In any workplace, tension is bound to arise. The family farm is no different. Lines are crossed, resentment is nurtured and, in the worst cases, bridges are burned. In spite of working with your family–or in some cases because of it–buttons are pushed and boundaries are bypassed. The resulting strain on the farm as well as on the individuals who value it can be devastating. Below are some more tips to prevent tension from occurring in the first place and how to fix the issues you may currently be experiencing.
Write It Down
You should have procedures firmly in place for every job that needs to be done on the farm. These procedures should outline what needs to be done, how often, what doing a complete and thorough job entails, who is responsible for it and a designated substitute if the responsible party is out ill. Often times, we commit these tasks to memory, however, this is where problems arise. One worker might think he’s doing a complete job, while another is fostering resentment because the job isn’t being completed to her expectations. By having detailed written lists of all procedures and expectations consolidated in a binder, there is no confusion (and subsequently tension) as to who does what, when, and how.
Hold Regular Meetings
Holding regular meetings to discuss issues on the farm is not only conducive to airing grievances before they become palpable tension, but makes for good business practice in general. There is no guideline for how often you should hold meetings, but having a solid agenda and following these practices will help them to run smoothly and iron out any misunderstandings before they become major issues.
- Let everyone have a chance to be heard.
- Discuss what is working as well as what isn’t working.
- For things that aren’t working, avoid using “you” statements which cause people to become defensive. Instead use “I” statements. For example, try saying “I am feeling overworked because I am handling X, Y and Z. Going forward, it would really help me if you could handle Z.” This is much more effective than the “you” statement “You never do any work! When are you going to help out?”
- Do not let meetings become giant arguments. If the meeting is becoming less about working to constructively solve issues on the farm and becoming more about family bickering, end the meeting and resume when calm heads prevail.
Say Thank You
A little praise goes a long way. People work harder when they feel their contributions are valued. When is the last time you praised someone for a job well done? The last time you gave a genuine thank you to those who help make your farm run? You don’t need to wait for a special occasion to say thank you. If you cannot remember the last time you doled out praise, sincerely expressing your appreciation goes far in dissipating existing tension.
Looking for more tips to on leaving a viable agricultural legacy? We’d love to hear from you!