Different Ways to Deal with Insubordination at Work

Insubordination at work refers to an employee’s intentional refusal to obey an order. This can be considered as undermining the supervisor’s level of respect and challenging the authority of managers. This kind of action might lead to disciplinary breaches and the termination of employment as well. One of the best things to do is to use your managerial skills and investigate the matter and figure out the root cause of your employee’s insubordination.

There are so many examples that you can follow in case you get stuck in any situation. For example, you can refer to your company’s code of conduct or reach out to your HR department. Apart from that, there are so many best practices that are available on different blogs by experts belonging to different industries.

You can use WOW Internet services to access these blogs and improve your managerial skills. You can also have a look at different business-related programs and news on WOW TV and get the latest updates from the industry.

How To Identify Insubordination at Work?

Anything that is less or more than the provided instructions by the managers can be graded as insubordination. It needs to have a flavor of human will in it, which means that the person who is committing insubordination has to show some sort of aggressive behavior, rudeness, and threatening behavior. Apart from that, insubordinate behavior can include:

Subtle sabotage in which an individual does not object loudly. Instead, they refuse to do the tasks assigned to them which leads to any project’s failure.

Or, it could be any type of avoiding behavior which means that the employee says yes to your orders but doesn’t complete the task assigned to them. This is when the employee could have done something and everything but chooses not to do anything.

They do the exact opposite of the task instructions, which is obvious. However, if the tasks get done quietly, many managers do not consider it insubordination.

Let’s take a look at different things you can do in case you have such an employee.

Set Some Clear Boundaries

If you let your employees know about your limits and boundaries at the beginning, you will be less likely to experience any unethical behaviors by them. They should know what their limits are and you should be aware of your limitations as well. Also, you need to make it clear at the start about the expectations the organization has from them. This will not let any conflict arise between you and the employee.

Listen to What Your Employees Have to Say

You can listen to your employees and let them have a say in different aspects of the organization. In many cases, insubordination occurs when there is a genuine disagreement over the actions that are right for you. There is a high chance that you or your employee might not agree to a few things. Let them speak and make things clear at the discussion table.

Follow All Rules and Ethical Standards

There are different industry standards and rules that you and everybody who is part of the workforce need to follow. You can study these standards and rules and make them very clear for your employees while defining guidelines that everybody in the organization has to follow. For instance, if any of your proposals differ from the labor laws and standards your employees might behave like a rebel and cause insubordination.

Also, if you have to face a lawsuit, then you are less likely to lose your case because you have everything in spick and span on your end.

Handling Insubordination after Being in a Situation

It is a known fact that you might be the best manager in the industry but you’re required to deal with certain behaviors and biasedness at work. Because that’s how pretty much all corporate settings work. Hence, you will experience insubordination and related reactions in different stages of time. So, make sure you have a plan to handle insubordination after it happens.

Identify the Behavior Immediately

When you ignore insubordination, you might provide room for more insubordination. It always happens. Although it will not be too intense in the beginning, if you let it go, it will set a very negative example for other employees. However, this also doesn’t mean that you have to be a control freak who micro-manages all processes and people in the organization. 

Issue Consequences for Negative Behavior

This varies according to the circumstances and the intensity of the insubordination. In some cases, it might be the real reason behind a cohesive reaction by managers. For instance, you were supposed to submit a file by 5:00 pm and you refuse to work for any given reason. It is subordination. In case of an immediate refusal to adhere to instructions, you can always take relevant measures to ensure that the same incident doesn’t repeat in the future.

Document Everything

One of the best practices to serve justice and react to the situation, you need to get everything documented. You should also document the proceedings, the behavior, and the consequences and get it signed by witnesses and the employee who has violated any work ethics.

Make Sure to Be Fair

Managers and CEOs are humans and it is human nature to react in case there is a certain action committed against the rules set by you. There is nothing positive to being unjust to someone but if you think that you have given the right amount of chances and updates to your employees and helped them to get their things straight, then it is fine to take action against insubordination.


In the end, one can say that insubordination is discouraged almost everywhere in the world and people who commit insubordination are not considered good employees. They find themselves in a constant struggle with the management and themselves and they often leave the grounds after some time. That does not mean that managers should ignore such behavior but always try to work for their improvement through mentorship and training.

Also, if things go way off-hand, then it seems to be the best time to take action against such behaviors. Consider all the points mentioned above and notice all these behaviors in your target employee and deal with insubordination accordingly.