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Insubordination if a favorite threat for sociopathic managers, especially micromanagers. But details are not that simple and you can fight this threat pretty effectively as typically sociopathic micromanager is completely incompetent. Here are Six Elements of Insubordination :
(www.schools.utah.gov) We frequently use the term insubordination to imply that an employee has not complied with a request from a supervisor. Making a legal case of insubordination requires the employee to have full knowledge of his/her action. Just telling an employee to do something does not mean that the employee received the message, understood the message, or understands the consequences from not complying with the message. Legal insubordination cases require a much higher threshold of understood evidence than the common term of simple insubordination. Supervisors must understand that difference to prevail in cases of insubordination.
Other causes for discipline are generally easier to pursue and just as effective.
A charge of insubordination must show the following:
That the employee was informed of the consequences of not obeying the direct order. The employee must be told that failure to obey the order will result in discipline up to and including termination.
- That the employee was given a clearly expressed direct order (preferably in writing, with a receipt of memo line signed by the employee and cc to personnel file).
- That the employee understood the order given (acknowledged in the receipt of memo).
- That the order was reasonable and work-related.
- That the order did not place the employee in danger of his or her safety or health.
- That the order did not violate public policy.
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Insubordination is a refusal by an employee to carry out a direct and proper order from a supervisor. Insubordination may be active or passive.
Active insubordination occurs when an employee specifically refuses a directive or states the intention to not follow a directive. This refusal is usually verbal. Active insubordination can be confrontational. It may involve threats or even assault.
Passive insubordination occurs when the employee intentionally does not carry out the supervisor’s directive, but there is no direct refusal. Passive insubordination is much harder to identify.
Insubordination is one of a category of charges (others include dishonesty, theft or misappropriation of University property, fighting on the job and other acts endangering others) considered so serious that the University is not required to follow the principals of "progressive discipline" which are outlined in the Corrective Action/Discipline and Dismissal article of the CUE Contract. As such, the charge of "insubordination" presents special problems for stewards whose duty is to ensure that the University follows due process when disciplining or dismissing employees. As with any other case of discipline or dismissal of a regular career employee, the University must have credible evidence that the employee actually engaged in the alleged misconduct. In addition, some general guidelines governing insubordination cases have been arrived at from arbitrators' decision over the years.
Management usually invokes the charge of "insubordination" in one of two kinds of situations, either an instance in which an employee is accused of refusing a direct order from a supervisor; or a confrontation between an employee and a supervisor.
Refusal to Carry Out an Order:
In order to uphold the dismissal of an employee for insubordination, arbitrators usually look for two components, both of which must be present:
- a refusal to follow a direct, valid work order -- The order must be clear, it must come from someone authorized to issue directives, and the employee must understand it as an order.
- a clear prior warning of the consequences -- The supervisor must clearly state the penalty for continued refusal to carry out the order. An employees' failure (as opposed to refusal) to carry out an order, or protest while carrying out the order, may justify a lesser charge than insubordination and, consequently, a lesser form of discipline, but would not, by itself, constitute insubordination.
The general rule for employees who are confronted with a work order they believe is objectionable, unfair, improper, illegal or a violation of the union contract is: "work now, grieve later." There are some exceptions to this rule, such as when an employee has a reasonable belief that carrying out the work order will endanger the health or safety of him/her self or others.
Employees may be subject to discipline for using profane or abusive language, though it may not necessarily warrant a charge of insubordination or result in dismissal of the employee. Arbitrators often look at the prevailing standards within the workplace ("shop talk") for some guidance on whether an employee's use of objectionable or insulting language is grounds for dismissal. It may be a mitigating circumstance in the accused employee's favor if, for example, a supervisor generally tolerates profanity in the workplace, makes use of it himself or herself, or provoked the employee through inappropriate conduct.
On the other hand, arbitrators also consider whether other employees are present when an employee uses profane or abusive language, particularly when it may undermine the authority of management or the morale of other employees. Employees are more likely to be accused of insubordination, and arbitrators are more likely to uphold such charges if other employees are present or otherwise made aware of an employee's attempt to embarrass, ridicule or degrade a supervisor. The following circumstances may result in a charge of insubordination:
- An employee fails to carry out an order and, in the course of arguing with the supervisor, calls him/her a name.
- An employee calls the supervisor a name in front of other employees
- An employee calls the supervisor a name privately, but afterward brags about it to other employees.
- An employee calls the supervisor a name privately, is warned by the supervisor, and then engages in further name-calling.
