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How to Deal With a Rude, Arrogant and Mean Subordinate

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Managing a rude employee takes finesse, patience and a forthright approach. Allowing the subordinate to continue behaving in an inappropriate way will only undermine your authority and potentially have a negative impact on the workplace dynamic.

Address the Situation Immediately

There’s a difference between a staffer having a bad day and an employee who is disrespectful, mean and flouting authority. The moment a subordinate’s bad attitude appears, take him aside and address the problem immediately. Cite specific examples of the behavior you’re calling out and explain why it’s unacceptable. For example, “You interrupted me during my presentation, called my ideas stupid and said you would be a better division head than me. That approach, language and position are completely inappropriate for this workplace and will not be tolerated.”

Listen to the Response

Give the staffer an opportunity to respond to your reprimand. If an action was out of character or a first-time offense, or if the staffer is genuinely apologetic, you may opt to let him go with a warning that similar actions in the future will be met with stronger action. If there is no remorse, or if the employee continues to exhibit a hostile attitude, take the issue directly to your immediate supervisor or human resources representative. Follow protocols outlined in your employee handbook for handling misconduct in the workplace. Depending on the offense, this may mean a written reprimand, suspension or even termination.

Document Everything

Keep track of specific instances of poor behavior on the part of your subordinate. Write down the time, date and location of unprofessional conduct and list others who are involved in or witness the actions. This gives you a record to reference when disciplinary action has to be taken, and can help protect you from legal action if you have to terminate the staffer. If the behaviors don’t warrant termination, the behavior descriptions should still be placed in the employee’s file and referenced during annual performance reviews.

Work it Out

Sometimes, personalities simply clash, and the best response to internal conflict may be mediation and compromise. If you continually butt heads with a subordinate, ask human resources for dispute mediation. This gives you both an opportunity to air your grievances with a neutral third party who can help you find a respectful approach to working together. Solutions may include determining expectations, setting boundaries and agreeing to mutually respectful language and actions.


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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