Q: “Things have gotten intense around here. We used to get along well and have fun at work, but our boss has been in a bad mood for a long time, and there’s no room for even some good-natured joking. How can we get things back to the way they were?”

A: “When it seems like you need a change, make some changes.” This saying seems too obvious to be useful, but you might be surprised at how often people overlook this simple solution.

A well-managed pork production facility develops and follows consistent routines, regular procedures and predictable timetables. The benefit is that production is consistent and goals are achieved. The downside is that work becomes monotonous, and employees can fall into the rut of mediocrity.

I’m not advocating re-writing production procedures; rather I’m saying there’s room to mix things up a bit. Do some cross-training and rotate duties. Establish some entertaining things to do at lunchtime such as games or discussion topics (but avoid politics and religion). Have a weekly potluck, with a variety of themes — Taco Thursdays, Casserole Fridays or Italian Tuesdays.

There may be a need to develop some ground rules to minimize the chances for people to be offended. It would be wise to have a meeting and admit that there is some dissension among the ranks. Then come to agreements on conduct such as no sarcasm, no negative comments, positive comments only, and daily procedures such as everyone leaving at the same time. What’s more, everyone has to agree to hold themselves to these rules.

The real challenge is that someone needs to take the initiative to bring the problem into the open, and that requires leadership. Anyone can lead through these changes; don’t just leave it up to the boss. Of course, it’s wise to discuss it with him or her, but you also can discuss challenges that you all face with your coworkers. The point is to be proactive and creative in finding solutions.