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Enough is Enough: When to Let Go of the Employees You No Longer Can Afford to Keep


July 12, 2022

A lot of attention has been directed toward keeping the employees you can’t afford to lose. However, sometimes there are employees on your farm that you can’t afford to keep because of various reasons, such as unsatisfactory performance, gross misconduct or a loss of the position.

Stan Moore with Michigan State University Extension says while it’s not always easy to part ways with an employee, if there is gross misconduct - like violence, theft, drug-related offenses - the decision has likely already been made.

“The only consideration is that you might consider suspending the employee until you have had a chance to fully understand what happened and listen to the employee’s side of the story,” Moore says.

Liz Griffith focuses on human resources for Encore Consulting and says the following are some key indicators that an employee is no longer valuable to your team:

"Not my problem, not my job" attitude.

  1. Increased disagreements and arguments with leadership.

  2. Decreased work quality.

  3. No desire to learn new skills or improve.

  4. Late to work and early to leave.

  5. Disappearing acts during shifts.

  6. Creates drama with other team members.

  7. Negative attitude.

  8. Insists on higher pay but avoids responsibility.

  9. Not living your company values.

Unsatisfactory Performance

Before letting an employee go, Moore recommends asking yourself if you have tried everything to help the employee succeed.

Providing adequate, on-going and progressive training is essential for laying the foundation to create a successful employee. Moore shares that owners must provide the knowledge and skills to help employees succeed.

“Have you provided adequate documented feedback to allow the employee to correct their performance,” Moore asks? “How would you rate yourself on your management of employees, and specifically this employee? Are you being fair with all employees, are you holding all employees accountable for their actions and performance? Is your hiring process sufficient to find good employees that are the right fit for your farm?”

Moore continues by saying that owners and managers don’t need to take all of the responsibility for employee performance, but that they should try to understand their part in the problem and seek to improve upon their employee hiring, training, and management skills.

Proper Documentation

Ongoing documentation that outlines performance, conduct and changes in the job description should be kept on file for all employees.

“If an employee believes that you have let them go based on their age, and you do not have documentation on file showing your reasons for termination, you may be putting yourself at risk,” Moore says.

An employee handbook is vital, outlining in writing what disciplinary actions and fireable offenses are.

“Court costs alone should cause employers to make sure that they have their reasons documented and that they are being consistent with all employees,” Moore says.


Good employees want employers to hold all employees accountable to a level of standards.

“When employees perceive their employer is not holding all employees accountable to the same set of standards, teamwork and productivity suffer on the farm,” Moore says. “If you are not parting ways with employees that need to leave the farm, you are sending the message to the rest of the employees on what is most important to you.”

The bottom line, avoiding conflict can cause a problem employee to stick around longer than needed. This negatively impacts the entire farming operation.

“Often when action is finally taken, the employer found out from other employees that things were much worse than previously thought,” Moore says.



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