It is true that one of the greatest challenges we face as behavior analysts is the commitment of those delivering the services we design. Whether you work in private therapy with kids with developmental disabilities, or at a large service delivery organization, chances are that the person designing the behavior programs and the person delivering the program is not the same. In fact, many times one person creates the plan and several people are responsible for its delivery. Many times, the person delivering the service does not have training in behavior analysis—teachers, aides, patient technicians, nurses, etc.—and at times they outright tell you that ABA is a waste of time.
This week, I heard someone complaining that their direct care worker was “just lazy”, and that is the reason the behavior plan did not work. I asked her to tell me more, and she described how inefficient that worker was in collecting data, proudly showing the discrepancies on the graphs of the data she collected and the data the direct care worker collected: “You see, he is just entering any number, he can’t be bothered with actually taking the data.” Humm… Perhaps the difference is due to the fact that you know how to collect the data, and the direct care worker doesn’t? Perhaps you understand the reason why data needs to be collect, but the direct care worker thinks it’s just extra work? Perhaps it is hard for the direct care worker to collect data with all the other demands of his job?
The reasons why that worker could vary tremendously, but what about laziness? Dictionary.com defines the term lazy as “averse or disinclined to work”. So, now that we have taken the subjectivity out of the term, and defined like this, the solution to the problem of a lazy worker becomes crystal clear: it is an issue of motivation. We, as the people who know the science of behavior modification are actually the ones who understand how to use is principles to change performance, even that of a “lazy worker”.
When we create a behavior modification program, we are actually treating the web of behaviors that are related to the target behavior. We are treating the behavior of the client, and the behavior of the personnel delivering the program. Yes, it can be very frustrating to work with people who do not understand ABA. It can also be extremely rewarding and exciting! When we are faced with a worker who presents challenges, let’s use that opportunity to expand out net to web of behaviors around us, and let’s do that one little bit to help change the world.
Let us know of your experience with difficult workers. How did you address it? What worked? What did not work? You may also what to read Why Some Behavioral Interventions Don’t Seem To Work for another interesting take on this issue.