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Insubordination| Meaning, Forms and Ways of Dealing

Last Updated : 05 Oct, 2023
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What is Insubordination?

Insubordination is a term used to describe a behaviour or act of defiance, resistance, or disobedience towards a person in a position of higher authority within an organisation or hierarchy. It is a term that will describe the behaviour of any employee or worker in an organisation towards its teammates and higher authorities or HR. It involves a single person or a group of members or employees refusing to follow orders, directives, or instructions given by their superiors or managers. In many organisations or workplaces, insubordination is considered serious misconduct or violation of workplace standards. It is important to take care of insubordination because it can destroy the whole work culture of the organisation, and the reputation of the firm is also damaged. Insubordination in the workplace is different from regular conflicts because an insubordinate employee also creates an impact on other team members.

Examples of Insubordinate Behaviour 

1. Disrespecting Higher Authorities: Basically, employees can show insubordination in any workplace or firm by overtly disrespecting higher authorities or managers in the office. For example, an employee may create conflicts with their managers by yelling or continuously using vulgar language toward them. 

2. Ignoring Workplace Policies: Employees can show insubordination by ignoring or neglecting the rules and regulations set by the firm to maintain a healthy work culture. For example, an employee starts ignoring the dress code rules or attendance rules continuously.

Forms of Insubordination in a Workplace

Insubordination in the workplace can take various forms, ranging from overt acts of defiance to more subtle behaviours that undermine authority and disrupt the work environment. 

1. Open Defiance: Behaving in a confrontational or openly disrespectful manner towards those in authority, such as speaking disrespectfully or challenging their decisions, interrupting in between important meetings.

2. Abusive Language: The use of inappropriate words or harsh language in team meetings comes under insubordination. Cursing or blaming at work is normal, but the use of abusive language can lead to insubordinate behaviour.

3. Failure to Perform: Suppose the task is assigned to any employee and he/she willfully denies or ignores the instructions given by higher authorities, this will come under insubordination.

4. Sabotage: Deliberate actions aimed at damaging company property, projects, or processes can be considered a severe form of insubordination.

5. Ignoring Instructions: Insubordination can also occur when employees consistently and intentionally ignore or neglect instructions, tasks, or responsibilities assigned by their superiors.

6. Direct Refusal: This is the most blatant form of insubordination, where an employee openly refuses to comply with a legitimate and reasonable directive or order from a supervisor or manager.

7. Violation of Dress Code: Repeatedly disregarding the company’s dress code or grooming standards despite warnings can be a form of insubordination.

How to Prevent Insubordination in a Workplace?

1. Clear Communication: Establish open and transparent communication channels within the workplace. Ensure that all employees understand their roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Communicate company policies, procedures, and guidelines to all employees. Make sure they know where to find this information if they have questions.

2. Review Company Policies: Familiarise all the employees and workers with company policies and procedures related to insubordination, disciplinary actions, and conflict resolution, and if necessary make suitable changes to feel more comfortable to employees.

3. Training and Development: Provide proper training, Knowledge Transfer (KT) sessions, and development opportunities to help employees improve their skills and knowledge. This can boost their confidence and job satisfaction, reducing the likelihood of insubordination inside the work culture.

4. Introducing New Policies: By introducing new policies in an organisation, like POSH, insubordination can be controlled up to some level because, with this, the employees have the right to respond to any misbehaviour going on with them in the work culture.

5. Fun Activities: Organising fun activities in the organisation by HR or authorities at regular intervals, will refresh the minds of employees and create a bond between the employees and authorities and teammates. It also creates a healthy work culture in any organisation.

6. Offer Constructive Feedback: Provide feedback on how the employees can improve their behaviour and avoid future instances of insubordination. Be specific and offer guidance.

7. Recognition and Rewards: Acknowledge and reward employees for their contributions and achievements in the organisations. Recognising their efforts creates a positive work environment and motivates all employees to perform well.

How to Handle Insubordination in the Workplace?

1. Listen Actively: Allow the employee to explain their perspective and reasons for their behaviour. Active listening can help uncover the subordination issues. In this way, the things or reasons are clear of any dispute or any opposition.

2. Gather Information: Before addressing the issue, gather all relevant information, including the specific incidents of insubordination, witnesses, and any supporting documentation.

3. Private Discussion: Schedule a private meeting with the employee involved to discuss their insubordinate behaviour. HR can control or solve the issues of any employee that will control the insubordination up to an extent. Express the concerns and provide specific examples to solve those concerns.

4. Stay Calm and Professional: Maintain composure and remain professional when dealing with insubordination in any organisation or firm or towards any particular person. Avoid responding emotionally or in anger in the workplace.

5. Offer Constructive Feedback: Provide feedback on how the employee can improve their behaviour and avoid future instances of insubordination. Be specific and offer guidance.

6. Seek Mediation: In cases where the conflict persists, consider involving a neutral third party, such as a mediator or HR representative, to help resolve the issue.

7. Set Clear Expectations: Clear communication is most important to deal with any type of issue going into the workplace, so clearly communicate your expectations regarding employees’ behaviour, job performance, and adherence to company policies in detail.

8. Monitor Progress: After addressing the insubordination, monitor the employee’s behaviour and performance closely. Provide regular feedback and support as needed.


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