The Covenant Within Supervision

“Covenant” is a word that has been used to described numerous relationship between people throughout history. People still make covenants today. In many states, a marriage license is called a “marriage covenant.” Covenants are necessary for good supervision.

Covenants are not job descriptions. A job description relates only to task issues not personhood issues. A job description is generic inasmuch as it applies to whoever accepts the job. A covenant is personal since it relates to a specific person who has a responsibility. An employing agency develops a job description, but a supervisor and a supervisee negotiate a covenant. Both the job description and the covenant are compatible and important. A job description always contains more duties than a person can work on at any one time. A covenant helps define responsibilities, designated by the job description, that the person will work on during a specific period of time.

Types of Covenants:
There are three types of covenants: formal, informal and tacit. Each provides ways for supervisors to relate to the supervisee.

  1. Formal Covenants: Formal covenants are written agreements. They include conditions, responsibilities and expectations of the parties agreeing to the covenant. Formal covenants are intentional; they set out specific expectations.
  2. Informal Covenants: Informal covenants may be as intentional as formal covenants out are less likely to be written. They may be adequate for short term and non-developmental transactions. However, oral covenants are subject to game playing disclaimers, such as “I didn’t say that,” or qualifications, such as “But that is not what I meant.”
  3. Tacit Covenants: Tacit covenants include hidden conditions that one or both parties do not want to admit. The tacit covenant usually benefits one party to the detriment of the other. It can be changed without notice. A tacit covenant may exist alongside a formal or informal covenant. The reasoning goes like this: “We have this formal covenant, but what we will really do without telling anybody is….” A tacit covenant creates suspicion and confuses accountability. Avoid this type of covenant.

Goals in Covenanting:
Goals provide one of the most important parts of the covenant. They serve as a road map for the supervisee in relating to others, especially the supervisor. Goals are not static and may need to be revised. The covenant should be dated, and a review time should be designated for revising the goals when new situations arise or self awareness increases. The supervisor and the supervisee will have goals to enter into the covenant beyond the goals of the systems. These goals may deal with relationships or areas of the person’s personal growth. The goals should be reviewed carefully to ensure they are reasonable. The supervisee must not be caught between conflicting goals set by the system and the supervisor.

What to Include in the Covenant:
Four areas should be covered in the covenant: needs, goals, activities and evaluation. Different organizations use a variety of technical phrases to describe these areas, but the process is the same.

  1. Needs: First, determine what is needed. Write down a need followed by the goal it produces, the activities required to achieve the goal, and the evaluation process. Then write down the next need and repeat the process. The need serves as the overall “big picture” for the work.
  2. Goals: Goals should be a response to the need. While the need is general, goals should be specific. Goals should be attainable. It is tempting to set goals that are idealistic but unreasonable given the time, situation and resources. The goals should also be measurable. Personhood goals are often more difficult to measure and may need different criteria than task goals.
  3. Activities: Each goal will need multiple activities; actions designed to reach a specific goal. This is where you will outline the responsibilities and roles for accomplishing the stated goal.
  4. Evaluation: Each goal requires an evaluation process that includes a date set to accomplish the goal. The criterion for evaluation is as necessary as the process. How do you know they did what they set out to do?

Other Considerations in Covenanting:
Expectations:

  1. Time: The covenant should specify a time frame. An important time concern is the number of hours per week the person should spend at the task. The person may consider 40 hours per week a normal expectation, while the supervisor may expect 60 or 80. Personal time is also important. The emotional demands of a work setting may exact a toll that can be dealt with only by adequate personal time for renewal. The wise supervisor will be concerned about not only the task time, but the person’s time for study, family and spiritual renewal.
  2. Work: The type and intensity of work also should be defined in the covenant. The person may not see paperwork or other activities as relevant even though the system may require them.
  3. Behavior: Supervisors sometimes have been surprised by the behavior of their supervisees. The surprises may involve dress, personal habits or language of supervisees who were not aware of cultural differences, taboos or expectations.

Roles and Relationships: The supervisor and the person should covenant their relationship and roles. When the supervisor is program oriented and the person is person oriented, difficulties can arise. Differences in age, gender and culture can heighten these problems.

Renegotiation: Circumstances and relationships may require the covenant to be re evaluated and rewritten. A time for renegotiation should be included in the original covenant. This gives the covenant a chance to work and prevents change on a whim. Renegotiation, as part of the original covenant, is done by mutual consent of the supervisor and the supervisee.

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