6 Tips for Managing Brotherly Conflict on the Farm

By Elaine Froese

“I can’t believe that we have farmed together for over 25 years and the fights between these two brothers just don’t stop!”, says the exasperated farm woman who has had enough with the brotherly conflict on the farm.

There’s no time like the present to reflect on how you want things to be different at yourfarm. I think Dr. Michale Rosmann’s insight on managing conflict between farm family members will be an encouragement to you.

Here’s my application of his tips as a farm psychologist.

Managing brotherly conflict on the farm

Brothers are typically competitive. Often, this competition turns into full-fledged brotherly conflict. So, how can you manage that? Here are six ways:

1. Learn From Each Other

You each bring different skill sets to the operation, so how about having a learner mindset rather than judging one another? What can you take responsibility for to change?

2. Share Your Deepest Needs and Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for What You Need

I’ve seen bachelor brothers clam up and not talk. I have witnessed a next-generation farmer longing for a leg up from an heirless uncle who just doesn’t want to help his brother’s family.

UGH!

People cannot read minds, start exploring new possibilities about how each brother’s family can be a support to the other, and have a formalized meeting about the farm business plan, and the succession path you hope to take.

Be civil in your conversations.

3. Honor Each Other at Family Gatherings

Be family. Love one another. Love is a much healthier choice than hate. Seek out a mental health worker or therapist if there are deeper issues that need healing. When you die, you will not be remembered for the size of your tractor or wheat yields. Celebrate the family bonds that make you rich with relationships.

To read about my own experience with mental health, click here.

4. Affirm Each Other’s Strengths Even During Brotherly Conflict

Say, “I am proud of what we have created together. You are an amazing…. (fill in the blanks). I appreciate your contributions to our success. Things are shifting now, and we need to face the fact that we are not getting any younger! What is best for our family, and what is best for our farm business?”

5. Embrace Diversity

You might not have the same core values as your brother, and that is what is fueling discord. I often see incompatibility in the work ethic or amount of work one brother is willing to keep performing compared to the “lazy” brother. Talk about your disappointments and don’t let resentment continue to build. Address the issues!

6. Separate

Or–have a plan to before you arrive at this desire.

As you age and reassess what is really important in your life, you might want to let go of your business partnership and create a new structure for the farm.

I have seen this work wonderfully when three brothers recognized their adult farming sons would not work well together, so they separated. This is okay, as long as a plan is well thought out, proactive, and all the emotion in the process is recognized.

If it’s time to move off the farm, here are five things for farm founders to consider.

The unresolved brotherly conflict on the farm between two aging farm partners is a common theme of my coaching work. You might want to read “Cain’s Legacy” by Jeanne Safer, or the book “Emotional Blackmail” by Susan Forward for more insights.

It saddens me when farm families are stuck in angst and brotherly conflict. What steps can you take today to have better harmony between brothers who farm together?

Some of you who are sisters in the mix of partnering with your brother(s) may also be experiencing the same frustrations with competitions and values that are out of sync. In my seminars, I have many audience members that have more than one successor, so there are several young farmers looking for benevolent uncles to create room for them.

Resolving brotherly conflict and other farm family issues

Whatever your scenario looks like on your farm, start reaching out for help to change your current reality. Go here to view my coaching services to help you deal with brotherly conflict and other farm family issues.

Elaine is not travelling far these days during the GREAT PAUSE, so now is the perfect time to reach out for some zoom coaching! She has time!

Reach out to your advisors if it is time to start planning an amicable separation. Stop hurting each other with nastiness, and choose to embrace responsibility for your behavior.

Protect your family farm legacy. Treat your brother right. Love one another.