6 Best Practices in Dealing with Insubordinate Employees

One Angry Office Worker can Send Your Business Crashing Down

“I consider it the highest compliment when my employees go out and start their own companies in competition with me. I always send them a plant to wish them well. Of course, it’s a cactus” – Norman Brodsky

Last 2015, Ashley Madison, a famous cheating website reeled from a hack that put the personal information of its 37 million users at risk.

Because of the hack, the company suffered a severe backlash that almost brought the $100 million enterprise down.

Later investigations showed that the commotion was most likely caused by an angry office worker or contractor.

You can’t please everyone in your company. There will always be some resentments. As your company grow, there will always be someone who is not happy with your decisions or leadership.

So how do you deal with insubordinate employees?

Best Practices in Handling Insubordinate Employees

Being a leader is never easy.  And sometimes, even though you have the right skills and qualifications to lead a team, your mettle will always be tested when you’re faced with the challenge of dealing with an angry office worker.

Anger in the workplace is contagious. If managed well, you can turn a disgruntled employee into a star worker who just needed some care.

If not, the anger can spread throughout the workplace (resulting to a decline in employee morale and effectiveness) or worse  — to the prying eyes of the press.

Worst case scenario is when you find yourself in a seemingly endless legal battle because that insubordinate employee you took for granted filed a lawsuit on the grounds of “wrongful termination”.

Here are the  6 best practices in dealing with insubordinate employees.

1. Don’t Assume

Even the most seasoned CEO can sometimes make the infamous mistake of “assuming”.

Before jumping into conclusions, make sure you’ve done your research first. Take the time to find out what really upsets your employee.

They could be upset with the way you run things in the company, another coworker or even with issues not related to work (for instance, family problems).

Take the time to find out what really upsets your employee

If the problem comes from your side, don’t act too quickly. Gather as much information as you can and use it to drive your decisions. Never let your emotions take over.

On the other hand, if the employee is angry because of factors outside your business, don’t just dismiss it.

Instead, use it as an opportunity to show that you value your employees — that their welfare is more important to you than the money they are putting in your pocket.

2. Act Today

Let’s say your house is on fire. When are you going to call 911? Tomorrow? Next week?

Once you know the reasons why you have a disgruntled employee, act on it right away. Not taking action is like letting the fire burn half of your house before calling the fire department.

It may be hard but the confrontation must happen sooner than later.

3. Privacy is Safety

While it’s important to address the whole staff after the issue has been resolved, I believe that keeping a privacy net when it comes to the specifics of the issue is key.

Also, it is best to meet with the angry office worker in private first as this move will give you the following benefits:

  • It keeps the entire staff from hearing the complaints of the angry employee
  • Insubordinate employees may be more willing to disclose the real reason behind his or her unhappiness which will likely help both of you reach a resolution
  • Privacy protects you and the employee from legal complications.

Another tip: make sure you document everything you talked about. Print your notes and have your employee sign them to avoid that dreaded “she said, he said” confusion.

4. Stay Cool

Losing your temper to an angry office worker is futile. During situations like private confrontations, it is important that you keep your cool so you can assess the situation properly.

I know it’s hard sometimes but keeping a cool temperament is a must. If your employee begins to get upset, allow him to calm down by giving him time and by speaking gently.

If the situation escalates, kindly remind your employee to stay professional. If nothing helps, get out. Give your disgruntled employee some time to express his anger privately.

People who don’t know how to handle their emotions usually have these tendencies before they can have a normal or professional conversation.

5. Things Take Time

Although having a sense of urgency is good for a business, you must understand that some situations, like managing angry employees, takes time.

It may take more than one meeting to resolve the issue. I know this can be frustrating but remember, your company’s reputation and employees’ morale are at stake here.

6. Record Everything

Keep records of everything — private conversations, meetings, outcomes, resolutions, actions taken etc.

Keep records of everything

This provides you and your employee a cushion against lawsuits and other legal charges.

Prevention is Better Than Cure: 5 Ways to Bring Disgruntled Employees Back to the Fold

It’s easier to retain top talent than to find new ones. But what if that talent becomes an angry office worker all of a sudden? Maybe you’re doing something wrong?

It’s easier to retain top talent than to find new one

Harvard Business Review conducted a survey on insubordinate employees and the results show that the unhappy group agreed on six areas that their leaders needed to improve.

1. Connect More

Managers aren’t perfect. The study revealed that managers go to lunch more with employees they like. They are more open to them and know each of them more personally than that employee at the corner cubicle.

Because of this, resentments arise and favoritism takes on its most concrete form. It creates a feeling of exclusion among the least favored group.

Connecting more with your employees can go a long way. Try it!

2. Be More Honest

The disgruntled employees in the study felt that their managers are not giving them honest feedback.

People want to know how they are doing. They want to know why they’re falling short and what they can do to improve.

Watering down your performance evaluation with words like “You’re doing alright” or “You are coming along fine” will just seed doubt.

If you want a good relationship with your employees, be honest.

3. Listen

Managers must be good communicators.

And good communicators do three things: (1) they keep everyone well informed, (2) they encourage discussion and (3) they listen —  whether they like the person or not.

4. Help Them Progress

A person has a job when he works hard and earns a salary. A person has a career when he works hard, earns a paycheck and learns something new.

Almost all employees want a career. But unfortunately, challenging opportunities are oftentimes, given to a selected few.

While this may sound counterintuitive, career development programs or stretching assignments should not exclude the average or even the least performers in the company.

5. Trust Your Employees

If your employees still resent after all your efforts, maybe you are not trusting them enough.

There’s one thing common to angry office workers and bosses — distrust. And the key to reversing this (creating trust) is to operate in a firm belief that the disgruntled office worker can change.

Of course, its easier said than done. But as managers make the first move and as both parties work on their relationship, trust will eventually grow.

1/3 of a person’s life is spent in the workplace

All employees need leaders who know how to treat them with respect and dignity, motivate and inspire them and give them opportunities they each deserve.

Remember, 1/3 of a person’s life is spent in the workplace. Become an extraordinary leader.

As you do this, I promise that your employees will have no room for resentments or complains and they will support you all the way.


Written By

Lenmark Anthony Baltazar

I have been living a life of HR for as long as I can remember. My experiences helped me realize that true happiness comes from being a blessing to the lives of others. I hope my skills and talents will be a blessing to you as well.