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What To Do When "Yes" Means "No"

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

June 14, 2013

Although the following anecdote is not a true story, anyone who works with Hispanic employees will probably agree that it very well could be!

As the parlor supervisor at a dairy, it is John´s job to manage the Hispanic employees. He trains new employees, oversees daily routines and deals with any problems that come up. His Spanish-speaking ability is limited, but he feels that between his Spanish, his employees´ limited English, and a fair amount of sign language and Spanglish, they get along just fine. Lately they have had a higher-than-usual somatic cell count and an increased number of clinical mastitis cases. John spends some extra time observing in the parlor and realizes that the employees aren´t all following the same milking procedure. So he holds a meeting with all the employees, reviews the steps that he expects all the employees to follow, then asks for questions. Silence. "Does everybody understand?" Heads nod emphatically as the employees smile and respond with a mix of "Yes" and “Sí”. Satisfied that he has gotten the message across, John thanks them all for their time and hard work. The next morning as he walks through the parlor, he notices that the milkers are doing EXACTLY what he told them NOT to do yesterday!  Either they are blatantly disobeying him...or they didn'´t understand. It wouldn´t be the first time! John is frustrated and doesn't know what to do.

Does this sound all too familiar? If you work with Hispanic employees, you´ve surely experienced your fair share of lapses in communication. But why does this happen so often? In Latin American countries, the culture stresses respect and deference towards elders and anyone in a position of power- be that a boss or a supervisor. Avoiding eye contact and agreeing, even if not in agreement, are both ways to show respect. This cultural barrier alone can lead to misunderstandings, even when a language barrier has been overcome.
Some other common tendencies in the communication style of Latin American cultures are to:
  • Strive to maintain the harmony between the employer and employee
  • Avoid confrontation
  • Imply what is meant instead of stating it directly
  • Rely less on what is said verbally, and more on what is said through nonverbal cues and what is implied by the context of the situation

So how can you get around this difficult situation? You probably will not be able to change the way your employees communicate with you overnight, but with some encouragement, over time they may become more open to our American style of direct communication. In the meantime, when explaining procedures, go to the area of the farm where the specific job will be done and show them what you want them to do. Then, to make sure that they understand, ask them to show you how they will complete the task. If they make a mistake, correct them. If they do well, praise them.
This approach to communicating certainly takes more time, but in the long run it can prevent many misunderstandings and save you lots of frustration.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers-Cancelled!

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm

The Finger Lakes Graziers pasture walk has been cancelled due to some scheduling conflicts. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1