Every dairy needs to build a great team.  Building a great dairy team has two parts: making sure you put the right people on it and quickly getting the wrong people out!

Hiring and training are the fun parts of team building. (Read more: Great Dairy Employees Need Great Starts). Getting off to a great start is a necessity, but dairy managers sometimes overlook or downright ignore signs of trouble on their dairy staff (Read more: If You’re Staff is Negative Your Dairy Will Positively Suffer). That’s a problem because, while firing might be uncomfortable, it’s even more important than hiring and it needs to happen at all levels. (Read more: Fire Yourself! 8 Signs that your time has come.)

There are Always More Than Two Sides to Every Firing Story!

Even when you’re talking to your BFF and he’s telling you about a friend who was “let go (from an ag company) for no reason” or, even when you’re listening to a relative who heard from a friend of a friend that “they have unreal job expectations at that dairy operation and then they fire anybody who falls short”. Even then, there’s always another side to the story.

  • From The Employee Side: From the employee side, reasons for leaving a job might have to do with low morale, excessive work or low pay. These are problems which can be solved by open communication between both sides.  However, if an employee is unable to do the job or chooses to do it incorrectly, then it may be time for termination of employment.  It sometimes appears that an employee is, “Asking to be fired!”
  • From the Management Side: From management’s viewpoint, under-performing employees are toxic to your dairy team. Not only do they undermine productivity but, by not doing the job they are supposed to do, it means that others have to work twice as hard to pick up the slack. On top of all this, when the others see that underperforming is acceptable, they lose their motivation. Allowing poor performers to avoid responsibility, only serves to alienate and annoy your best people. Eventually, they will choose to leave, and all you will be left with are the people you shouldn’t have kept in the first place.

10 Telltale Signs That You’ve Reached the Firing Line

Sometimes you may have an employee who is finding that the dairy farm system is no longer a good fit. Times do come when a person’s season of contribution is over.  This can even happen to owners (See Fire Yourself! 8 Signs that your time has come) and it happens with employees.  We make things unpleasant if we do not recognize this time and make a healthy, respectful farewell.  It is important to recognize that there are definitely times when firing is the correct and only option.  Here are ten signs that it’s firing time.

  1. Criminal Acts: It goes without saying that a criminal offence (such as stealing or mistreating humans or animal cruelty) is cause for immediate dismissal.
  2. Job Apathy: Apathy takes many forms including neglect, indifference, and unresponsiveness. It prevents people from doing their own jobs and is quite contagious.
  3. Disappearing Acts: When staff duck out beyond regularly scheduled breaks, it’s a sure sign they feel they’re above and beyond the job. That affects the morale of everyone.
  4. Arguments: When someone frequently argues with you, other management, fellow employees, or clients, it’s definitely a sign that it’s time for that employee to go.
  5. Declining Productivity: If the employee spends more time with their attention in places other than their work, it’s time to bring that employee in for a chat.
  6. Secrets: Deal with huddled employees who scatter when you appear or deal with much more severe problems later.
  7. Pot Stirring: This one of the most damaging behaviors you’ll find on the dairy. Locate the source, or you’ll never calm things down.
  8. Unreasonable Demands: When an employee becomes dissatisfied with either the job or the work environment, they’ll start asking for things that aren’t realistic. They are practically begging for you to let them go. If you find this to be the case, oblige them!
  9. Redundancy: Economics might lead you to the hard decision to reduce staff a bit and rely on a contracted hire, if and when the situation requires it. Technology may also be replacing certain jobs.
  10. Internal affairs: Try to avoid this altogether by creating a strong policy concerning relationships in the workplace. If someone breaks that policy – they have to go.

Don’t  Be Too Slow!

In speaking with employees, it is important to always be honest and open.  It is your job to make sure the employee knows why you are not satisfied with their performance. You do not fire someone for no reason.  Write down the reasons and give the person an opportunity to improve or correct the situation. You might choose to place the employee on paid suspension for a specific amount of time.  This gives them time to look at the situation from a different perspective and perhaps reconsider how they can be part of the team. However, if the employee is not prepared to commit to improvement, terminate employment.

And yet…Don’t Rush to Judgment

Rushing to judgment with farm worker doesn’t help anyone.  It’s up to management to recognize that employees probably needed time to adjust to living and working in a new country or at jobs they hadn’t done before. Furthermore, they may be dealing with the challenges of speaking and learning a new language, which can make it harder to understand what is expected. The dairy operation may be unlike anything they ever knew before.  What experience, if any, did they have with working with animals?  Milking cows? Feeding calves? When you add in making hay and silage, building and mending fences, sowing grass and crops, fixing mechanical equipment, safely and skilfully handling powerful machines, helping cows give birth and much, much more, you may have a little more empathy for the employee that finds it overwhelming.  It requires a lot of hard work, skills, intelligence, and common sense.

Delivering the News to Other Staff

Whenever someone leaves the dairy farm, they remain a part of the system to the extent that their contribution in the past is still having an effect.  One of the unfortunate things we do is to lose sight of what people have contributed.  Although it’s much more enjoyable to celebrate a good work record, this can also happen when someone leaves in a negative way.  Sweeping effects under the rug or otherwise overlooking the impact of a negative dismissal will cause ongoing problems. Misunderstandings or lack of information are to be avoided, while still maintaining a dignified respect for private information. Respect all parties.

You Can Only Move Forward with A Good “End” in Sight

Hiring is only half of building a great team. You also need to have an effective system for getting the wrong people out. You can’t have one without the other. Not knowing how to end the working relationship, has a severe impact on setting goals for all employees

  1. All staff members need to know what is expected and how and when they will be monitored for achievement and what failure to achieve means.
  2. Employees should know whom they answer to and that communication lines are always open. A culture of feedback can prevent problems from getting to a place where there are no options but parting of the way. There should be a trail of paperwork to prove it.
  3. Having said that, when the time has come to an end the working relationship, be firm in your decision making. Never deliver the news of the firing, as if you don’t stand behind it.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It is financially important to have hard working, reliable employees working in a low-stress environment. When the bad outweighs the good and when the employee is causing problems not solving them, continuing to employ that person sends the wrong message to the rest of the team. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

 

 

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