Grumbling or "back talk" (without a clear refusal to carry out orders) may subject an employee to discipline, and, may, eventually, lead to a charge of insubordination, but, by itself, is not enough to justify that charge or to result in immediate dismissal. Management should still provide the employee with a clear prior warning that discipline will result if the allegedly disrespectful behavior is continued. Other facts, such as the presence of other employees, a supervisor's provocative behavior, may serve as mitigating circumstances either against, or in favor of, the accused employee (see above).
An important area of exceptions to the rules governing insubordination cases is the matter of union stewards or representatives. When acting in one's capacity as a steward, an employee is management's equal and has much more leeway to engage in behavior that otherwise would constitute insubordination. This does not give the steward unrestricted rights to act in defiance of management.
However, it does give stewards the right, if acting in good faith, to refuse to obey orders they believe violate the contract, especially when such orders would prohibit stewards from performing their duties to investigate grievances, to enforce the contract or to otherwise carry out the union's duties of representation.
insubordination n 1: defiance of authority [ant: subordination] 2: an insubordinate act [syn: rebelliousness]
Factor #1: Fight Or Flight… How The Problem Employee Will Take Advantage Of You
Even when you don’t tell him directly, the problem employee always knows he’s “on the bubble” and may be fired soon. It’s almost as if he can read your mind.
This wouldn’t be a problem if the employee would take the hint and improve his performance and behavior. But, this seldom happens because a bad apple remains a bad apple. Instead, you’ll notice that his behavior will get worse. He’ll either:
- Begin an intimidation campaign against you to save his job, or,
- Become a zombie doing little work.
You’ll notice these behaviors match the “fight or flight” response you learned in school. If you recall, when an animal gets into trouble, there are just two reactions, fight or flight. As we’ve seen, your employee will react the same way when his job is threatened.
In either case, he's taking advantage of you and your company by taking a paycheck and not doing his job… and this will only continue if you don’t do something right away. Your only recourse is to get rid of the employee as quickly as possible.
Let me cover each of these reactions.
In my experience, most employees will decide to “fight” and carry out an intimidation campaign. Sometimes these campaigns are subtle, but often they’re very public. Here’s what happens.
He starts politicking including telling lies about you, turning others against you and destroying your reputation. He wants you to suffer as much as possible. His goal is to build up his political base and force you to back off.
In this case, you only have one choice. You must show him (and others) you’re the boss and fire him right away. You can’t have an employee undermining your authority. His malicious behavior justifies his termination.
Now let’s discuss the opposite reaction, “flight.” In this scenario, the problem employee shuts down and stops working. He’s always late to work and misses more goals and deadlines. And, he spends much of his time on the phone, in e-mail and instant messaging his friends.
At this point, the employee has accepted that you’ll eventually fire him. So, his strategy is to drain as much money as possible out of the company while doing the least amount for it. In effect, he’s daring you to fire him.
What do you do? You can try to rehabilitate him, but the employee is now too far gone. Your best choice is to terminate now ... but you need to do it right.
(By the way, this is also the best thing for the employee as well. It's clear that he's not happy and productive. It's better to give him the push to get another job that is better suited for him. There's nothing worse in life than going into a job you hate and that makes you miserable. You are actually doing the problem employee a favor when you terminate.)
In the next section, we will talk about the consequences of keeping a problem employee longer than you should.
Factor #2: The Problem Employee Will Destroy Your Morale and Results…
If You Don’t Do Something About It Today
Suppose you decide to give the problem employee an extra chance and let him stay with the company. What happens to you and your department?
Let me give it to you straight. The employee will poison your relationships with everyone he interacts with including customers, suppliers and co-workers. This is a natural outcome to being “on-the-bubble” and having a bad attitude.
Your results will suffer because you’ll be losing customers and suppliers… and because you now have to spend so much time managing just this one employee. Unfortunately, it may take you years to patch-up these relationships.
Besides this, the employee may poison your department and company as well. Your “good” employees will see it’s all right to act badly and not do their jobs. Your department and company morale will drop, and this will further erode results.
Here’s the worst part. You’ll lose your best performing employees. They don’t want to work for a company with poor morale and terrible results. They would rather work with other winners in a positive and productive environment.
The problem employee is a cancer in your organization. This cancer spreads by turning good employees into bad ones and by forcing your best employees to leave. In either case, you must cut out the cancer at its source before it spreads further.
In the next section, you’ll learn why cutting out the cancerous problem employee becomes much harder with every extra day you wait to terminate.
