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No more surprises!

Tom Wall Published on 09 December 2011
Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize the best part of holidays with little ones around is watching how excited they get about the surprises that await them. Whether it’s a birthday party, Christmas morning or Easter Sunday, their energy and excitement is off the charts.

But as we get older, our enthusiasm for participating in some of these traditions just isn’t the same. Sure, the occasional scavenger hunt can be kind of fun, but being the only one who can’t find his plastic Easter egg tends to lose its luster 30 years later.

It turns out a lot of us just don’t have the patience for playing “hotter/colder” as we move through the basement looking for our “hidden treasure.”



So how are you when it comes to discovering surprises at work? I’d imagine your answer would be pretty positive if work surprises always consisted of good news.

But typically, that’s not the case. That phone call in the middle of the night or knock on your office door early in the morning usually isn’t followed by good news. Those tend to be moments that we all dread. Those “surprises” usually involve a smashed gate, an injured cow or someone quitting in the next 24 hours.

But finding out in-person sure beats the surprise of walking out in the barn and discovering “on your own” a smashed gate, a down cow or that only one person showed up for work today.

Most of us would probably agree that surprises at work just aren’t much fun. And unfortunately, careless accidents, sick cows and employee turnover will always exist. So what can you do to help reduce the number of surprises you encounter each day?

It starts by teaching and training your team how to do their work correctly in order to prevent costly mistakes and accidents. But for most managers, that’s pretty obvious and they’re already training their employees so they can reduce these additional problems.


So now that you’ve spent time teaching your team proper protocols, the question is: How easy and convenient is it for your employees to communicate when there are problems?

You see, most of these bad surprises at work are a result of poor communication and the fear of getting in trouble or getting fired.

So, assuming you’ve already invested in training your workforce to make sure they know how to do the work you’re paying them to do, what can you do to make sure it’s easy for your employees to communicate their concerns and problems right away? The short answer ... provide them with systems that make communication simple and easy.

Instead of a blank dry erase board and sheets of paper, organize a dry erase board in the parlor and notebooks in the barns so everyone knows what to write and where to write it.

And how do you get people to tell you as soon as there’s a problem instead of just leaving it until the next shift? Make it clear that an employee isn’t going to get fired just because of one accident.

In fact, show your team that being honest and upfront when they make a mistake actually earns your trust and won’t be punished – while doing the opposite will most likely cause the opposite response.


Unfortunately, it’s not realistic to think that we can eliminate surprises at work altogether. But at the very least, train your team so they know what do and how to prevent costly mistakes. And when problems do arise, make sure that communicating them is simple and easy to do. PD


Tom Wall
Dairy Interactive, LLC