of their ability. This can be dangerous, as it can create a vicious circle: interacting with people at an I-it level can make us far less effective, potentially lead to complaints and/or dissatisfactions, bringing additional pressure which can then make it all the more likely that we respond to others in an I-it way.

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Not a textbook, a hands-on manual of practice guidance. An essential resource!

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