Factor #3: The Longer You Wait… The Harder It Is To Terminate The Employee
If you wait to fire the employee, there is a good chance you’ll never be rid of him.
Let me give you two common reasons this happens.
First, if you decide to rehabilitate the problem employee, he’ll drain all the energy from you. You’ll find yourself spending all your time managing this one employee and firefighting any damage he’s causing with customers, suppliers and co-workers. Eventually, he wears you down, but you still can’t fire him.
Why? Because firing him is admitting that your rehabilitation effort failed. (By the way, if this describes your situation, I want you to know you’ve not failed. Most problem employees can’t be saved regardless of what you do. Remember… a bad apple remains a bad apple.)
Second, by waiting to fire, you’re giving the problem employee time to build a legal case against you. His strategy is to unmask your weaknesses as a manager and document any mistakes you’ve made. You can tell when this is happening when you see him taking notes of your meetings and discover him copying important files to take home.
Soon, he’ll go to a lawyer who will tell him how to make your life miserable.. Then, you can’t fire him because you're now risking a wrongful termination suit.
So why do managers and supervisors wait to fire a problem employee… when it’s obvious you should terminate right away?
The primary reason is most managers and supervisors have never been trained in proper termination procedures… and they're afraid of legal mistake. But don’t let this hold you back. In the next section, you’ll discover an easy and low risk way to terminate even in the most difficult employees.
Now You Can Terminate Without Worry
My name is Kevin Muir. I’m the Managing Principal of Turnaround Central, a turnaround consulting firm in Cedar Park, Texas (just outside Austin). Being a turnaround consultant that works nationally, it’s my business to know how to fire and layoff employees… in large and small companies… in any state… and in any industry. That’s why I can give you the insider’s look at the “real” issues you face when terminating employees.
Although I’m no stranger to firing and laying off employees, I’m still much like you. In the past, I didn’t terminate employees as fast as I should have. I let them walk all over me while I gave them a “chance.”
Finally, I became sick and tired of being taken advantage of. It became clear to me the problem employees were taking advantage of me for treating them fairly… and daring me to fire them.
I hesitated to fire because I didn’t have a consistent termination approach. One that would keep me out of legal trouble. I made up this wish list for my ideal termination approach…
First, it must have practical termination procedures and effective options you could apply in any state.
Second, it must have a method for knowing your risk of legal action before you terminate… and it must tell you what do for each risk level. This method must be simple enough that an average supervisor can use it without needing to spend big bucks with a high-priced employment attorney.
Third, it must give solid recommendations for handling difficult and tricky terminations especially when they are high risk.
After reading over 40 books and training manuals on terminations, I discovered that no one had written a guidebook which met these three important criteria. (And, other than the information you find here, this is still true today… even if you spend the next week searching the Internet and your public library.)
“Necessity is the mother of invention” –Plato in the Republic
Because I needed this information at my fingertips, I decided to write this guidebook myself… and I want to share it with you. I call it the Employee Termination Guidebook: Reliable Procedures & Effective Options.
Insubordination is an over-used and misused word. In the work environment it has a very narrow definition with serious consequences to the work and to the employee.
What is insubordination?
- Insubordination is a deliberate and inexcusable refusal to obey a reasonable order which relates to an employee's job function. The refusal may be openly stated or it may be a silent witholding of services. Merely protesting an assignment is not insubordination. Employees may not decide for themselves which instructions they will follow and which they will not. Employees must first follow the order and then turn to the grievance procedure if they feel the order was improper. In other words, the rule is "work now, grieve later".
- The employee is responsible for telling you why the order is being refused.
What to do if you believe insubordination has occurred
Rephrase the assignment as a specific requirement, not as a mere request.
It must be clear that the employee was told to do something, not just asked. (Note: Do not interpret this to mean that you should give all instructions in the form of commands. Phrasing instructions as requests is polite and motivating to most employees. If there is a problem with getting a particular instruction obeyed, then put it in the form of a specific requirement.)
State that noncompliance will result in discipline.
Tell the employee that refusal to fulfill a specific job requirement can lead to discipline up to and including discharge. Ask why the order was not followed.
Correct or attempt to correct unsafe or illegal conditions.
If assistance is needed to correct or to determine how to correct an unsafe condition, contact the IU Department of Environmental Health and Safety or turn to the IU Safety Manual for SM employees. Consult Human Resources or University Counsel's Office if there is uncertainty about the legality of the order.
