Thursday, January 5, 2012

Learning to say no.

Last summer I took a part-time job at a local non-profit agency that serves adults with intellectual disabilities. Technically my title is "Residential Counselor" but I'm often referred to as "Staff." For example, "Amber is so-and-so's staff." Technically I provide in home care for these clients and help them work towards their "life goals." Their life goals is one of my favorite parts of the job and I love helping them work towards them. Common examples of life goals are cooking goals, exercise goals and budgeting goals.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have been working with the same client (whom I call C) at the non-profit agency. When I first accepted the position, I specified that I wanted to be on-call staff only, because knowing my schedule changes every four months, I didn’t want clients to get attached and not work with other staff and I also didn't want to have to worry about rearranging my schedule as well as theirs multiple times throughout the year. Somehow I ended up working regularly with C, and although I love working with her, my worst fear has come true.

I ended up working regularly with C because her schedule worked well with mine, I knew her already because one of my best friends worked with her for a year and I knew she would be fun to work with. She’s very high functioning and really does not need a lot of help. Each week we do pretty much the same things. We go to the YMCA and work out (she walks, I run), we go to the library (she's working on her computer skills), we go to Friendship Class (which is basically Bible study), and we go do other normal everyday things like grocery shop or go rent movies.

Now that spring semester is about to begin my schedule is changing again, and I am working one less day with C. I really didn’t think she would mind that much. Sometimes she appears to be so annoyed with me that I thought she would welcome some new staff.

Apparently that is not the case.

I was chatting with another counselor and she was saying how one day she showed up to work with C, and C had left a note saying she didn’t need staff today. Then on another occasion she was scheduled to work C, she decided to call and double check that C was home before driving out to her place. C answered the phone and said that “Amber was coming and that she didn’t want any other staff.”

I wasn’t working that day.


I’m touched and really very shocked, but I’m not sure where to go with it. Yesterday I mentioned again that I will not be able to work with her on Mondays and that she will have some new staff on Mondays. I suppose I will have to keep mentioning it and keep asking how things went with the other staff.

This is very surprising, because although I hate to admit this, sometimes I feel like I get a little mean with C. She needs tough love, and I worry that I get too blunt with her. I suppose tough love is subjective and my idea of being blunt is very different from someone else’s. I guess I’m not being mean if she wants me around!

This is exactly what I didn’t want, because although it is very touching, it’s heartbreaking and it makes me want to work with her, even though I am already spread too thin right now. She's having a meeting with other members on her team and I hope we can get some things resolved because she's frustrating a lot of people around her!

Just another example of where I need to learn how to say “no.” As much as I enjoy working with her regularly, I had a feeling this would not end well. I'm confident that we can get this resolved, but I'm worried things will have to get worse before they get better. Don't ya hate that?

Is there an area of your life where you struggle with saying no? For me, it is most definitely work. Always has been!


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh that is tough. I mean it's a compliment to you as clearly she loves working with you. But it's tough that she isn't letting others work with her....

I have a hard time saying no in my personal life. I just had a conversation about this with my boss yesterday as I really struggle to balance CFA studying, working, running, and having a social life. A friend contacted me recently and asked if i wanted to do something, and I responded and said - maybe in mid February? I feel bad because I don't want to come off as though I am so busy and important. I just know my limits right now and it doesn't include much of a social life.

Whew. Long comment!! This is something I really struggle with so I have lots to say about it! Good luck figuring out the situation with C!!

Amanda said...

I have a HARD time saying no too. As hard as it is, it is something I am slowly (and painfully, sometimes)getting better at.

You probably just find joy in helping others more than you are able to realize on your own. As much as a down fall as it may seem to be to you, it is a wonderful trait to have in a friend, so your friends are lucky!

Miss Oakley @ Observations by Miss Oakley said...

I have gotten better with saying "no"...but I still need to work on it. Due to the fact that I don't have a job currently...I am seeing that it is hard to say "no" in my personal life. I just don't want to let anyone down. Sometimes, I put my feelings last and that's not always the best.

C is going to miss you this semester! She's attached! And I think you are too ;)

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

I'm sure over time your client will get better with the new schedule. It's completely ok to say no sometimes!

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

Ha, I am just NOW catching up on blog reading, hence my question on twitter about who C was the other day. Oops. Anyway, I think a lot of people, especially those with intellectual disabilities really crave people who are tough with them because many people tend to "baby" them. Just my personal thoughts. I think you should just stand firm that you cannot work on Mondays with her, but still see her any day you can. That way you can sort of slowly transition her to working with different staff members.

I am terrible at saying no too, sometimes in life!