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Bully Free on the FarmShe came up to me quietly after my presentation, looking tired and sad. “Elaine I haven’t been off the farm in months, and I don’t know who is going to help us with seeding. I am seventy, and I cannot take this anymore. My husband is very verbally abusive and won’t get help for his depression. What do I do? ”

This woman is a target of a bully according to the language of author Valerie Cade who wrote “Bully Free at Work…what you can do to stop workplace bullying now!”

Bullying on farms is happening when targets are experiencing repeated disrespectful behavior. I can share many examples with you. The tactics according to Cade are exclusion, unreasonable demands, unfairness, verbal abuse and “crazy-making” (p. 211)

Can you relate to these farm scenarios?

A daughter-in-law wonders how to get her name on the land titles after 25 years of marriage and years of working hard to make her father-in-law’s farm succeed. Her husband is not willing to stand up for fairness and says nothing.

A farm mom is not getting any support to get treatment for her depressive husband, and she feels trapped. The exclusion from community is killing her slowly.

A wise widow who lives frugally and wants to honour her husband’s wishes is not sure why her adult children are making unreasonable demands for their inheritance. She is feeling threatened and pushed into making financial decisions that may leave her short of future family living funds. She has no idea what her long-term health care needs will be, and financial security is important to her, especially as she ages alone.

A frustrated forty-year-old son cannot get his father and mother to sign business agreements that share the farm assets and equity with the next generation. He is tired of the promise “just trust me” and wonders if other farmers work like slaves and get very low wages for years.

The over 60 father has no intention of retiring but knows that he likely needs to share the decision making with his successors. He is not happy about the barrage of verbal abuse he meets daily when he asks questions and tries to make a plan for the daily operations.

I need to stop. I could type pages of examples. I hear them frequently as a farm coach. My question is “Why are you allowing the bad behavior to continue?

Valerie Cade outlines the experience of the workplace hosting bullies as one where “others say nothing, are not sure what to do or say. The bullying behavior is tolerated.” I say, “You get the behavior that you accept.”

The bully minimizes the way the target feels and over time the farm team begins to think “This is just the way it is around here!” Bad behavior is ignored, and slowly the family (employees) become distant, silent, and non-creative according to Cade.

Targets of bullying suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Cade’s research finds that the “target eventually quits (80% of the time). On farms, this gets very expensive with divorce, and the loss of trained employees.

What to do? Bullies cannot “flourish, or they cannot even survive in organizations committed to respect, open communication, and teamwork,” says Cade.

She suggests:

  • Your values and communicate them
  • Use managers as role models
  • Develop more open communication
  • Provide a complaint process
  • Train people about bullying
  • Support interpersonal skills training and conflict resolution
  • Punish bullies, don’t hire bullies
  • Adopt an anti-bullying policy.

Cade’s book has some great tools, one of them being a self- assessment. Are you being bullied? Does the person you’re having challenges with:

  • Ignore you. Not return your phone calls or emails.
  • Dismiss what you are saying or “put you down in the presence of others?”
  • Spread rumours, lies, and half-truths about you?
  • Routinely blame and criticize you?
  • There are many more questions, so buy Cade’s book.

In our book dealing with Farming’s In-Law Factor, we came up with a list of ways to address the nastiness you might be experiencing on your farm.

  1. Accept that there are various reasons that people are nasty, some of which we will never know or understand. You can accept the reality of the nastiness, but you do not have to accept bad bullying behaviour.
  2. Be curious not judgmental. Address the root cause of the nastiness (eg., depression, trauma, health issues).
  3. Think of a positive trait that you can acknowledge them for.
  4. Name the behaviour as nasty or inappropriate. Some people don’t realize they are being donkeys.
  5. Pray or reflect on a new approach or perspective engage the person.
  6. Do not accept guilt or shame.
  7. Create physical or emotional space from the nastiness.
  8. Set healthy boundaries.
  9. Make requests. For example, if you feel you are being excluded make a request. “I would like to be included in the emails to be part of the farm meetings.”
  10. Write a heartfelt letter and deliver it. Or burn it.
  11. Give them an underserved act of grace. Cade suggests to respond with “I understand. I see.”
  12. Choose not to be melodramatic about the nastiness or take it personally. Cade coaches folks to move to the “I am being bullied, and I will now take steps to protect myself” stage. “Notice if you are feeling angry, frustrated or hurt. It is time to channel these feelings, so they do not take a toll on your body, mind, and well-being”. (page 189)
  13. Resist the urge to criticize, as it can become a bad habit.
  14. Realize that some people act grumpy or mean (almost as performance art in some cases) in order to get attention or because they have come to believe that is who they are.

Work towards a bully free farm culture.

 

 

Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
“Elaine helped me allocate $1 Million of assets the night I listened to her. Elaine’s presentation brings value to the use of my services in my office.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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