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What to do with employees that are on the verge of insubordination

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Handling employee conflicts and problems comes with the territory of owning or operating a small business. Although common problems exist in both large companies and small, the way they are handled differs sometimes due to the close relationships built in small businesses.

As an employer and the only Human Resources expert in your business, it's important to have set, written rules in place to guide your decisions and the actions of your employees.

Employee insubordination can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It is technically defined as a willful disregard or disobedience of an order by authority, but includes things such as using abusive language when dealing with managers or supervisors, lack of motivation and unwillingness to follow rules that have been in place for the length of their employment. In general it is a lack of respect for authority and co workers.

An insubordinate employee may follow some rules, and break others, while establishing some of their own along the way as well. Your job as an employer is to make sure that the rules of the business are the same for everyone and adhered to the same way.

There are many signs to look for when determining whether an employee is being insubordinate. Employees who show signs of dishonesty, or bypassing your decisions is one of the first signs. Many times employees will also test your reaction to neglecting their job duties. If they pretend not to understand what their job requirements are suddenly, it may be that they are testing you to see how you'll react and just how far they can push you.

Employees who resist change, whether it's for the growth of the company, or just to increase their overall performance, may develop negative attitudes that will reflect badly upon the reputation of the company and cause problems with other employees. This situation is especially dangerous to the morale of the office environment and can be contagious with other employees. If you start to see this occur, handle it swiftly and respectfully so you do not damage your relationship with other employees who may have just jumped on the bandwagon.

Before starting any disciplinary action, it's important for you as a manager, to take the employee aside and discuss the situation, your expectations of their performance, and to address any concerns they may have. You may find that the situation was just a misunderstanding, or perhaps even a personal problem with the employee rather than one at work. Many problems can be handled with a direct and honest conversation.

If that's not the case however, you many need to offer a more strict approach with a written warming along with a detailed explanation of the problem, what you expect to happen with the employee (ie, additional training, less responsibility, more supervision, etc) along with the company policies on how to treat each other respectfully. Give this warning a time frame and if the problem persists past that time frame you'll be in a position to decide a further fate of the employee.

If you decided to terminate employment on an insubordinate employee, be sure that you can prove your case, just to be on the safe side of any legal action taken by the employee. Be able to show a history of the changes, the expectations and the lack of performance follow through by the employee. Document everything. You'll need to prove that the employee was ordered to do something, understood the expectation or order and refused to obey it.

No one likes to be talked down to, treated as if they are not important, or put in a position where they must choose one employee over the betterment of the organization, but insubordination can be a contagious and detrimental problem in a small, close-knit environment so it is best handled quickly and directly in order to save relationships and move forward.

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