An employee who displays rude and arrogant behavior in the workplace can not only disrupt productivity but can also undermine your leadership, intimidate your team, and ultimately cause safety and legal issues within your company. Dealing with insubordination can be challenging for a team leader, but quick resolution is essential in order to avoid serious problems.

What Constitutes Insubordination

It is important to recognize signs of insubordination as soon as possible in order to implement a strategy and prevent noncompliance from becoming a serious problem.

Typical signs of difficult behavior include:

  • Missing project deadlines.
  • Not following instructions.
  • Lowering staff morale.
  • Showing disrespect to managers and staff.
  • Frequent absenteeism.
  • Insolent or defiant behavior.
  • Dishonesty.
  • Reluctance to change.
  • Lack of dependability.


There are a number of simple steps you can take to reduce incidences of insubordination.

Review job descriptions—ensuring that job roles are clearly defined will avoid confusion within the workforce and make sure that all the members of your team are on the same page. Don’t forget to obtain feedback from your employees.

Build strong relationships—as a team leader you are responsible for building solid relationships between your employees, and nurturing a congenial and respectful atmosphere.

Update training regularly—this is a good idea for both managers and staff. Training should include conflict resolution, communication and interpersonal skills.

Develop routine procedures—if the whole team is clear about routine projects and tasks, they will know what is expected of them each day.


When it is necessary to address an instance of insubordination, you should have a clear and consistent strategy for doing so.

  •  Document the chronology and situation of any incidents of difficult behavior.
  • Treat each incident on a case-by-case basis and objectively assess all the circumstances.
  • Review the work history of the individuals involved, consider any prior incident or any personal problems that the instigator may be having. Are there any extenuating circumstances?
  • Evaluate the impact of the insubordination on the operation of your organization, including its effects on other employees, productivity, profits and safety.
  • Before making a final decision, consider your possible options for dealing with the incident.
  • Talk to the instigator in private. Explain clearly the actions you are about to take and evaluate the consequences of those actions.
  • Be certain that any disciplinary action is not only in line with your company’s guidelines but also befitting of the incident, and consistent with disciplinary action taken with previous incidents involving other individuals.