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Earn your respect as the team leader

Chuck Schwartau, Extension Educator

Published in Dairy Star October 13, 2012

The structure of agriculture continues to change, and Minnesota is not escaping that change. More farms are employing non-family members to carry part of the workload. Reasons include smaller families, larger farms, a desire to have more time for family and community activities, and families with more diverse interests than in the past. Also, it is not only large farms with non-family employees but also relatively smaller farms looking for time freedom offered by having non-family employees.

Observing these changes also reveals some farms almost never have to hire new employees and other farms always seem to be looking for the next employee. Why should similar farms have different experiences? What causes employees to leave one farm rather regularly and on another farm the employees stay and are high performers for a long time?

Researchers have found that employees tend to leave their bosses more than they leave jobs. While that sounds a bit odd, it is borne out by Florida State University professor, Wayne Hochwarter and two of his doctoral students—Paul Harvey and Jason Stoner. In 2007 they released a survey of over 700 employees on this topic.

Forty percent (40%) of those surveyed reported working for what they called 'bad bosses'. Their reasons for calling a boss 'bad' varied, but the most common responses included:

These problems lead too often to the next logical step—the employee leaves! It's not uncommon to hear an employer say they are glad to be rid of a particular employee, but at the same time they are thinking about temporary disruptions to the work flow and wondering about how they will cover all the jobs. Many employers never consider the cost of losing an employee—especially a good one. Various industries suggest the cost of employee turnover to be one and one half to three times the salary of a given employee. Hochwarter suggests even low to moderately skilled employees will cost $15,000 to $17,000 before the replacement is complete. These costs include rescheduling other employees to cover the work, the costs of hiring and training the new employee, and lost productivity until the new employee is fully into the flow of work. Much of that is cost for which you never write a check, but for which you pay anyway.

How do you avoid being one of those 'bad bosses' and suffer those losses to your business? Take another look at the six reasons employees listed. They don't require a higher pay scale. They don't require additional benefits. Generally, they don't even require more time.

None of them are that difficult to correct, if you pay attention to yourself and to your employees. The whole list can probably be corrected with one word—RESPECT.

Respect means showing that you really value the contributions of your employees to the business. It means recognition of a job well done, and if it is not quite up to standards, making suggestions for change in a manner that is not demeaning to the employee but instead helpful. When an employer makes clear what they expect and then provides employees with the tools, training and support to do the job well, the employee is much more likely to perform up to expectations.

If you tell a new employee their job will be entirely different from what it ends up being, they will believe they were lied to from the start and will always be suspicious of what you tell them the future.

Everyone likes to know they are doing a good job. Feedback, appropriate praise and credit for a job well-done will let your employees know you appreciate their efforts.

Several of the reasons relate to communications between employers and employees. In particular, keep communications open and honest. "Freezing" an employee out does no one any good—nor does public correction or discipline when it is necessary. Making an example of one employee is not likely to make a positive point to other employees about what can happen if they don't perform up to expectations.

While interviewing candidates for a position recently, one said, "How you treat your employees predicts their performance." That fits this concept of respect. If you remember this one simple statement, your employees are much more likely to become long term employees and even you might think you wouldn't mind working for yourself.

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