Preventing Workplace Conflict in Ag

There Are Down To Earth Tools To Lower Stress

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

It’s essential to learn how to navigate agricultural workplace conflict to help keep the workplace safe for all employees.

Dr. Linda Thomas is vice-chancellor of Educational Services and Workforce Development at West Hills Community College District. She’s also a senior consultant at Linda Thomas Consulting.

She said that anytime you deal with people where you potentially have conflict, some people will get angry and try to power up and deal with it that way, whereas other people try to shy away from it, but neither one of those is the way to handle it.

“There are some down-to-earth tools that you can use to calm yourself and to work through the process. And when you do that, we call it conflict transformation, and you can get to a better place than you were before,” Thomas said.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of it; they should just understand that there’s a way to move through it and they can get to the other side.”

She noted that it’s essential to avoid high-stress situations in the workplace.

“That’s the key, because when the stress gets high, you have a lot of negative effects. There is an increase in insurance costs and high absenteeism and people quit, and you have low productivity and low morale, so you can’t just let conflict simmer,” Thomas said.

“You can’t pretend that it’s going to go away and you can’t, make it go away,” Thomas continued. “You have to work through it. And a lot of people are concerned about working through it. But I think the number one takeaway about working through it is to examine yourself. You need to know what your hot buttons are. You have to know what makes you mad or what makes you stressed out. And you have to understand that.”

Thomas recommended that when you’re engaging constructive discussion about the conflict itself, you have to say, “okay, I’m starting to feel angry now,” and take a step back, timeout, whatever it needs to be.

Thomas said we need to come at it with a logical point of view. Because if you do that, whether you’re a business owner or a manager or a leader, you can have a reasonable point of view on it.

“Ask yourself, ‘what do I need to get out of it?’ You can see your way through it a lot better than you can if you don’t know what to do or how to do it, and your emotions have overwhelmed you,” she explained

For help in conflict resolution click here.

Will AB-1066 End Sunup to Sundown Farming?

Will Overtime Bill Kill Sunup to Sundown Way of Farming?

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

Newly approved by the California Assembly, AB-1066, which would effectively extend the payment of overtime compensation to agricultural employees after 8 hours of work in a day or 40 hours per week, instead of 10 hours per day or 50 to 60 hours per week, awaits Governor Jerry Brown‘s final decision this month. The theory behind the bill is understandable, but according to Bryan Van Groningen, field manager for Van Groningen & Sons, Inc.a California family farming business begun in 1922, agriculture works within a different timetable than other industries.

 

Because agricultural production is fundamentally nature-based, Van Groningen said there is an underlying need for non-traditional workdays. “Our crews, more or less, work from sunup to sundown,” he said. “That is what is required to get our harvest finished.”

 

Van Groningen & Sons employs different types of laborers, some who already work 8-hour days and others who work on a schedule that AB-1066 would  eliminate. “Our field workers—everybody is accustomed to a 10-hour per day and 50-hour per week system,” explained Van Groningen.

 

For Van Groningen & Sons, one of the largest producers of pumpkins for the West Coast, the period leading up to Halloween is naturally one of their busiest times of year. They have a short window of time to get their produce ready for its final destination, so putting an 8-hour limit on their employees would cause problems in meeting their deadline. “We have to get all of our crop in, harvested, transported, packed and shipped by a certain date. If we don’t,” he said, “the date comes and we’re pretty much finished.”