How To Handle Insubordination

Having workplace conflict

One of the more difficult parts of running a business is dealing with insubordinate employees. Every person will probably deal with it in a different way, but it is important that all managers are consistent. Insubordination can be an employee simply not doing the job they have been asked to do, to an employee becoming verbally abusive to a superior or peer. 

Insubordination should be addressed immediately. If possible, remove the employee from any public areas, and take them to a more private office or other private area. In some cases, it is good to have another person in the room to act as a silent witness. All people involved need to be at the same eye level, either everybody sits or everybody stands. It is not a good idea to start a disciplinary discussion with the perpetrator on the defensive. In some more heated or serious situations, it is a good idea to send the employee home for a 24 hour cooling off period. This gives you time to gather any information that may be pertinent to the disciplinary action.

The insubordinate act needs to be documented. The documentation should be specific and include who was involved, the date and the time. Be specific, and do not add any extra opinions, just the facts.

Explain to the employee what action was insubordinate. Be specific, you do not ever want to leave wiggle room or leave it to the employee's interpretation as to what you meant. If the employee asks questions during the conversation, answer only those that are relevant to the insubordinate act. Do not allow yourself to get dragged into a lengthy conversation about anything other than the one specific act.

Ask the employee to recap at the end of your short discussion. If they are not describing the insubordinate actions, you need to start over and make sure they understand what they did that you do not approve of.

If there will be disciplinary action to follow, it needs to be documented as well. Have the employee sign the documentation. They do not have to agree but they are acknowledging the incident did take place and that they were indeed talked to or disciplined. If an employee refuses to sign, that needs to be noted by yourself and your witness. You and your witness need to sign the documentation as well.

Keep in mind that some people do not realize they are being insubordinate. Remain calm; do not jump to conclusions, before you have the entire story. It could have been a simple misunderstanding.


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