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Dealing with insubordination is something that you might run into as a front line supervisor, manager, or even as an executive.
Insubordination can be defined in two different ways: one is a work refusal. You ask an employee to do something and they refuse to do it. Then there’s the person who doesn’t do what you’ve asked them to do, but they don’t tell you they’re not going to do it. There are also employees who take an unreasonable amount of time to do what you’ve asked them to do.
The second type of insubordination is disrespectful conduct. If you have an employee who yells or curses and is disrespectful to the leader, that is insubordination.
When an employee is insubordinate, there are a number of things you need to do in response.
If you, as a leader, put up with or condone this type of behaviour, it’s likely to worsen over time. You need to be very direct and say, “You haven’t completed the work task I’ve assigned you,” or, “When you speak to me like that, it’s disrespectful and insubordinate and unacceptable. You have a choice right now. You can apologize, you can change your behavior, or this is going to become a disciplinary situation.” Leaders do not have to put up with that kind of conduct from their team members.
It’s good leadership behavior to make sure that you’re not swearing at, or being disrespectful to your team members. If you set a high standard for how you conduct yourself and your team disrespects you, you can then talk to them about insubordination. However, if you never say anything about insubordinate behavior, it starts to reduce the standards in your team. People will stop doing what you’ve asked them to do. You’ll then have to reassign the job to somebody else who’s more cooperative. Meanwhile, the insubordinate employee thinks, “See, I don’t have to do the same work as other people.”
Insubordination is not something you want to tolerate as a leader and, like any more serious disciplinary situation, you’re going to need to talk to human resources or your manager. “The behavior needs to change. I want to confront it and I want to correct it.” Remember, your job as a leader is not to be a punisher. Your job is to correct behaviors and have people meet your expectations.
When insubordinate situations arise, don’t start throwing out accusations, or yelling and screaming at the person. Remain calm because your goal is to correct their behavior. You want to make sure your behavior is setting the example. Stay calm and say, “I can’t have you refuse to do the work that I’ve assigned you. I can’t have you talk to me or others disrespectfully, so what I need you to do is to be the great employee I know you can be, and meet the expectations from a behavior standpoint.”
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