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KSRE Tuesday Letter

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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

October 19, 2021

Working Together

Submitted by Ron & Nancy Honig

This week we continue our new tradition of having guest writers compose our featured article on the third Tuesday Letter of the month. This week’s article is contributed by Ron and Nancy Honig of our Wild West District.

We often talk about the importance of teamwork in our offices, centers, and departments. Ron and Nancy, with their unique perspective as both office team members and husband and wife, share what it is like to be partners at work and partners in life. I believe we can all learn something from their observations about teamwork and collegiality! - GH

We started our Extension careers in 1990 and 1991 in rural South Dakota. We were both pretty fresh out of college and although we were both active long-time 4-H’ers, we knew little about Extension and what an agent really did. Our greatest asset was we cared about the people, and over time we each found our niche in our counties. Although we worked in separate counties, we were part of a working block that programmed together and cooperated on projects.

The move back to Kansas came in 1997 when Nancy took the FCS/Youth Development position in Stevens County. Ron worked in private industry until 2018 when he began as the Stevens County ANR Agent.

We became co-workers once again in 2018. Following are our observations of what we see as common issues in the Extension work place that we have found to be far different for us as married co-workers.

One of the situations most detrimental to productivity in the workplace is animosity between co-workers. As we began to discuss this article, it dawned on us that there is absolutely no competition between us. We want and we work to achieve success for both of us in our jobs. The most asked question in our home is, “Can you help me with….?” Although sometimes begrudgingly, the answer is always yes.

Lack of communication in the office, withholding information from co-workers or worrying that your co-worker will get credit for your idea, all destroy productivity and trust. Because a success for one of us is a success for both, we don’t have issues with this. In fact, for us the communication never quits. We find ourselves discussing work at home on a regular basis, but since we work in different subject matters with different duties, it actually helps us have a better overall idea of what is happening in the office, even if it doesn’t affect us directly.

One of the reasons we work successfully together as co-workers is because we love each other and we love our jobs. We both believe in order to be successful in Extension you have to have the heart of a servant. You have to care about the people you serve. You have to care about doing the best work you can each day. Our successes in our jobs come from the personal relationships we have created with our clientele. Having people feel that you truly listened to their concerns and went out of your way to help them will build loyalty for your programs and towards you. This in turn provides repeat business, recommendations to others and a base of volunteers.

Are there days that it is best if we stay in our own offices and leave each other alone? Absolutely. Do our other co-workers occasionally hear a “family discussion” that comes to work with us? For sure. Are there days we feel we have the full support of each other as co-workers and someone who will work with us to utilize our strengths and encourage us when we are down? Everyday.

The most unproductive KSRE offices across the state are surely those where agents refuse to communicate, refuse to work together, worry about who is getting credit, and try to make sure their performance review or board report always looks better than that of their co-worker.

When we work on projects together, our productivity increases because we are “all in” on helping the other person. As Extension professionals, all we really need to worry about is helping the people we serve to the best of our ability. Everything else will fall into place.

People ask us, “How can you work with your spouse?” We honestly reply, “We can’t imagine anything better."