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September 2013 Archive for Labor Matters

RSS By: Dairy Today: Labor Matters, Dairy Today

Experts cover today’s key dairy labor issues and offer fool-proof techniques to optimize employee performance, sat­isfaction and longevity.

How Do You Handle a Difficult Employee with a Bad Attitude?

Sep 27, 2013

Here are five steps to deal with employees before the situation gets out of control.

By Gerald E. Higginbotham, Ph. D, PAS
Ruminant Business Manager- Western States, Micronutrients

Higginbotham 5 12   CopyUnfortunately, even when dairy managers try to hire the best team, there is still the chance they will have a difficult employee or two. A difficult employee could do some of the following:

- Does the absolute minimum work expected
- Criticizes the farm employment polices
- Gossiping
- Backstabbing a fellow employee
- Has a bad attitude

With a difficult employee, there is usually no enthusiasm or drive to do his or her job at an adequate performance level. An employee’s bad attitude can affect the morale of co-workers of those who work hard and follow the rules. It can also test the dairy manager’s ability as a manager as your employees will look toward the manger to handle the situation. If not addressed, other employees will think that bad performance is acceptable.

No one likes to have to deal with these types of problem employees, but when you have an employee who is disruptive or has a bad attitude, you need to deal with it soon as possible.

The following are steps that managers may consider to deal with employees who may have a bad attitude1.

A. Make a distinction between bad attitudes and bad behaviors. Attitudes are, after all, subjective; what seems like an attitude problem to one person may not seem all that bad to another. Since it is difficult to document an attitude, documenting instances of employee behaviors is the key to correcting them. Determine how an employee’s bad attitude is contributing to bad behaviors that are easy to describe.

B. Document instances of the employee’s bad behavior. Include dates, times, any other employees who were present/involved, and the details of the incident. For example, if an employee refuses to work on an assigned project, documentation should include the date and time the refusal happened, and a description of what the employee said.

C. Meet with the employee to discuss documented incidences of bad behavior. You may want to include an uninvolved third party in the meeting to help calm a difficult situation, while also protecting the employer from claims of discrimination or harassment by the employee with the attitude problem.

D. Discuss the documented incidents of bad behavior with the employee impartially. Assume that the employee wants to improve and change. Discuss how the behaviors affected the overall dairy’s organization most notably other employees. Ask the employee what they would like to do to remedy the situation.

E. Develop a plan to help the employee to change his behavior. Give the employee a specific amount of time to implement the steps of the plan, and set a time to reassess the situation after the time period is up. Let the employee know what the outcome will be if the steps for the plan are not enacted, and no change is observed.

Just like everything in life, when you ignore a small problem it only gets bigger. The same holds true when managing employees with bad attitudes--things only get worse. Don’t wait until the situation gets out of control. Deal with it now and aggressively.

1Adapted from Cornett, J. E. How to handle an employee with a bad attitude toward management. 

Dr. Gerald Higginbotham is Ruminant Business Manager in California for Micronutrients, a Division of Heritage Technologies, LLC. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona. Dr. Higginbotham is a member of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a diplomat of the American College of Animal Sciences. Contact him at 559-907-8013 

Know Your Dairy Before You Hire

Sep 20, 2013

Here’s one tip: Interview your existing employees first with these questions.

contreras charlesBy Charles Contreras, PeopleFirst™ business solutions manager, Zoetis 

Hiring the right people for your dairy operation can be a manager’s greatest challenge. What’s more, the people you hire, no matter how qualified, can take the dairy off course if their goals differ from the operation’s.

Here’s a helpful starting point for growing your team: Take the time to evaluate the goals of your operation and understand the goals of your current employees. Interview your existing employees first. What makes them click? This can help you identify what qualities to seek in prospective employees. Ultimately, it will help you make better hiring decisions.

Ask your current employees these questions:

Who are we looking for?
Determining how a candidate will fit within the culture of your operation is extremely important. Recognize the core competencies of your top employees and ask them what they like about their job. As you search for new employees, look for candidates with similar goals and attributes. By communicating and aligning all employees with the goals of the operation, employees will be engaged from the beginning.

What questions are we asking in the interview?
Employees are often dismissed from an operation for their attitude, not a lack of aptitude. In the interview, make sure everyone is asking behavioral-based questions that offer insight into the applicant. For instance, asking only yes-or-no questions such as "Do you have experience milking?" won’t allow you to fully understand whether they will be a good fit for the team. Instead, discussing how they would handle a situation will give you more perspective.

