The majority of MP’s offices are very busy, often to the point of overwhelm. Deadlines are a constant and they get routinely moved up and down the list depending on things happening nationally and in the House.
Bottom of the list for an MP are often staff supervision meetings and annual appraisals. If it’s an established office a senior staffer/office manager/chief of staff might have the responsibility and report directly back to the Member but otherwise it can be that staff do not have the support of a functioning supervision process, with lines of communication faltering sometimes leading to misunderstandings and serious issues.
Annual appraisals should be formal, looking back over a year, assessing performance and ability, and looking ahead to salary changes or role enhancements.
The purpose of the supervision process is somewhat different, and should be built into the office routine on a regular basis. Supervision meetings should provide a safe, supportive opportunity for individuals to engage in critical reflection in order to raise issues, explore problems, and discover new ways of handling both the situation and themselves. Regular supervision can be hugely productive for both the supervisor and supervisee – learning something about each other’s thought patterns and ability to problem solve.
A good supervisor should have great communication skills – the ability to communicate in a clear and concise manner using positive language to draw out the best from the supervisee.
So far so good.
But it’s busy, priorities are the House and constituents, time is short as MPs dash in and out of Westminster, and we know why most of this doesn’t happen.
The report by Dame Laura Cox on staffing in the House has been pretty damning – it doesn’t show up good practice and process and it highlights the glaring hole in the human resources for MPs staff. But with some planning and relatively small resources this can be improved.
A regular space for one to one supervision to allow staff that safe feedback space for both good and uncomfortable situations that have arisen, and a mediation system to ensure MPs don’t become detached from the very staff members that keep the show on the road day to day.
Staff matter; if we want to have a safe, happy, hardworking workforce serving the constituents of the UK MPs need to take heed.
Eve Burt, Hive Support Director. Eve has 18 years experience as a Parliamentary Office Manager. She also Chairs a voluntary organisation and handles staff management; including grievance and disciplinary procedures.