If the order is still refused select appropriate disciplinary action.
Answer the following questions to determine the action to take:
- What is the employee's work record? Any similar offenses?
- What were the consequences of the insubordination to the employer and other employees?
- Were there any mitigating factors, factors that either caused or helped to explain the employee's actions?
- What discipline was given in similar cases?
- What level of discipline is needed to assure that the action does not occur again?
Generally, insubordination is considered a major offense. It may be appropriate to skip one or more of the early steps of the progressive discipline process.
Insubordination occurs when an employee willfully disobeys or disregards a superior's legitimate directive. Abusive language by employees toward supervisors and others may also be considered insubordination.
The reasons for not tolerating insubordination are obvious — employees need to know that you, as the employer, are calling the shots. Insubordination is clearly not acceptable in an employment relationship, and you don't need to have a policy on it in order to discipline or fire someone for insubordination. However, a policy or general rule that insubordination will not be tolerated can be useful if you ever need to defend your actions in court.
What constitutes insubordination? If you are ever sued for discriminatory conduct because of your treatment of an allegedly insubordinate employee, or if you want to challenge payment of unemployment benefits to a worker fired for insubordination, you will generally have to show that:
- a direct order was issued to an employee
- the employee received and understood the order
- the employee refused to obey the order through an explicit statement of refusal or through nonperformance
In cases of abusive language, consider the context in which the incident occurred. An employee is more likely to be found to have engaged in insubordination if the abusive language:
- was not provoked by the supervisor
- was spoken in the presence of other employees or customers
- was not an example of shop talk in the workplace
Here are some more issues you may want to consider:
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"The ability to work well with people is as purchasable a commodity as coffee or sugar, but I'll pay more for it than any ability under the sun." John D. Rockefeller
Yerke is a Finnish expatriate who recently accepted a position as head of the IT department for a large computer peripherals manufacturing company. He is dumbfounded when, two weeks after his arrival, his boss complains that Yerke is a troublemaker who openly questions his decisions and challenges his authority. Pamela, a stellar employee, was recently disciplined for insurbordination because she called in sick after her request for personal leave to attend her daughter's out-of-state wedding was denied. Raymond makes more sales than the rest of his team put together; however, while his customers love him, three sales managers have quit because of his abusive language and disrespectful attitude toward them.
Insubordination, broadly defined as an unwillingness to submit to authority either through an open refusal to obey an order or through a failure to carry one out, is a common problem in the workplace. Examples of insurbordination (or attempts to undermine managerial authority), include the following:
* actively challenging or criticizing a superior's orders
* interfering with management
* showing open disrespect toward a supervisor
* making threats or using coercion or physical violence
* using abusive language or making malicious statements
* ignoring instructions
Discipline is often an appropriate response to insurbodination. However, as can be seen from the above examples, there are varying reasons for, and degrees of, rebellious or disrespectful behavior. Before disciplinary action us taken, it is important to consider a number of factors that will help you decide upon a response that fits the situation. Some of these factors include the reasonableness of the request, the circumstances surrounding it, the employee's work history, and how others have been treated for similar behavior
Out of Bounds Orders
Some flexibility with respect to insubordination may be in order if the employee has a legitimate reason for refusing to carry out the request. Even though employees are rarely allowed to challenge authority, there are some instances in which such a refusal may be justified.
Consider the following situations:
1. carrying out the order would endanger the health, welfare, or safety of the employee or other employees. An employee may rightfully refuse to carry out an order in situations where the manager orders the employee to work under conditions the employee believes pose an immediate danger of death and severe injury, and the employee believes there is insufficient time or opportunity to get management to correct the hazardous condition.
2. carrying out the order involves an illegal act. Employers cannot ask an employee to engage in illegal activity. I once conducted a wrongful termination investigation during which an employee was fired because he refused to pick up illegal drugs for his supervisor.
3. the order is accompanied by religious, racist or sexist slurs. Ideally, the employee would comply with the order and then file a separate offensive behavior complaint. However, certainly some leniency should be allowed for the employee who rebelliously responds to personally insulting behavior.
Obviously, discipline or termination is inappropriate in any of the above situations. If it occurs, it can possibly lead to a successful wrongful discharge, retaliatory discharge, or discrimination lawsuit. In most cases, however, insubordination is the proper subject of discipline.
Do Your Duty
Generally speaking, employees cannot decide for themselves which instructions they will or will not obey. Companies should make this clear in their policies and procedures, by stating in their employee handbook or personnel manual that insubordination is against company policy and that violation of the policy will subject the person to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Your policy should also state that, if an employee has a complaint about management behavior, they should follow the appropriate employee grievance process.
