Employment is a two-way street. Anne-Marie Wells gives some advice on how workers and bosses can improve staff relations.

Over the past year, I have seen many articles on the need for dairy farmers to be good employers, and I have to admit to being torn about how I feel with the ‘be a good boss’ campaign. When I think about why it bothers me, I realise it’s the accusation of the statement, the suggestion that I am not a good boss – that none of us is.

I am in no doubt that people should do their best to be good employers – after all, in the same way animal welfare is so important to our business, having a good team is right up there. So why are there so many articles on this subject? Are there an equal number of articles telling employees to ‘be a good worker’?

As an industry, are we really such bad employers it justifies this many initiatives telling us to sort ourselves out? I hope not. On our farm we try our best to create a good work environment and to review and learn as we go. I know we are not unique and there are plenty of people doing it better than us.

That said, when we were last recruiting, I was surprised to hear accounts of unreasonable rosters, having to work rostered days off, late wages, and of one manager who simply didn’t show up if it was raining, so not everyone is getting it right.

I find it hard to believe the majority of dairy employers are like this; surely there wouldn’t be anyone left in the industry if they were.

Which brings me to wonder if these articles are the result of a lack of new interest in dairying careers? In which case, the focus could move to reviewing what is putting those people off: early mornings, working weekends, perceived lack of progression in the industry, the dirty dairying label. I believe the majority of employers are far more aware than they used to be of how to create a good environment, I also believe employee expectations have changed.

As important as it is for employers to create a great work environment, employees have a responsibility to hold up their side of the contract.

To me, being a good dairy employee means valuing your job, your house, turning up on time and focused, admitting when you’ve done something wrong, taking care of equipment, saying thanks for a smoko shout, seeing out a season, keeping the house provided for you tidy. I can’t help thinking that when everything is focused on the employer getting it right, we run the risk of employees no longer valuing their employment.

Not everyone is getting it right when it comes to employment, but a lot of people are, and I am no longer convinced it is reciprocated.

I think it would be great if instead of bossing us to be good bosses, there was encouragement for the whole team – from the owner to the relief milker – to create a great workplace.