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How to Deal With Employee Insolence

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Employee insolence has the potential to derail office morale and create an unpleasant, tension-filled work environment. While insolence and insubordination are primarily directed at a supervisor rather than colleagues, its damage can be far-ranging. Swift action is necessary to stop the behavior, repair damage and move forward to recreate a dynamic and productive workplace.

Confront the Behavior

Employee insolence might come in the form of failure to fully perform work functions as instructed, outright refusal to follow management directives, verbally abusing a superior, or otherwise exhibiting insubordinate behavior. As soon as this type of action takes place, the employee should be privately confronted about the situation. He should be told in no uncertain terms that the action is unacceptable and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

Counsel the Employee

If insolence is a new behavior for a staffer and runs contrary to his ordinary behavior, find out if there is an underlying reason. An employee might be undergoing a personal crisis, health issue, financial problem or other factor that’s prompting unusual behavior. While the insolence can’t be tolerated in the workplace regardless of the reason, understanding the drivers behind it can help you and the employee come to an amicable resolution for addressing and changing inappropriate workplace conduct.

Document Interaction

Present the offending employee with documents from your employee handbook or human resources manual that outline expected behaviors in the workplace. Document and keep track of each instance of employee insolence and your corresponding reaction to the problem. An employee should be given a warning that the behavior must cease immediately or face disciplinary measures as outlined by company policy. If the employee continues to behave in an insolent manner, take necessary disciplinary action, such as probation, suspension or termination.

Impact of Insolence

An insubordinate employee can negatively impact the attitude and morale of other workers in an office. Don't allow a single employee to dictate the workplace environment, intimidate other employees or otherwise hurt workflow in your office. If necessary, inform other staffers that you are aware of the discord and are taking proactive steps to address it.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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