Justification Essay

Do you agree or not? Justify your answer.

Student 1. Z. Darr

I am a bilingual caseplanner in a general preventive, child welfare agency. On any given day, you might find me providing counseling services with families/individuals in the home, at my office, or in a child’s school. I also conduct outreach to teachers, mental/medical health providers, relatives, ACS, mentors and other community resources. As a worker within the field of child welfare, I am responsible for the safety, permanency and well-being of all the children I work with. Unfortunately, a significant portion of my time is spent writing progress notes and Family Assessment Service Plans (FASPs), this is especially true if a safety concern has been identified, such as DV or substance abuse, and immediate action needs to be taken. I should note that I understand the necessity of this work, however, at times it feels more arduous than need be.

How do you feel about your work with an inclusion of Dan Ariely’s ideas about Meaningful vs. Sisyphic experiences; the “Ikea” effect; and how you would like to incorporate the important factors for work satisfaction at the end of his talk (right after his comparison of Adam Smith to Karl Marx).

As a preventive worker I have find myself identifying my work as meaningful, however, there are aspects of my work that seem sisyphic. In his Ted Talk, Ariely notes that work is meaningful when it is acknowledged. In this sense I have been exceptionally fortunate. My program is extremely supportive; whether it be during a case record review, supervision, or through casual conversation, we all find ways to acknowledge the effort that goes into our work with families. Additionally, over the years there have been a handful of moments in which clients have conveyed such overwhelming gratitude for the support that I was able to provide, that these instances have stuck out in my mind as “meaningful milestones”, reminding me why I continue to do the work that I do.

If there is one aspect about my work that can be said to be sisyphic it is paperwork. After all, I decided on social work as a career because I was drawn to human “social” interaction. As mentioned earlier, I am not suggesting that documentation is unimportant, but it is a part of my work that is never quite complete. Unlike Sisyphus, my paperwork boulder does not roll back down to the bottom of the mountain, rather it feels like the top of the mountain is always just out of sight. In a more macro sense, I understand that my work as a preventive caseplanner is in and of itself a sisyphic role in society. For example, no matter how many teens I can help “stay off the streets”, there will always be another. I am treating a symptom of oppression, not the root cause. This brings into question the larger issue of capitalism, which is beyond the realm of this discussion; nevertheless, it should cause other social workers to pause and consider our current socio-political environment, and what it would take to provide an actual holistic social cure, rather than just a temporary/isolated/individual one.

The “Ikea” effect that Ariely mentions suggest, that when individuals are challenged and afforded ownership over their work, they will value it more than if it were not as difficult. This seems to be true for the work that I do. There is a difference between being able to work successfully with a willing client and one who was initially resistant. Similarly, as part of my role in my program, caseworkers run groups. Although I enjoy co-facilitating/observing the workshops others create, I value the ones that I have worked on directly.

The final segment of Ariely’s Ted Talk focused on a revised model of labor, in which payment is not our only motivation for engaging in work. Drawing upon the Marxist understanding of alienation, Ariely emphasizes the importance of meaning, creation, challenge, ownership, identity, and pride. Although it may seem like a simple conclusion, this idea can easily become obscured within a society that places a considerable amount of pressure on an individual’s ability to earn a high income. Speaking for most social work professionals, I can safely assume that we are not “in it for the money”. With this in mind, I believe one of the primary motivator for me is creativity. In my sessions with clients I am have a substantial amount of freedom to structure engagement how I believe will best serve my client’s concerns. I reciprocate this freedom by encouraging my clients to express their own thoughts on how we should conduct our sessions.

P.S. My apologies to the group for missing the deadline on the previous group discussion board. I was under the weather for much of the time leading up to the assignment and it quite slipped my mind. Looking forward to more dynamic discussion as the semester continues!

Student 2. J. Montalvo

I work for Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children as an Outreach Manager. My role at Spence-Chapin is to provide prospective adoptive families with information on our domestic and international adoption programs. I also support the Birth Parent Outreach team and connect women/families who are facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, to social workers for free, confidential and unbiased options counseling.

I completely agree with Dan Ariely’s talk about meaningful and sisyphic experiences and the “IKEA” effect. He shared in the video, “there’s something about this cyclical version of doing something over and over and over that seems to be particularly demotivating,” and he is right. I love the work that I do, and knowing that I’m making a difference in finding a child a permanent, loving home. But, I tend to do (almost) the exact same thing on a daily basis which gets a little unmotivating. So, those days when a family is (finally) placed with a child, it reminds me of why I love the work. I see that the initial conversations I’ve had with families in the beginning stages of adoption, led them to that moment.

I’ve experienced the sisyphic effect recently and felt like my hard work went unnoticed. I was recently given a project to work on, which was to design a resource webpage (within our website) for expectant women/families in the NYC and NJ area. Resources included parenting support, housing assistance, food banks, abortion/prenatal care, etc. I was responsible in gathering information on organizations that provide these services and create an extensive list of those organizations that families can be referred to. I worked on the project over the course of several weeks and was given a hard deadline of March 1st, 2019 to complete the design and have it live on the Spence-Chapin page. I felt motivated while working on this project because it challenged me- I had clear ownership and the freedom to include my creativity, and most importantly, I felt challenged. Once I completed the project, and worked with the web designer to pull it all together, I was then told that we were hiring an external company that will be redesigning our website, and it is likely that the resource page will be completely different.

The meaning behind doing something is very important for motivation. Completing a task without clearly understanding why it needed to get done, is different than understanding the purpose of why you are completing that task- the example that Dan shared in the video was a prime example of that. The student prepped for a presentation for a while, before being told (the day before) that it was cancelled. Feeling challenged is something that is also extremely important for someone to feel motivated at work. The larger the task, the greater to opportunity for better results. Better results will lead to an increase of intrinsic inspiration.

By working with clients and thinking about the meaning, the challenges, and the ownership on one’s work, we as social workers can have a positive impact not only on the individuals we serve but also on the community at large, which can provide a sense of achievement and pride.
DB # 1 – Please watch the TED Talk “What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work”. Keeping our chosen profession (social work) in mind, please develop a reflective post about you feel about your current job and / or field placement. Please include the following in your post:

1. Briefly identify what you currently do

2. How do you feel about your work with an inclusion of Dan Ariely’s ideas about Meaningful vs. Sisyphic experiences; the “Ikea” effect; and how you would like to incorporate the important factors for work satisfaction at the end of his talk (right after his comparison of Adam Smith to Karl Marx).


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