When are we looking for new employees?
If you are looking for employees only when you need a position filled, you are limiting your options. It’s crucial to make recruiting and interviewing a year-round process. By interviewing regularly, you’ll hone your interviewing skills and process. More important, you’ll find quality candidates who make the best fit for your company rather than hiring the first person who walks through your door.

Where are we looking for candidates?
Ask current employees about potential candidates. This can be just as essential as advertising in trade publications and classifieds. Through word of mouth, your employees might help you find someone who would be a great fit for the company. These referrals also will make your current employees more likely to help new employees succeed.

Why are employees leaving or not engaged?
Having a formal process for hiring can help your dairy find the right people who are more likely to stay long term. According to a Corporate Leadership Council survey, employees who are engaged in the workplace are 87% less likely to leave the company. Establishing a formal, consistent hiring process with your team will help you find employees who want to work for you. Assign a point person to handle everything from recruitment, selection and reference checks to orientation. Make certain to follow every step of the process every time. Involve other team members in the interview so they have an opportunity to weigh in and be engaged with potential employees as well.

Getting the right strategy and finding the right people are essential for maintaining long-term growth for your dairy operation. For more questions and help on hiring better employees, talk with a certified consultant, such as the ones available through PeopleFirst™. PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital and business solutions program. These services were created in direct response to challenges customers expressed with managing today’s complex operations. Visit to learn more.

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2013 Zoetis Inc. All rights reserved. 

Making Sense of Immigration’s Political Paradox

Sep 09, 2013

With Syria and a possible federal government shut-down ahead, what should dairy producers expect on immigration reform?

Erich Straub   CopyBy Erich C. Straub, attorney

In my last column, I expressed optimism that an immigration reform bill would be on the President’s desk this month. That has not yet happened, and instead, Syrian military intervention and a possible federal government shutdown have jumped in front on the Congressional priority list.

The showdown on immigration reform seems to be scheduled for October in the House, but I must include myself among the many Americans who have learned never to underestimate Congress’ ability to kick the can down the road on an urgent issue.

What should dairy producers expect at this point? It is difficult to predict because the debate has become such a paradox. Back in late June, a truly bipartisan piece of legislation came out of the Senate with what appeared to be significant momentum. In an era of hyper-bipartisanship, it is rare for 68 Senators to agree on anything, let alone such a sweeping piece of legislation on a contentious issue. Yet almost immediately, Speaker John Boehner announced that the Senate bill would not be brought to the House floor for a vote. Instead, Boehner indicated that the House would work a several smaller bills in October.

Boehner’s decision caused the focus of the debate to shift to the August recess, when members of Congress would return home and hear from their constituents. Would the anti-reform movement show-up at town hall meetings and kill reform as they did in 2007, or was the November 2012 election truly a seismic change on the issue?

By all accounts, the anti-reformers were completely out-organized by the pro-reformers. In spite of what appeared to be another significant victory for reform, the press is filled with pessimistic prognostications for presidential signing ceremony. The political paradox continues: Each time the pro-reformers achieve a victory, the "experts" in the Beltway seemingly change the rules of the game.

I remain optimistic that this problem will be solved for dairy as a part of a comprehensive bill, but I have become somewhat weary of predictions. That being said, I will make these observations:

1. The fundamental political factors that have driven reform this far have not changed. Republicans need immigration reform to be viable in the 2016 election and beyond. Democrats do not have a significant incentive to use the defeat of reform against Republicans in 2014 because significant Democratic gains in Congress are not likely based on history. Republican presidential candidates continue to be a barometer, with Paul Ryan desperately trying to move the issue forward in the House.

2. I no longer believe a bill will emerge from a conference committee appointed to resolve competing legislation in the House and Senate. With such a conference likely to be scheduled precariously close to election primaries in early 2014, politics and time have simply made this an unlikely outcome.

3. Finally, the most viable vehicle may be a "grand compromise" as a part of the budget battle that is now looming. While it may seem unlikely given Congress’ inability to achieve even little things, it would give many Republicans cover on the immigration issue if they were able to face potentially angry constituents with a victory on an issue that is more important to them like deficit or entitlement reform.

Erich C. Straub is an immigration lawyer who practices in Wisconsin and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, SuperLawyers, and U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Firms. Mr. Straub has spoken to audiences throughout the U.S. on immigration, and frequently advises Wisconsin Dairy Farmers on the topic. He has traveled Washington, D.C., to meet with elected officials regarding immigration reform. In 2008, the Milwaukee Business Journal described him as a "national leader on the federal immigration issue." Contact him at (414) 224-8472, or

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