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Title: The use of supervisory authority in Chinese cultural context
Author(s): Tsui, Ming Sum 
Lam, Ching Man 
Author(s): Ho, W. S.
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: Routledge
Journal: Administration in Social Work 
Volume: 29
Issue: 4
Start page: 51
End page: 68
This qualitative study explores supervisory authority in the relationship between social work supervisors and frontline social workers in Hong Kong. Forty in-depth interviews and seven focus groups were conducted with supervisors, supervisees, and local experts. The findings reflect that the supervisors dominate the decision-making process and that their authority is apparent in the supervisor-supervisee relationship. The results reveal that in issues related to policy or administration, or when there is an urgent need for timely decision-making, supervisors would give clear instructions and adopt a straightforward decision-making strategy. Discussion among staff is allowed and encouraged, but it focuses on issues related to professional practice or service delivery. Supervisees tend to use supervision to ensure that the supervisor is responsible for decision-making, and they often become frustrated when no clear instructions are given. The Chinese attitude towards hierarchical relationship and practice of subordination to authority are obvious in the supervisor-supervisee relationship. Most supervisors interviewed tend to adopt a “consensus by consultation and consent” approach in their supervisory practice. This approach reduces staff participation and sense of belonging. Supervisors are advised to achieve referent power and expert power by using a competence model of supervision to replace culturally ascribed authority.
DOI: 10.1300/J147v29n04_04
CIHE Affiliated Publication: No
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