What is Insubordination?

by | Oct 3, 2023 | Human Resources

A term used to describe a situation in which an employee refuses to obey a direct order or command from a superior, or they display a defiant or disrespectful attitude toward authority figures.

Insubordination is generally considered a violation of workplace rules and can lead to disciplinary actions, including warnings, suspension, or even termination of employment.

Here are some common examples of behaviour that may be seen as insubordination in a workplace:

  1. Refusal to follow direct orders: When an employee refuses to carry out a reasonable and lawful order from their supervisor or manager without a valid reason.
  2. Disrespectful attitude: Displaying a disrespectful or confrontational attitude towards supervisors, managers, or colleagues, including using offensive language, gestures, or tone.
  3. Ignoring workplace policies: Consistently violating established workplace policies, procedures, or guidelines, even after being informed of them.
  4. Open defiance: Openly challenging or questioning authority figures in a confrontational or aggressive manner.
  5. Sabotage or intentional disruption: Deliberatelyundermining the work or goals of the organization or team, which can include intentionally slowing down work processes or spreading false information.
  6. Non-compliance with safety protocols: Ignoring safety rules and protocols that are in place to protect the well-being of employees and others.        
Additionally, it’s essential for employees to understand their rights and responsibilities in the workplace and to seek clarification or address concerns through appropriate channels if they believe they are being asked to do something unethical, illegal, or unsafe.

Here are steps to address insubordination effectively:

  1. Define and communicate expectations: Ensure that your company has clear and documented policies, job descriptions, and performance expectations. Make sure all employees understand what is expected of them in terms of behaviour, work standards, and conduct.
  2. Private conversation: When you notice insubordinate behaviour, address it promptly but privately. Stay calm, respectful, and non-confrontational during the conversation.
  3. Discuss consequences: Outline the potential consequences if the insubordinate behaviour continues. Be sure to reference company policies or employment agreements that govern these consequences.
  4. Document the conversation: After the meeting, document the discussion, including what was discussed, any agreements reached, and the date of the meeting. This documentation will be crucial if further action is necessary.
  5. Involve HR: If the issue remains unresolved or escalates, involve Human Resources to ensure a fair and consistent approach. HR can provide guidance on how to proceed and may conduct a formal investigation if necessary.