As a farm family coach, I hear the struggles of farmers who are used to being able to quickly repair or fix problems that arise daily. When these hard-working, well-intentioned folks have a farming adult child who is not a good fit for the farm, great stress lingers far too long – the stress of them working on the farm and eventually firing a fam child off the farm.

[Tweet “Working with #family doesn’t always work. Here’s what you need to do when #firing your #farmchild.”]

If you try to Google “how to fire your son or daughter on the farm” you get farm safety information or farm gas line explosion stories. The explosion that farms need tips on is how to fire a family employee graciously.

Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein suggests that you may have resigned yourself to disrespect. Lack of respect is killing good farm businesses.

“You think that because your adult child has problems that lets them off the hook for showing heartfelt respect. You may notice that he or she seems respectful when wanting something from you. Your adult child, however, turns on a dime or gets passive-aggressive if you reframe that request. You feel worn down and accept this chaos as normal.” – Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein

It’s time to stop the chaos.

8 Essential Steps for Firing a Farm Child off the Farm

1. Get Perspective

You can get a perspective on your situation from a coach or mental health professional. Bad behaviour on farms that never goes away is an indicator that you have deep-rooted issues that need to be addressed. You are not to be bullied or manipulated by the emotional tornado that resides in your farming child. Communication is the key to managing the storm. While you are in the storm, it is a good idea to document in writing all the incidents that are a fore-shadow that your son or daughter is not a good fit for your farm team. You can do this in a notebook or on your computer word documents.

2. Set Clear Expectations

firing a farm child - set clear expectations

Be clear about what you expect from your employees – family and non-family. When the kids come back to the farm and start working again typically, there is no employee contract with job description, skill sets, or a farm meeting about expectations. This is a huge trap for future problems. If your son or daughter needs to find another place of employment, you are the manager and you need to act. Disrespect, passive-aggressive behaviour, and avoidance of work are all energy drains from your business.

3. Have the conversation.

At the beginning of the meeting tell your son that you are going to fire him. The conversation’s purpose is to be clear about the documented reasons that he is not a good fit as an employee of your farm business.  This step is after you have already given 3 warnings that they are not performing well and that losing a job on the farm may be a consequence if their performance does not improve.

4. Fire Your Son/Daughter with Dignity in a Private Area

Give your son/daughter the same respect and dignity you would any other employee. Have the conversation in a private space, with a closed door. It would also be wise to have your trusted advisor or spouse with you when you do this, as a witness to how you conducted the meeting.

5. Refer to Your Written Employment Agreement

During your meeting, refer back to your written agreements about employment on the farm, or the signed employee contract. Yeah right, Elaine, no one on our farm has a contract! Exactly. An employee contract states reasons why an employee can be dismissed. If a son or daughter never had a written job description or a performance appraisal, there are no criteria for what is expected!

If you would like some quick templates for farm appraisals, email me with “performance review” in the subject line. Dick Wittman has a great farm management guidebook that has job descriptions and many helpful templates for you for less than $220 CDN.

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6. Tell Your Employees When You Let a Family Employee Go

There will likely be a sense of relief that a person who was draining energy and creating much conflict drama on the farm is no longer working there. That person is, however, still a member of the farm family. This is where it gets complicated, as being fired from the farm means there will have to be lots of emotional work done to love the family member and continue family relationships. You don’t have to explain why you fired the person, but you do want to tell your team that gossip is not an option. Move on.

7. Consider Grief Counseling

Losing the dream of having family members on your farm team is hard. You will need to process the new reality of where your farm business is going, and you may feel guilty about not acting more quickly to address the poor performance and conflict. I remember Dr. John Fast talking about a son “Chip” who was fired. Dad said: “Chip you are fired from our team, but as your father, I will be happy to help you find another job.” The separation of the two systems – the family and the business – has to be done very consciously, and it is not easy.

Necessary Endings

8. Read Dr. Henry Cloud’s Book Necessary Endings.

You can find it here.

The next steps fall on the child that was fired from the farm. Here are a few things they need to consider.

  1. What is really important to you now and what do you want to see happen?
  2. What do you want your relationship to the family to look like when you leave the farm? You may want to do some healing work with a counselor and employment coach. You get to decide the healthy boundaries of the relationship. Your children need to have a connection to their grandparents. What baby steps can you take to build up the emotional bank account with your family?
  3. What is your new income stream going to be, and where can you live? Update your resume, lots of folks need your farm labour skills.
  4. Network with friends and build a support group for your transition.
  5. Grieve your losses and celebrate your successes. Be curious about ways you need to change to be respectful and emotionally healthy in your next job.

I once had a young couple who fired themselves from their family farm, as they could not get along with the parents. They are now happily farming in a joint venture with a neighbour down the road, and they wrote me a wonderful letter to tell me how it all worked out. Getting fired is a transition. Improve and move on.

Farmers, Don’t Miss Out on Your Chance to Get Advice from Me!

If you are having trouble on your farm, you won’t want to miss these great upcoming events I have! On October 31st, 2018, I will at a special luncheon for Discuss the Undiscussabull. Find out all about it here! Also, on November 7th, 2018, I will be speaking during the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA) Kickstarting the Farm Transition. You can find out more about it here!

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
N. Oakley, Farmer, Ontario
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Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
“I recently joined in and listened to your Healthy Farmer Agriwebinar for FMC. I truly enjoyed hearing your perspective and even went and grabbed my Mom, away from her work, to come and listen in on some of your main points as well! One area that really stood out for me, both personally with our own succession plans and with our clients, was your discussion involving "Instant Influence" and how ready are you to change? I loved this concept!”
Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
“Elaine gives me excellent tools that help me work with my clients!”
Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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