abrasive behaviour

I soaked up the seminar “Dealing with Abusive Behavior at Work” led by Dave McNaughton, an HR specialist from Winnipeg. Dave referred to Dr. Stephen Hart’s video from the Proactive Resolutions company. You have to love the idea of being proactive rather than reactive to bad behavior in the workplace. Give everyone a safe environment to work in. Gossiping is an abrasive behavior. As a farm family coach, I encourage families to stop talking about each other, creating gossip triangles. Instead, go directly to speak to the person that you have the issue with.

How Do You Manage Abrasive Behavior?

Abrasive is the process of wearing down or rubbing away by means of friction.

Here are the top 5 behaviors that abrasive employees display.

  1. Over-reacts
  2. Over-controls
  3. Threatens
  4. Public humiliation
  5. Condescension

If the abrasive behavior is not stopped then it gets worse. The fallout from ongoing abusive behavior has a huge negative impact on farms with lower morale and productivity, legal cases, retaliation, sabotage, and homicide.

Symptoms of Chronic Abrasion

One symptom is continuing complaints (negative perceptions) brought on by employees. Who likes to work with a bunch of whiners? Do you have a complaint system on your farm, for informal/formal complaints?

Comments like “don’t get on their bad side or you will pay if you do” are symptoms of chronic abrasion. Are you devoting excessive managerial time devoted to addressing employee distress? Leadership loses credibility when there is a failure to intervene. Don’t see intervention as weakness and do not condone the abrasive behavior. If you do, you’ll be dealing with people leaving (increased attrition) and more sick time.

Here are the assumptions of abrasive people:

  • They are fully aware of what they are doing to the workplace culture: I don’t think this is true as some highly conflicted families see daily fighting and abrasiveness as “normal”. This is not good.
  • They intend to cause harm: What is the true intent of the bully with nasty behavior?
  • Their means through aggression/intimidation: These bad actors thrive on intimidation as the pattern that is their daily mode of operation. It is all they know.
  • Their behavior will not change: Yikes. This is serious, if you really don’t think the abrasive person can change to more workable, kind behavior, then what are you going to do about the person who is making your farm a toxic place to be?

Farm families need to build awareness to create change. The good news is that abrasive behavior is coachable. The bad news is that the abrasive behavior may be a long-term pattern of a founder parent. Are you ready to stand up to your parent?

The nasty folks need coaching, mentoring, and supporting.

[Tweet “How abusive #behavior can affect the #farm and your #employees and how to fix it.”]

How to Deal with Abrasive Behavior on Your Farm

What good managers do: They see a problem, explore the cause, assess if the employee is unable or unwilling to change. When addressing the problem they provide resources, training, set limits, and consequences. Then you have to follow up!

Abrasive managers see an abrasive problem and say: “you’ll pay if you get in their way.” Their business is survival, and they just want to go about their business. They defend against threats to their survival with aggression. Threat, anxiety, then defense is the pattern. You can choose “Fight or flight” …or choose to walk through the threatening issue rationally.

McNaughton says to make sure that you “Document everything.” Abrasive folks fear the loss of connection with abandonment anxiety, (physical, personal, mental, work relationship or loss of life with the loss of credibility).

Work Through It

  • Intervene and focus on the evidence vs. negative perceptions, get to the root of the problem, change the behavior

Defense Tactics

  • “Nobody’s perfect” rationalization: you keep accepting bad behavior.
  • Projection: “he’s got difficult employees”
  • Minimizing: “you’re making too much of this”
  • Procrastination: “it won’t be long before she retires.” I think procrastination is killing many good decision opportunities on farms in 2017!

Managers don’t intervene for fear of being harmed or doing harm. They fear or recall past intervention efforts that have not gone well. They believe that people cannot change. They see the only option as termination. Failure to address bad behavior actually promotes more bad behavior.  I have often said, “You get the behavior that you accept.”

Differentiate Performance Versus Conduct

Performance is the execution of the technical requirement of one’s job.

How do you intervene? Make them see the impact of their behavior. “Do you see what your behavior is doing to us?” Focus on evidence vs. negative perceptions.

What is the documentation? “We need to have you turn this around Charlie!” Make them care enough to want to change. Offer help and training.

Your perceptions are your reality! Perceptions are powerful, so you need guidelines and consequences. List the direct and indirect perceptions. What have you observed? What has to change, they have to buy into changing. “People need to be treated with respect.”

Are you ready to take control and be a manager?

Make Them Care Enough to Change

Prepare yourself to conduct the interview:

  • What are the threats posed to you, others, and the farm by intervening?
  • What are your anxieties?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

Explain why you are meeting and make them see the negative perceptions. Make them care enough to want to change. Offer help. Monitor for improvement. Describe the individual’s value to you. Explain that you owe them information. Explain that the behavior is the problems, negative perceptions about their style of interacting with others is the problem. Say, “I observed this,” but avoid generalities. Describe their impact…e.g. people felt intimidated, and set limits and consequences.


  • Internal mentoring: you’ll need to be a proactive leader on your farm team.
  • Employee Assistance Programs for stress related issues
  • External specializing coaching: anger management, personal issues, etc.

Stick to your guns, don’t get into a war of words. Stick to your objectives.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


Rave reviews

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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
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Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
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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
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Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
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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
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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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