How To Deal with Insubordination

Many people think that being in authority is cool. In many ways, yes it is. But with authority comes not only responsibilities but also tons of headaches. And in many instances, these headaches are caused by insubordination. Insubordinate employees are a pain to deal with. Not only do they cause production delays, they also affect the morale of their co-workers and the employer. Insubordination must be handled immediately; otherwise, it might become a pattern in the workplace, gravely affecting company performance. If you have insubordination problems in your company, here are some pointers on how to deal with them.

  1. Understand what constitutes insubordination. Legal experts define insubordination as a willful and constant refusal to carry out an ordered task. By theory, an employee can be described as insubordinate when he, after receiving a task from a superior and indicating he understands it, deliberately refuses to accomplish the order either verbally or through actions, or both. Verbal assault and disrespect to the authority can also be categorized as insubordination.
  2. Know your company policy regarding insubordination. Before taking action, first understand what your company policy is against insubordination. Talk to the Human Resource manager and particularly ask the course of action you need to take to deal with an insubordinate employee.
  3. Talk to the insubordinate employee one-on-one. After the incident of insubordination, immediately talk to the employee and tell him the implications of his behavior. Specifically discuss with the employee the effects of his conduct and how it should be dealt with according to the company policy. It is best to privately talk to the employee, in a room where he can freely air his side. Understand that the confrontation might get somewhat heated. In that case, leave the room for a while and return when you’ve gained back your cool.
  4. Make a written warning. Aside from personally confronting the insubordinate employee, you have to issue a written warning that completely states the details of the insubordination incidence and the corresponding disciplinary action. Make sure to indicate your expectations of a changed behavior.
  5. Consider termination. Repetitive cases of insubordination call for termination. Usually, however, one instance of a severely serious insubordination can already be a ground for dismissal. Still, the decision to terminate a one-time insubordinate employee should be in accordance with your company policy. Otherwise, the employee might take his case to the court, further putting your company on the line.
  6. Be firm with your decision. Whatever your decision may be, remember to be resolute. Any indication of weakness might be taken against you, giving the insubordinate employee more reasons to disregard your authority. Never apologize for your decision—whether it is a disciplinary action or termination.
  7. Record the employee’s progress. In case you decided to keep the insubordinate employee, make sure to document his improvements or the lack thereof. Give him feedback and highlight how he has been improving or slacking off. If he shows no signs of improvement, consider discharging him from work.

Act on the insubordination incident promptly. Doing so will send the message that you are not taking insubordination issues lightly. Asserting your authority will also repel any employees’ attempts to defy your orders.


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