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Take steps to manage negativity at work

Emphasize what employees enjoy about their job.

In our last blog post we discussed the impact negativity can have on an operation and management’s role in asking questions to get to the root of the problem. 

The following section discusses some tactics farms can utilize to obtain open and honest feedback from employees. 

Surveys:  Conduct employee satisfaction surveys or questionnaires.  Anonymity is of utmost importance in order to get honest evaluations. This can be difficult in small organizations but communicate to your workers that any feedback given will not affect their status. As a manager, make sure you are living up to your part of this equation by not taking anything personally. 

Suggestion Boxes: These can be a simple and effective means of acquiring frank, anonymous feedback from employees. Provide a box for workers to submit suggestions during their breaks or lunchtime. 

Encourage employee participation with the suggestion box by posing a new question or topic each month. Post a sign by the box with the topic of interest, such as:

-What benefit beyond compensation do you find the most valuable?

-What has been your favorite social activity provided by the operation?

-What do you like best about your job?

Notice the tone of these questions; they are deliberately focusing on the positive. You are still gaining valuable feedback, but encouraging employees to think about things in a constructive manner. If you find out what employees really enjoy, you can emphasize these things to outweigh negativity.     

Exit Interviews:  Some of the most honest and priceless feedback comes from employees that are leaving your farm. Although it is typically too late to save that employee, they can provide helpful information for you to consider improving the work environment for others. Exit interviews can gather valuable insight into what employees were dissatisfied about during their tenure at your organization, and they are usually willing to be more forthcoming with information. 

Take action

Nothing is more discouraging than lack of action on feedback that employees provided to their employer. Don’t ask for feedback if you aren’t going to use it and if you don’t have a plan to act upon it. 

Get to know your employees - especially their goals, stressors, what excites them and how they define 'success.’ Don’t pry too deeply, but show an interest in their well-being and that, when appropriate, you do what it takes to enable them to feel more fulfilled and better balanced. Reward and recognize employees in ways that are meaningful to them (that's why getting to know your employees is so important). And remember to celebrate both accomplishments and efforts to give employees working on long-term goals a boost.

Your goal is to create an environment where employees enjoy coming to work every day. Are people laughing at each other or with each other? Do they repeat stories of success or moments of shame? Stay away from participating in discussions that are destructive to people or the organization, and keep success stories alive. 

You will inevitably come across that person at work who is just a ‘downer.’  There may be little to nothing that your operation is doing wrong or can change to instill positivity in this type of person.  You’re just dealing with a negative person. Address this issue directly with the offender. Do not instill new policies to cope with a few offenders that will negatively affect the rest of your staff.

Emphasize the positive

Like mentioned previously, encourage employees to give feedback on what they like or enjoy about their jobs, supervisors, coworkers or organization. When you receive positive feedback, you can keep those things that are working and get rid of the negative. 

Sometimes it is impossible to change things that are a necessity for your business, but can be viewed negatively (e.g. working weekends and holidays). In cases such as these, it is more important than ever to find out what employees’ view as perks of their job and emphasize or increase the occurrence of these encouraging events.

For more information, contact

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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