How Can Social Workers Effectively Transition Out of a Job When They Have Unstable Clients Who Won’t React Well to the News?

Social work jobs require that social workers spend time with a range of different people each week. Whether you work for a local agency, in a hospital or at a community health clinic, you likely work with some unstable people who do not react well to bad news. Hearing that you decided to leave for another job can make that person act out in violent ways. Leaving the job is no different than leaving a relationship with an unstable person, which is why you need to take steps to protect yourself and your soon-to-be former client.

Introduce New Workers

Introducing the client to other social workers and new workers is one way you can effectively leave without ruffling any feathers. During the transition stage, which should occur over the last few weeks you spend on the job, you should start bringing that new worker into appointments and letting that worker handle some of the same tasks that you usually do. This helps the client feel more comfortable with that worker. You can also make it clear that the new worker will take over the client's case in the future.

Do Not Give Other Options

Some social workers make the mistake of giving unstable clients the freedom to pick from different options. They let that individual do x, y and z instead of a, b and c on any given day because it's easier to do what that person wants than have an argument. When you transition to a new job, you need to make it clear that there are no other options and that you will not come back. If the client feels like he or she can still turn to you for help, the individual may try to contact you outside of work or come to your home or new job.

Have Help Nearby

Not all social work jobs are in safe locations with security measures in place. Some jobs are in inner cities and urban areas with no security guards on-site and no police officers in the vicinity. When it comes time for you to say your goodbyes, you should make sure that there is help nearby. You may want to call the police and request an officer come to the scene, or you might turn to your coworkers and ask them to stick around. Always have someone leave with you and walk you to your car to avoid any incidents too.

End Things Cleanly

Linda Lewis Griffith recommends that those trying to end a relationship with an unstable person end things clearly and cleanly, which also applies to those moving to a new job. Your old clients may think that it's just a short-term change and that you'll be back again soon. This can make them act out when you do not come back and lead to your former coworkers contacting you frequently for help. Make a clean break as you explain that you have a new job and that you need to leave. Do not leave the door open for any future contact.

Social workers can work in health care facilities, for school districts and for government agencies. They often change jobs as a way to avoid the burn out that others experience. As you change social work jobs, you can end the relationships that you had with unstable clients and keep them from contacting you later.