Let's assume now that an employee has engaged in challenging or disrespectful behavior to a valid order. The next factor to consider is the circumstances. For example:
* Was the order direct, clear and unambiguous?
* Did the employee violate a published policy or work rule?
* Did the employee recognize that s/he was breaking a rule?
* Was the employee aware of the consequences of the conduct?
* Was the employee aware of exceptions to the published rule or policy?
* Is the policy or rule itself the problem?
Considering the above factors sheds a different light on all three of our colleagues from the first paragraph - Yerke, Pamela, and Raymond. Yerke, for example, had no awareness at all that he was behaving inappropriately; coming from a culture that is much less deferential to status or power differences, it was a natural behavior for him to speak up or disagree with his superior. In fact, counseling him on how his behavior was perceived not only improved the relationship with his boss, it helped him understand his subordinates, whose reluctance to question or challenge his ideas he had been interpreting as a lack of motivation and initiative. Pamela and Raymond are similar in that both were aware of the rules and their violations of them. However, their work histories, and the rules in question, were dramatically different. While Pamela's response to her denied leave was inappropriate, her manager's decision to deny her personal leave request was also questionable. Other alternatives, such as making her responsible for finding a substitute, working overtime in advance, or being available by phone, might have been more realistic. As for Raymond, his consistent and willful disrespect not only adversely impacts the morale and retention rate of the rest of the sales team, the fact that he has received numerous warnings (with no real consequences or follow-through) can put the company at legal risk if they discipline another employee for similar behavior.
Fitting the Punishment to the "Crime"
Most employers have a written progressive discipline policy to deal with conduct problems. This policy is most effective when it contains flexible language, doesn't link any conduct to a specific disciplinary response, and allows the company to consider a number of factors in determining the appropriate discipline. Some of the factors that should be considered are:
1) Employee's record - Does the employee have a prior record of similar offenses, or was this a first offense? Does the employee otherwise have a good conduct record and a history of satisfactory performance?
2) Consequences of the act - Were the consequences such that there would be financial or other liability to the company? Would the act affect the company or the employee's ability to carry out assigned responsibilities?
3) Mitigating factors - Were there intervening factors that either caused or had some effect on the employee's violation of the company's disciplinary standards?
4) Attitude - Is the type of discipline contemplated necessary in order to convince the employee that the conduct cannot be tolerated?
5) Past practice - Is the discipline to be administered consistent with the discipline administered in prior similar cases?
After considering the above circumstances, the following steps can be used as guidelines when imposing an oral or written warning for subordination:
· Inform the employee that he or she has engaged in specific conduct that is unacceptable and that certain conduct is expected of the employee. Refer to the specific rule or policy.
· Explain that the improper conduct must stop.
· Discuss the negative consequences that will occur if the employee fails to change unacceptable behavior and the possible positive consequences of changing the improper behavior.
· Explore the reasons for the unacceptable behavior.
· Develop an action plan that you and the employee agree on to change the unacceptable behavior.
· Document, document, document.
Dealing With the Chronic Insurbordinate
Let's face it; some employees are always difficult. If the insubordination is committed by a constant troublemaker, it can be hard to keep your cool and deal effectively with the incident at hand. Keep these rules of thumb in mind:
* Base the confrontation with the worker only on his/her job performance. Never allow any personal prejudices, comments, observations, or suggestions to get in the way of the counseling/discipline meeting.
* Make certain that the employee knows exactly what you're saying. Allow no room for confusion or misunderstanding; ask the employee to paraphrase what the two of you have discussed. Make your policies, and their application, consistent and exact.
* Don't make value judgments. Stick to the behavior in question, not what you think of the employee personally. * Don't belabor a point. Make your point once and go on.
* Don't make idle or thinly veiled threats. Making threats only serves to strain relations even more.
The Bottom Line
Research supports Rockefeller's high opinion of good interpersonal skills; managers who fail do so because of the inability to successfully handle the "people" side of managing. Insurbordination can cause even the coolest communicator to blow a fuse and let personal feelings influence discipline decisions. Having an effective progressive discipline policy, using a discipline checklist, and conducting an investigation of the reasons for the inappropriate behavior (prior to any disciplinary action) can help managers avoid making a bad situation worse. Managers who co so not only create value for their organizations, they build value for themselves.
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Last modified: November, 11, 2013