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Farm Journal Legacy Project: Combat Conflict

May 5, 2014
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor
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Don’t let family or employee disagreements affect productivity

Major disagreements, all-out fights or even simple misunderstandings—any form of conflict can be detrimental to your dairy operation.

Family businesses will experience conflict at some point, says Carolyn Rodenberg, founder and owner of Alternatives to Conflict, a firm focused on solving and preventing conflict in the workplace. "The only way to resolve conflict is to talk about it," she says.


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Conflict is like an iceberg. "What you see above the water are the symptoms and what are below are the causes," Rodenberg says. "Until you get to the causes, you’ll never solve the problem."

The sources of conflict can come in many forms, says Amy Shoemaker, director of people growth strategies with Kennedy and Coe, LLC. "They can range from access to resources, inconsistent reasoning behind pay decisions or differences in personality styles," she says.

As the manager of your dairy, you should strive to resolve any conflict quickly. Shoemaker says you should acknowledge that conflict exists and then arrange a meeting at a neutral location to discuss the issue with the people involved. "Be sure to get all sides of the story, address options and then brainstorm solutions," she says. "The goal is to solve the problem, not place blame or find fault."

Most people respond to conflict in one of two ways—fight or flight, Rodenberg says. "If we avoid conflict, we go into denial and communication decreases," she says.

Typically, conflict avoiders need time to think about the situation before they are ready to address it, while conflict confronters want to hash it out immediately.

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As the manager of your dairy, strive to resolve conflict quickly.


When a situation is tense and you have both types, Rodenberg says, your team members need to set a time and place to talk about the situation. "For the conflict confronters, it gives them closure that they will have the opportunity to say their piece, and the conflict avoiders can have time to think about the situation," she says.

Most of the time, when they come back together to talk about the issue, people have calmed down and the issue doesn’t seem as important. "Everyone apologizes and moves on," Rodenberg says.

Another helpful communication tip for family businesses involves how you frame questions. "One of the first things I recommend is for children to call their parents by their first name in the work setting," Rodenberg says. "You want adult-to-adult, not parent-to-child, conversations."

This is especially important when non-family employees are involved, as it elevates the second generation to an owner. 

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FEATURED IN: Dairy Today - May 2014

 
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