Written by B. Lynn Gordon (former SDSU Extension Agricultural Leadership Specialist).
For those involved in the day-to-day workings of agriculture you know things are getting busier and busier as we move into spring. Calving season is in full swing meaning late night checks or even a 3 a.m. wake up call to make sure all is fine. Those involved in crop production are preparing equipment and making the necessary final seed orders to be ready to hit the field as soon as possible. The result is long days ahead for agricultural producers, their employees and families. In times like these, stress builds, tempers can get short and adequate communication can oftentimes fall by the wayside.
Along with lack of communication comes incomplete directions, important details falling through the cracks and problems or mistakes begin to happen. The end result is often a conflict situation.
Here are three tips for employers or supervisors to consider in an effort to reduce conflict with their employees or those working with them during this high stress time of the year.
1) Constant Communication
Make a point to check up on your employees and talk to them daily. Gauge how they are handling the longer days. Ask how things are going? What they may need help with? 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. As a supervisor, your employees are your followers, you set the example they will follow. If you show you care about them, and keep open lines of communication they will openly discuss challenges they are having rather than your discussion turning into a conflict because of the sense they may have that you don’t care about them.
2) Demonstrate Trust
Demonstrate your trust by giving them responsibility. Steven Covey, well-known author on management says, “When trust is low, in a company or in a relationship, it places a hidden "tax" on every transaction: every communication, every interaction, and every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and sending costs up.” Covey is saying significant distrust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done. In terms of agriculture this can mean many things — it can mean more death loss at calving time because the cattle were not monitored properly; or when it’s time for the seed to hit the ground the equipment is not ready to go. The end result is costly production mistakes and conflict resulting in blame on someone.
3) Pinpoint Personalities
Working alongside individuals it doesn’t take long to understand people have different working styles and personalities. Large corporations today, devote a great deal of time and money hiring consultants to conduct personality assessments on their employees. Why do they do this — so teams like their management or sales teams, can better understand how other team members’ work? 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. This is no different in the agricultural world. If you (as the supervisor) and your employee or family member are constantly in conflict with one another, it is most likely because you have not expressed openly the skills and strengths you possess and the working styles you prefer and you fail to understand those exact same qualities in the people you are working with. During this busy spring season, you can take the time to step back and take notice of the major differences you see in each other and try to compromise the best you can. However, I suggest you make it a priority during a slower time of the year, to do one of the most beneficial things you can do for your business, participate in a training with your employees and/or family that offers personality type assessments. These trainings are offered by SDSU Extension Service’s “Inspiring Ag Leaders Program” and also may be available through meetings conducted by your financial institutions.