April means hard work for farmers. You’re getting up at 3 a.m. You feel like you’re working around the clock. You’re tired. Your nerves are raw. Your temper is ready to flare at the slightest aggravation.
Your feelings are normal, according to Lynn Gordon, Extension agricultural leadership specialist at South Dakota State University.
“In times like these, stress builds, tempers can get short and adequate communication can oftentimes fall by the wayside,” she says.
What can farmers and ranchers do to keep conflicts from reaching a boiling point during stressful times? Gordon has the following three recommendations.
1. Constant communication. Check in with employees on a daily basis, Gordon says. Understand how they are doing and ask if they need help with any particular tasks.
“Your staff may be so busy just going from task to task, they don’t have time to speak up and ask for help, and by the time you get around to checking in with them, they are frustrated, tired and about ready to quit,” she says. “As a supervisor, your employees are your followers – you set the example they will follow.”
2. Demonstrate trust. Gordon quotes author Steven Covey, noting that trust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time needed to complete the work.
“The end result is costly production mistakes and conflict, resulting in blame on someone,” she says.
3. Pinpoint personalities. Everyone has different personalities, and that’s OK, Gordon says. The trick is to figure out how your employees’ personalities all fit together.
“Teams who understand each other’s personalities are more productive, reduce conflict, and to large corporations this can mean a lot in terms of profitability,” Gordon says. “This is no different in the agricultural world.”
Gordon recommends taking a quick step back during the busy spring season to observe any major differences you spot among employees. Then, make training a priority when the workload slows back down.
Seeking more conflict resolution advice? AgWeb has covered this topic from several angles, including: