We are thrilled by the response we’ve received to our survey of direct support professionals. More than 830 people responded from all over the country.
Feeling the Love
Let’s start with the positive. Respondents were asked to pick three answers to the question, “What do you like most about your job?” The No. 1 response was, “I make a difference in the lives of the people I support.” In a close second place was, “I enjoy being with the people I support.”
Survey respondents left some beautiful comments under “Other” for this question.
“I like the sense of purpose that I feel knowing that I have an impact on someone’s life… Their happiness and seeing them grow and integrate into the community has had such a profound, positive impact on my life.”
“The people I work with have taught me so much about myself. I am truly blessed to be a DSP for such great people.”
“I love my job and I have nothing negative to say after almost 19 years. ♥”
“There are always days at any job where a person feels like they ought to be paid triple what they make. I have those days. I also have days where I feel like I should pay my employer to be at such a cool job. That is a wonderful feeling. I enjoy my job.”
What Do You Dislike?
The next question was, “What do you dislike most about your job?” Not surprisingly, “I am not fairly compensated for my work,” was the top answer by far.
But, to my surprise, the second most-selected answer was “Other,” and the responses were enlightening. I grouped them by theme, and the most common problems had to do with management and supervisors. Most of the responses related to lack of appreciation, poor communication and the supervision of co-workers.
“Management is not always supportive. As staff we get talked down to and made to feel unimportant. We work very hard and it is not appreciated to be made to feel and or treated like a 5 year old.”
“Many staff feel unappreciated and the pay is poor for those that have been loyal employees for years.”
“People always say they appreciate me and the job I do, but I don’t always feel that’s true.”
Later in the survey, we asked long-serving DSPs (those who have been doing the job for at least 6 years), “Besides increasing your pay or benefits, what is the most important thing your employer could do to make sure you stay with them for the next five years?” The top answer was, “Show more appreciation for my work.”
One of those long-serving DSPs was especially frustrated by communication problems between supervisors and staff.
Poor communication between supervisor to staff in regards to important things that are told to one staff and assumed to be passed on from that single staff to all other staff, rather than being written in [a post on their electronic documentation system] or bulletin/note put out for ALL staff to see, then signed by all staff confirming that all staff were aware of new changes, etc. Rather than the hit and miss communication that the majority of us never even find out about what changed till months later when we get called out for something that we were never notified of or told of.
Other respondents expressed frustration about a lack of communication about the changing goals and needs of clients. Some also wanted to see better communication between supervisors.
Plenty of DSPs expressed frustration about the poor job performance of their co-workers. While most of these comments do not directly reference management or supervisors, I put them in this category because the only way to address poor work performance is with better supervision.
“I believe that there is no accountability when it comes to certain aspects of co-workers [and] their approach with the individuals.”
“I do not like working with others who do not show respect to the clients and their homes/personal belongings.”
“I work hard, and when I come back after 1 or 2 days off, messes are left for me. I wish my co-workers were more motivated and pulled their weight.”
“Sometimes you work with staff that appear to not like their job, or see their job only as a job, and they bring that negativity into the environment.”
There are few things that can ruin employee morale more quickly than feeling like the people around you don’t care, you are stuck doing all the work and no one is holding your co-workers accountable.
There is good news regarding respondents’ feelings about their supervisors. About 37% of respondents checked “My supervisor is supportive” as one of the things they like most about their job, compared to about 19% who picked “My supervisor is not supportive” as one of the things they like least about their job.
There are a number of issues that may be the cause of this dissatisfaction with management and supervisors. A few respondents acknowledged that supervisors, just like the DSPs, are spread thin. But by and large, it appears that the root of these issues is a lack of supervisory skills among qualified intellectual disability professionals (QIDPs) and managers. Training to help supervisors understand the importance of avoiding preferential treatment, tamping down work politics, and providing clear and consistent communication could improve the work environment for your DSPs.