Negotiating Successfully on the Farm

Workforce is a primary challenge for agriculture. Improving the workplace culture on the farm can help recruit and retain a good team of people. Linda Swindling is a professional negotiator who helps employers turn complainers into team players. And she understands the unique family dynamics of the farm. She says negotiation and communication are essential to running a successful business.

“If you can think about everything being a negotiation, but not everything’s negotiable, think about it. Your ethics, your values for the workplace, those can’t get negotiated.. But if you think about negotiation, one of the things you can think about is how can I deal with the people that I do have and consider their interests, consider their values, consider mine as well, and how do I ask them for what I want? That’s the secret. Instead of demanding, this culture won’t allow it. Instead of doing that, here’s the standard, here’s what we need you to do, and how can you do it is a really good way around that.”

She talks about how to make your operation a place people want to work at.

“One of the things is you look for your contributors, and you make sure you reward them, and then you look for those people that are causing the work drama. One of the things that we found, and I’ve done lots of different surveys and studies, and one of the things we found is almost 80 percent of us are spending – are you ready for this? – three to six hours a week dealing with negative people. Three to six, and that’s a minimum. Some as many as 20, so if you roll that forward, that’s a month to two have lost time almost You can’t do that. You can’t run a workplace with one or two that are souring the milk for everybody. You can’t do that.”

It can be even more challenging to negotiate when you work with family members.

“There are some people you can’t fire. You can’t fire your mom, right? But what you can do is, you need to negotiate in a way that they will listen that’s covering a need. And what we found is for most people, not everybody, but for most people, when they’re acting negative is when they’re stressed. And when we’re most stressed is when there’s a need that hasn’t been met. So, for instance, if I like to make decisions, and I’m not making decisions, I can look like a bulldozer, a commander, or somebody who’s not behaving well. A controller. If I need facts and details and all of a sudden I’m not getting them, then all sudden, I can look like a complicator. Or if I need relationship, and I’m not receiving it – people aren’t talking to me. I’m not connecting well – then I might look like a whiner, or I might look like a prima donna. The biggest piece is how are they acting stressed. Here’s this good person who all of a sudden is using negative behavior to get their needs met.”