Insubordination at work is the intentional or willful disobedience to an authorized person. If an employee refuses to obey the lawful, reasonable and practical request of an employer, it is considered as insubordination. This disobedience and disrespectful behavior toward the employer can result in a disciplinary action against the employee, and in serious cases, it may end in termination of an employee.
The order by a supervisor/employer may take one of the following forms:
- A verbally communicated order
- A written order
- A responsibility stated in the job description
- A responsibility implied in the job description
An employee is held responsible for an insubordination if he/she either verbally refuses to obey the order or perform the task or delays the work for a long period. In addition, any kind of verbal disrespect, such as rude behavior, insult, swearing, curse, mocking, eye-rolling, physical intimidation, etc, falls in the category of insubordination.
Dealing with insubordination is not an easy task for an employer as disciplining and ending the contract are not always the answers. Some of the considerations for an employer are:
- In some cases, the law protects an employee e.g. if the employee is involved in a protected job. The employers need to consider the legal aspects before taking any actions against insubordination.
- The employer has to consider the culture, situation and the relationship between the person who was disobeyed and the person who disobeyed. Sometimes, the relationship is so informal that the employee argues in a normal tone which is taken as disrespect by the supervisor.
- It is to be made certain that the instruction or order was not misunderstood.
- It is also important to see how and in what circumstances, the supervisor gave the order. For instance, if an employee had to meet a deadline for an important project and the supervisor overloads the employee with another task, his refusal might not attract a disciplinary action from the employer.
- Any history of insubordination is also considered.
- The severity of insubordination has to be analyzed as well for the appropriate disciplinary action.
- If an employee is refusing to perform an order which is illegal, unethical, unsafe or against policies of the company, it does not fall under the category of insubordination.
Organizations usually have policies regarding how to deal with insubordination. After an assessment of all the factors, the employer usually gives a verbal warning which may be followed by a written warning. If the behavior of the employee continues, it results in the termination.
Sample Warning Letter for Insubordination at Work
Subject: Warning for Insubordination
Dear Mr. Wilson,
I am writing this letter to inform you about your two days of disciplinary layoff due to your disrespectful behavior on Friday 10th August 2018 around 2:00 p.m. It also serves as a warning letter to avoid any such behavior in future.
On Friday, I came to you and asked you to improve the report of the project that you had submitted before. In response to that, you started shouting and arguing that it was a perfect report. I wanted you to edit the report based on the client’s comments. Rather than understanding that, you kept on shouting and disturbed the whole office as well. I tried to stop you and gave you a verbal warning, but you just left the hallway while screaming and swearing.
This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated, and you are being placed on a two days layoff starting 11th August 2018. You must report back on 13th August 2018 at 9:00 a.m. sharp.
This letter will be kept in your record file and if this behavior continues, it would attract severe disciplinary action leading to the termination of your contract with the company.