Managing an Insubordinate Employee

Insubordinate employees negatively impact the workplace atmosphere, producing a toxic aura which makes their lives and those of others difficult. Such employees are a detriment to workplace productivity as they perform their jobs with minimal effort and require constant supervision to keep an eye so that they do not mess up. In this article, we shall be discussing some ways how to manage insubordinate employees.

Never take it personally

The behaviour of insubordinate employees is likely to create frustration. They are an obstacle to workplace success and are bound to create anger within the people managing them. One needs to thread carefully when dealing with such employees and keep cool. Astute managers understand that any loss of control from their end is likely to be used against them by the insubordinate employee.

Try understanding the cause of the problem

As someone managing an insubordinate employee, it is your job to understand what might be the cause of the undesirable behaviour. The reasons may vary. One example can be that such an employee is not willing to match the standards set out by management. Another reason could be related to the role that they are performing, deeming it as too difficult, boring or unrewarding.


Before deciding to take drastic action, such as dishing out a documented warning or termination, do ensure that you have provided all the necessary support you can within your power. Such support can involve coaching and mentoring, to steer such an employee on the right path, to provide adequate contributions going forward.

Continue on with your job

Insubordinate employees cost managers a lot of time, which may impact their own workload. Tending to them could be quite tiring and demotivating, thus allowing tasks to pile up and end up missing deadlines. The situation with such employees needs to be tackled head on and immediately, so that you are not prevented in giving one hundred percent on your own projects and tasks.


Important episodes with insubordinate employees need to be documented. If it is not written, it never happened. Disciplinary measures and actions taken must be documented to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible.

Consult with HR

Whilst this may be a one-off case that you are dealing with, HR specialists are likely to have seen such episodes in the past and can offer support and guidance. 

Insubordinate employees can be quite a headache, however we have all experienced them in the workplace. Managing them is a different ball game and requires experience and leadership skills.

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