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Profanity doesn’t pay

Elaine Froese Published on 21 March 2013

A young farmer sits nervously on the couch with his partner and tells me that he can’t take working with his dad any more.

He describes the “Boss” walking quickly across the yard, arms waving, with his voice increasing in volume and swearing the “F-bomb” at the young son.

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Does the son swear back at the father? Yes, it’s the pattern he’s learned well over years of turning wrenches and turning off his listening to the tirades. He is not so sure he wants to be part of the legacy and he may soon leave, forever.

What I have just described is killing farm businesses, and I don’t see a lot of press about it. Profane language that attacks the person without working at the problem is costing you money.

How?

1. Your approach is shutting down effective communication, and therefore you are wasting time dealing with anger instead of acting on the tasks at hand.

You are suffering from the effects of distracted management energy, and that costs you in efficiency and wrecked equipment driven by angry employees.

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2. Your wealth going forward depends on an income stream from a profitable dairy farm pumping out a great cash flow and not being stressed by labour shortage issues.

Swearing drives people into despair and creates fuel for their exit from the business. “Why do I work with this guy? Life is too short to be in a miserable workplace!”

3. A tour of Dawson Creek in northern British Columbia and other busy oil or gas work camps will show you that the next generation has other career options besides the family farm.

If your adult children decide to come back to the farm, they will understand different management styles from their former employers, and they expect respect.

4. Being a labour magnet is a sweet position to be in when folks actually knock at your door looking for work because of your healthy workplace reputation.

On our farm, streams of profanity are not acceptable. We’ve had employees actually mention that this was why they wanted to work with us.

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5. As the mouth speaks, so does the heart. I listen carefully to what words are really reflecting as to the emotional condition of the farm people I coach.

A father who is swearing in frustration over a different work ethic in the next generation needs to evaluate why he is so stressed out and de-stress before addressing the conflict in a calm, respectful, adult manner.

What is the cost of losing a successor who has been berated with bad language for far too long? I don’t know if you can put a dollar figure on family break-ups and loss of relationships and working partners. It is huge.

I am also concerned about the angst of farm women who are over 60 years old. They no longer want to be the “pig in the middle,” soothing the emotional wounds of their spouses in conflict with their children.

The profanity directed toward them is unacceptable and wears down their senses of self-worth. Some women I meet are telling me they are tired of being the family social worker and ready to find a new life beyond the farm gate, whether or not their husband chooses to come with them.

So, what is your plan to clean up your language?

• Check what comes out of your mouth after you engage your brain.
• There are long-term consequences for treating people badly on your farm team.
• You always get to choose your thoughts, beliefs, habits and actions.
• You are responsible for your behaviour and your responses to others.

In conflict resolution we encourage folks to be responsive, not reactive. This means asking questions like:

• What would you like me to do differently?
• Are you OK? Do you want to talk about it now or later?
• Have I done something to offend you? I did not intend to be late. Let me explain.
• May I make a request? Let’s get some coffee and food, and talk about this sitting down.
• Are you sure those are the facts? I don’t want to gossip. If you have a problem with her, you need to talk to her directly. You can work it out.

According to Proverbs, “Words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

How about a fresh start in cleaning out your mouth this year, so that the words you speak actually direct, teach and affirm those around you rather than adding fuel to the conflict’s already hot fire? Handle the manure on your dairy and watch out for the muck coming from your mouth.

By the way, I had my first audience member swear at me a while back in ranch country when I mentioned that “divorce on the farm does not have to happen” and he responded with “what @%@%@ planet are you from?”

I was surprised – and saddened when I saw the expression of his daughter-in-law, who was sitting right next to the profane man.

I don’t like to be the recipient of foul language, and I suspect you don’t either.

Choose your words carefully and reap the benefits of sowing more respect on your farm this year.  PD

Elaine Froese is a member of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors and Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. She farms with her husband Wes in southwestern Manitoba. Click here for more information.

Elaine Froese

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