Employee insubordination can destroy organizational morale, impede the completion of projects and detract from the customer experience. When you have an employee that goes rogue, you must quickly and effectively act to minimize the effect of the situation on your team. Use the following tips to deal with insubordination in the workplace without losing your cool.
1. Establish a policy
Every business must have an HR policy in place that defines the procedure for dealing with insubordination. Such a framework will help employees know what to expect and give you and your management team a checklist to follow to make sure that you manage the situation fairly and legally. A case of insubordination in the workplace can become complicated if the defiant employee alleges discrimination based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability or other legally protected trait.
Make sure that you have an up-to-date knowledge of applicable employment laws and regulations that affect your organization. Rules may vary depending on your industry, state or locality, so you might need to have a labor-law attorney help you craft your employment policies and procedures.
2. Keep records
As you act against insubordination in the workplace, you must document every action that you have taken to deal with the problem. Save relevant video recordings, email correspondence and eye-witness accounts to make sure you can prove insubordination and that your firm properly responded. As a general rule, you must prove that your employee received a reasonable direct order and understood how to properly respond to it. You will also need to prove that the employee refused to follow the order.
In emotionally charged situations, you will also need evidence to show that neither you or the manager involved provoked a hostile response from the employee in question. Although in most cases, ordinary “shop talk” might not constitute employee insubordination in the workplace, you can use records of other abusive language used toward a superior in the presence of customers or coworkers to support action against an employee.
Except in extreme cases that warrant immediate employee termination that require no historical behavior patterns, you should follow the step-by-step discipline program that you have defined in your policy. Document every action including casual verbal warnings, training sessions, informal counseling sessions, written warnings and final confrontations. Although keeping records adds to your workload, the practice can save you a lot in terms of possible future legal penalties and employment insurance expenses your company might incur.
3. Stay calm
Despite the frustrating situations that can involve insubordination in the workplace, you must always stay calm. If you lose your cool, you might bypass established procedures and create evidence that employees can use to support their side of the story in court. Even when an employee is verbally abusive, never respond in like manner. In the case of physical abuse, respond with only enough force to protect the safety of you, your employees and your property. An out-of-control situation will get worse unless you keep your cool.
4. Assess the damage
You should do everything possible to make sure that you appropriately react to insubordination in the workplace. Before taking any punitive action find out how much the incident cost your firm in terms of productivity, morale, and reputation. If an insubordinate employee caused a safety hazard, for example, you might consider a stronger penalty than if a supervisor was slightly embarrassed. Even a relatively low-key incident of insubordination in the workplace can be grounds for termination if you have a well-documented record of past similar problems and attempted resolutions.
5. Consider employment insurance
In many areas, employees that were terminated “for cause” can have their unemployment compensation either reduced or denied and may, therefore, have less of an impact on the cost of your unemployment insurance. If employees, whom you fired for insubordination in the workplace, challenge the circumstances of their termination, you will probably need to present evidence that supports your version of events. If you cannot show a chronological record of employee performance, misbehavior and remedial actions such as counseling, the state could fully restore an insubordinate employee’s unemployment benefits. As a result, your business might soon have to pay an increased unemployment insurance premium.
6. Remember your team
You have worked hard to assemble a skilled, trained, professional and loyal team to support your business goals. Insubordination in the workplace threatens your entire team and your investment in human resources. Subtle insubordination can cause severe morale problems that affect customer relationships. The quality of your products and services can also suffer long with morale, causing your company to lose its competitive edge. An insubordinate employee, therefore, threatens the jobs of their coworkers as well as your livelihood.
Employee terminations can introduce new morale problems into your workplace, especially when the reasons behind your action seem unclear. Always communicate with your team under these circumstances. Remind them of the disciplinary policies and procedures that are in place at your firm and provide assurances that you and your management team will always abide by them.
Also, make yourself available for private discussions with any employees who have questions or concerns. The law and sound legal practices will, in most cases, prevent you from sharing all the details regarding disciplinary action against an employee, but you can reassure your employees and gladly receive and record any feedback that they provide.
Employee insubordination in the workplace can cause dangerous, uncomfortable and expensive situations that can threaten the performance of a business. Before you hire your first worker, make sure that you have adequate HR policies and procedures in place. When insubordination occurs, keep evidence that supports any action that you take and make sure that your response follows published procedures and is commensurate to the damage caused by the incident. By properly dealing with insubordination in the workplace, you maintain a well-functioning company while preserving your business interests as well as those of your employees and customers.