The first week at my internship site has been a learning experience as I am trained in new tasks and meet different people every day. With a new job comes a new office culture, and each is never quite like the last. The public defender’s office has been an interesting testing ground to see task-oriented and relationship-oriented leadership styles in motion. Interestingly, I find that employees tend to approach their work differently based on the nature of their position and the department that they are in. For example, the investigative division (which my internship is in) is led by a woman who gives clear directions, sets expectations about when work will be done and seems to lead by example in doing an excellent job with her work. She’s a lovely person, but she wastes no time chatting with her colleagues or seeking approval from others. In other words, she is very task oriented. The nature of her job is fact finding, and often investigative work requires relentless inquiry and exercising due diligence.
The client services division, however, is predicated entirely on relationship building. The employees’ days are spent sitting down with our clients, assessing their needs and wellbeing and connecting them to valuable social services that will help them ascend their present circumstances. Client services employees, who are often social workers or youth advocates, must earn the trust of the clients who they advise or else their work would be pointless. I often find that people in this division tend to be more conversational with each other. In this sense, they are relationship oriented. Their job requires them to build connections with people rather than just complete tasks, and thus this spills over even into their interactions with each other.
Overall, the theory of relationship and task orientations in leadership holds up decently in a true office setting. It was valuable to apply this theory to my office because it helped me understand how jobs can be a self fulfilling prophecy: if your work necessitates that you gain other’s trust and connect with them socially, you will approach your work through this orientation. If your work requires you to complete jobs in a timely manner and finish specific projects, you will as well. While neither job can be completed without some mix of task and relational focuses, it makes sense to me why my supervisor might not take a relational approach to investigating cases and why a social worker would not emphasize tasks in their meetings with a client.