How Would You Manage Insubordination?

Navigating Office Politics

office politics imageCongratulations on your promotion. You were selected over several internal candidates for the management role you have been working toward for years. The one thing you didn’t count on was the former peer who thinks he should have won the promotion. Office politics are a clear and present danger.

In fact, in the few short weeks since you assumed your new duties, “Jim” has done several things that you think add up to insubordination. What should you do?


First, ask yourself if his behavior meets the definition of insubordinate behavior, which can include: defying authority, disrespectful actions or communication, or the failure to obey reasonable directions about a project, task, or other work deadline.


Let’s say Jim “borrowed” your office while you were out without asking permission. He was openly defiant once you pointed out the unacceptable nature of his actions. Perhaps he rudely refused your request for a report during a team meeting. Once you are certain his behaviors are, in fact, insubordination, you need a plan.


How would you manage this case of insubordination?


Review the options below and choose up to five steps you think you should take. Then map out the best order for the steps you have chosen.
  1. Give it a little time and hope that Jim calms down and comes to respect you and your leadership style.
  2. Detach emotionally. Don’t take it personally. Step back and focus on facts and issues. Identify the best outcomes for the team and company.
  3. Ask human resources to help you get to the root of the problem. Identify goals that Jim could work toward that would benefit him, the team, and company.
  4. Establish your authority publicly so Jim and the team know where you stand.
  5. Set an example of desired behavior. Be the mature adult and treat your entire team with respect while expecting accountability.
  6. Report Jim to the human resources manager immediately and demand that HR fire him.
  7. Before meeting with the human resources manager, document the specific instances of disrespectful or insubordinate behavior.  Spell out how this conduct impedes team and company goals.
  8. Take time to vent to your known allies so you can avoid being confrontational with Jim.
  9. With the guidance of human resources, draft a written plan for Jim’s improvement. Establish benchmarks, timelines, supportive resources, and check-in points. Establish consequences and rewards and be prepared to carry them out, including termination.

Email us and tell us the steps you have chosen, the order you would take, and why.

Subject Line: Managing Insubordination
Do you have an office politics puzzle? Tell us your puzzle via email (in 300 words or less) and we’ll try to help.  For confidentiality purposes, we won’t use real company names or the names of actual people. Subject Line: Office Politics Puzzle