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5 Excellent Ways to Prevent Insubordination in a Workplace

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Wanda Wiggins
Wanda Wiggins
Wanda Wiggins is a communication expert and training professional. She holds an M.A. in Communication and a B.A. in Business Communication.

5 Excellent Ways to Prevent Insubordination in a Workplace

We live in days where employees try all possible means to attract and retain top talent. In this way, we see many of them creating career development opportunities, and mentorship programs, offering employee benefits, competitive pay, and hybrid work cultures. The latest statistics indicate that 40% of employers assert that many employees leave their jobs in search of those that offer irresistible employee benefits packages. However, such mouthwatering workplace benefits aren’t a remedy to common vices like insubordination. This piece of content explores insubordination in workplaces and how it can be prevented.

What is Workplace Insubordination?

Insubordination simply refers to a situation where an individual intentionally refuses to obey orders or directions from an individual in a position of authority. Within a workplace, insubordination can mean defiance or an employee’s refusal to obey orders, rules, or regulations.

Commonly, insubordination occurs between an employee and the HR professional, supervisor, team leader, manager, or management. However, it can also occur between employees where one has authority over another.

Insubordination isn’t a rare virus in workplaces and it can be triggered by a range of factors which can be personal or job-related. Some of the major reasons for workplace insubordination include managers’ toxic behaviors, increased stress levels among employees, and unmet expectations among others. But what could point to insubordination in a workplace?

Indicators of Insubordination in a Workplace

Insubordination can take many forms within a corporate office, but here are a few situations that can indicate defiance;

Refusal to Follow Rules: When an employee intentionally refuses to obey orders or to adhere to them this shows insubordination. Insubordination can also occur when employees fail to perform as required even after several warnings and written notices.

Public Confrontation: Insubordination can also be recorded in instances where an employee talks back or argues with a manager or supervisor in a way that undermines their authority. When an employee refuses to obey orders or gives a negative attitude and intentionally avoids following them, this indicates insubordination.

However, an employee, team leader, or HR manager must examine the situation thoroughly before deeming it insubordination. There are cases where employees may face injustice in a workplace or experience burnout and fail to express their feelings correctly. For example, an employee may fail to complete tasks on time consecutively due to personal or work-related stress.

On the other hand, a lack of belongingness in a workplace may trigger employee behaviors that point to insubordination. Also, cases where an employee fails to adhere to rules because they conflict with personal beliefs or safety, can indicate defiance but require a different management approach. So, how can employers prevent or reduce insubordination rates in workplaces?

5 Actionable Ways to Prevent Insubordination in a Workplace

Insubordination in a workplace can proactively be counteracted in the following ways;

1. Foster Professionalism

Insubordination isn’t a professional behavior and is more likely to occur in workplaces with no or low professional standards. For example, workplaces with favoritism, bias, and gossip are more susceptible to insubordination because such practices foster a toxic work environment. Additionally, it is more common to register a higher rate of abusive language, intolerance, and a casual attitude.

However, workplaces with a high level of professionalism are more likely to register no or low insubordination cases. That’s because employees are mindful of their behaviors, attitudes, and conflict management options. This fosters a positive work environment where employees and managers acceptably conduct themselves.

2. Set Clear Boundaries

It is good to display a sense of humor, but employers must define clear boundaries for employees. For example, joking with employees where necessary can boost workplace motivation and productivity. Also, having a positive attitude toward every employee is excellent for fostering inclusivity in a workplace but employers and those in places of authority should be careful.

Excessive casual talks and lengthy conversations commonly erode boundaries between employers and employees. In this way employees may start talking back at the manager, ignoring duties and responsibilities.

Consider assessing personal boundaries or creating them where necessary. Maintain professional relationships and healthy boundaries to prevent negative occurrences such as insubordination.

3. Set & Observe Ethical Standards

Create an ethical way of conduct or set guidelines that employees must follow. Setting ethical standards in a workplace is fundamental to employee safety and ethical conduct. For example, the rules must be known and observed by employees and failure can result in necessary punishment.

Also, there should be a known pathway to delegating tasks or resolving conflicts. The employees must know the repercussions of disobeying rules or conducting themselves outside of the set standards. As an employer or HR manager, you can create rules for the workplace by using copywriting tips, printing them out, and ensuring that every employee receives a copy.

You can also form a disciplinary committee that helps enforce rules and handle disciplinary issues like insubordination.

4. Understand Employees’ Pain Points

In some cases, insubordination manifests when employees feel like they aren’t valued. An employee can choose to walk out at any time as long as it doesn’t violate the contract. Or puts him or her in a better career development position. However, before that happens, an HR manager may receive a lot of insubordination complaints about a particular employee.

With that, employers need to listen to employee demands and take the necessary action. In some cases, it may require strategic communication to help employees understand why the management may be taking extra time to meet certain promises.

5. Manage Better

Employers and employees need to attain the necessary skills to ensure effective management. For some, it may come with many years in the management field, whereas for others, personal traits play a huge role.

You can start by determining why employees might be disobeying you. A lack of reliable boundaries can be a possible cause of employee insubordination.

Also, HR professionals, team leaders, and employers may want to prove that everything revolves around them. In doing so, they may undermine, and disrespect employees. This may result in mental and emotional trauma hence leading to insubordination in the long run.

Bottom Line

It is highly challenging for employers and HR professionals to deal with insubordinate employees. Apart from wasting a lot of time on conflict resolution, this also paves a way for a toxic work environment. However, such vices are inevitable in a workplace since employees have different personalities. Managers and supervisors must be ready to counteract such behaviors, but that is more effective with proper rules in place.

With that, the best way to manage or prevent insubordination is to be proactive. An organization must have rules and regulations that define employee dos and don’ts. The workplace should be defined by professionalism and clear boundaries. This piece of content details several ways managers and supervisors can prevent insubordination in a workplace successfully.

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