Hearing a father say, “thank-you”, or “you’ve done a good job” is music to the ears of their son or daughter. Regardless of age, hearing your father say you have done good work is an uplifting and rewarding experience. I recently listened to young farmers under the age of 30 say how they would dearly love to hear their father tell them they were appreciated or have done a good job.
Tom’s story is typical. He grew up on a dairy farm helping his parents while going to school. After university, Tom spent four years working away from home. He had just been offered a promotion at work when his father approached him about returning to the farm. Tom’s father was approaching 63 years of age and wanted to start slowing down after having built the operation up to 185 cows.
It was agreed that Tom would work for wages for two years before they would start talking about an ownership transition.
The farm had two long-term employees who Tom had enjoyed working with when he was home for holidays or helping out on weekends. Each Monday morning the employees, Tom, and his father would meet for a half-hour meeting in the barn office. Details for the week were sorted out. Tom enjoyed the challenges of being involved in the farm but after six months he was feeling frustrated to the point of quitting and asking his former boss for his old job back.
The point of frustration was that not once had Tom heard his father tell him he had done a good job or say thank you. In the weekly meetings his father seemed to be always telling both employees how great a job they were doing. Even throughout the week he would often over hear his father praising them for what they did.
Tom’s frustration intensified after running into a neighbor at the machinery dealership. The neighbour said it must be great to be back home working with his father, as Father has been telling everyone what a great job Tom is doing.
Tom stood in stunned silence. Jumping into the pickup Tom sped home. Thoughts roared through his head so loud the diesel engine seemed quiet in comparison. Angry, frustrated, and not knowing what to do, Tom headed for his parent’s house – hoping mother would be at home. She answered the door as he burst into the kitchen. Words exploded out of his mouth, “why will he never tell me I am doing a good job? He has never said thank you for anything I have ever done — yet he is always thanking the other guys.” Mother listened quietly. She said that soon after Tom’s father and herself were married, she realized he had a difficult time expressing his appreciation to family members.
To compensate for father’s weakness, she took it upon herself to always thank and compliment the children.
The next day alone in the barn office Tom point-blank asked his father why he could congratulate the employees and even share with neighbours his appreciation for what Tom was doing on the farm, but could not say thank you to his own son. Father’s voice faltered as he said, “I find it very difficult to tell my family I appreciate what they do. Your grandfather never told me I did a good job. I can say thanks to the employees, but when it comes to my family I guess I have not been able to break that tradition of just assuming your family knows you appreciate them.”
The words, “thank you” and “you’ve done a good job” provide the lubricant to make family and business relationships flow smoothly. Tom’s father had mastered the art of expressing gratitude and appreciation with his employees, but the relationship with his son and the future of the farm was almost put in jeopardy by his inability to say simple thank-you to his son.
Fathers in particular are in a position to validate and encourage their children regardless of age. By not providing positive and constructive feedback, a father is reinforcing the fact that, “you will only hear from me when you have done something wrong and need correction”.
A simple, “thank you” or “you’ve done a good job” can have a lasting impression. Is there someone on your farm who needs to hear these words?