How to communicate with insubordinate employees

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How to communicate with insubordinate employees

Insubordinate employees make things hard for entire teams and departments, and can affect your business’ efficiency. The best way to handle this issue is to avoid hiring poor fit candidates in the first place, but if for whatever reason you find an insubordinate team member in your midst, here are a few things you can try.

Avoid blame and agree on responsibility

Insubordinate employees are a problem, but even if the fault lies with them, blaming them won’t help. Avoid putting them on the defensive, which will make them even harder to work with.

Ask questions that prompt them to take responsibility. Once you both agree on what the employee is accountable for, it’ll be harder for him or her to say they were given an unfair deal or unreasonable tasks.

Here are a few questions to ask them;

  • What’s the best way you can contribute to the company?
  • Do you have any skills that are being underutilized?
  • What do you need in order to be successful at your job?
  • How will you help your colleagues succeed?

Listen separately

You don’t need to agree with someone to listen to them. Ask the employee to come by your office and explain himself or herself in a private setting. This is important to demonstrate empathy and show your willingness to see every side.

However, don’t let an insubordinate employee waste too much of your and your teams time. If you find yourself sitting with a complaining employee every week it’s time to cut them loose.

Know when to call it quits

Make an effort to reintegrate your insubordinate employee to your team. Your business has invested in them, and they’ve given their time and talent. However, if they aren’t getting any better, and continue to hinder your business progress, know when to cut them loose. You want to take care of your team, but you’re still running a business and if that employee is making it harder for their department to do their jobs, it’s a terrible situation.

Get to the root of the problem to avoid it in the future

Despite what happens with your insubordinate employee, get to the root of what happened to avoid repeating the problem. If the issue came from a poor hiring process, fix it. If it came from bad company culture, or frustration with a particular manager, investigate it further so you prevent other employees from becoming resentful, unsatisfied, or difficult to work with.


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