Farm managers across Wisconsin have a lot on their plates when it comes to human resource management, and the last thing they may want to deal with is employees who are not getting along. However, avoiding the issue and, hoping it will go away could make it worse rather than dealing with the matter quickly.
Regardless of the size of your farm workforce, it’s very likely that employee disputes will occur from time to time. Disagreements can arise on the farm where the pace is often fast and expectations are high. Seasons can also affect workers’ attitudes, for example summertime’s long hours and hot weather can add challenges such as patience and tempers wearing thin. Personality, communication style, work ethic and even cultural differences between farm workers can lead to conflict, leaving you, as the farm manager, to sort the issues out.
Competing agendas often create conflict. When employees have different views of where the team should focus their efforts, your leadership may be required to help employees prioritize tasks.
Other employees not directly involved in the dispute, may be impacted: being around unchecked conflict can be stressful and distracting. Groups of like-minded workers can form quickly on either side of the issue, affecting productivity, morale and even safety. Here are tips to address the conflict, get your team focused on the work at hand and help you become an employer of choice:
- Avoid jumping to conclusions based on one side of the story. Often the truth lies somewhere in the middle; it may be helpful to talk with the individuals separately to can listen to each perspective and evaluate what is creating the conflict.
- Don’t react in anger. As frustrating or seemingly minor as the issue may seem to you, take time to manage your own emotions. Be a role model for treating others with respect so your employees see how you expect them to behave. Provide reasonable and constructive guidance rather than allowing your negative reactions to add to the existing conflict.
- Help both parties stick to the current issue versus dredging up previous issues. Focus on the real or perceived impact to the farm business and avoid personal attacks. Set ground rules on how your employees will speak to each other – name calling or other aggressive acts will not be tolerated.
- Avoid “taking sides”. It is important for you to appear impartial and unbiased. If there is a perception of favoritism, it could hurt your relationship with the entire team.
- Establish your expectation that the team will be professional and work toward a common goal. . Promote open communication where employees are encouraged to resolve conflict on their own rather than seeking your input on minor disagreements.
Lastly, remember that not all employee conflict is a negative situation. Sometimes differing opinions can lead to creative ways of doing things differently and perhaps more effectively and efficiently.