Don’t Ignore Bullies or Bad Attitudes
Q. I think I have a bully on my milking team. How do I know if the guy is really a bully? If he is, what should I do?
A. Bullies are a common problem on dairies. Almost every farm has one and, if left unchecked, they can cause you to lose good employees. Spotting a bully can be hard because often they threaten co-workers with retaliation if they tell the boss what’s going on. Here’s a clue: If there’s one particular person who seems to always have the weekends off because he’s traded days with someone, he could be a bully. That’s why having strong communication with your employees is critical—so when this happens, they will let you know right away. If I have enough complaints about one guy, I’ll talk to him. If it happens again, we do written warnings and we consult with the guys to find out more information. If I get more complaints, the bully gets a second written warning, and if it happens a third time, he or she gets fired. Usually you don’t have to fire these guys. They often will leave on their own. Remember, if you give warnings, they must be in writing. One thing to keep in mind is you can easily mistake a bully for a lazy worker. Often I hear complaints from the guys that a person doesn’t want to help them, a worker takes long breaks and when reprimanded they threaten the other employees. Those are signs of a bully, but the first two are also signs of a lazy worker. We’re going to have employees that give 80%, 100% and 120%. The 80% guy might not be a bully. He’s just happy doing less than 100%.
Q. What can I do with an employee who has a bad attitude?
A. Usually the first sign of an employee’s bad attitude is complaining he or she has too much work. Sometimes, workers do have too much to do, so before making a judgment, look for other signs. Those signs include not wanting to follow established procedure, acting like they know more than the boss, showing up late or leaving early. If this is going on, you first need to determine if the employee really does have a negative attitude, or really does have too much to do. We don’t want to jump the gun; we want to do more digging and find out what’s going on before taking action. If you think it is an attitude problem, it could be due to a number of things. Maybe he or she doesn’t like the job, isn’t happy with the pay or has a personal issue. If the problem is the job, and I can find another position for the guy, I will. If the problem is money, I see if there’s anything I can do to solve it. If it’s a personal issue or family problem, sometimes they just need an extra day off to sort things out. You have to make the effort to know your people, in good times and bad. You can’t ignore what’s happening, or the issue could get worse.