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How to get rid of an insubordinate employee!

by , 10 October 2013
Imagine this... You tell your employee to send you daily reports. After two weeks of asking him every day, you still haven't seen one report. You confront him about it, and he swears at you in front of the employees. What can you do?

In labour terms, this is insubordination. Basically, the employee refuses to carry out a lawful instruction. You can dismiss him even if it's a once-off incident. BUT has to be a very serious (gross) act and violates your employer-employee trust.

Let's have a look at how you can dismiss for insubordination.

Know the difference between insubordination, gross insubordination and insolence

There's a fine line between insubordination, gross insubordination and insolence of an employee. Do you know the difference? How would you discipline an employee in each instance? If you get it wrong you could lose at the CCMA!
Don't end up on the losing side of the CCMA because you didn't know the difference!

In The Insubordination Toolkit: How to deal with insubordination, gross insubordination and insolence in the workplace we'll show you the difference between these and what you can do to discipline your employee in each case.

Make sure the offence is gross insubordination
Make sure the incident includes all the elements of gross insubordination before you dismiss him:
  • Your instruction is lawful and reasonable. You can't order him to do something he's incapable of. For example, he doesn't have the training or competence to obey your instruction.
  • You have proof you gave him the instruction and he ignored you.
  • The act of insubordination is serious. For example, deliberately delaying a quote to a supplier, which losses you the business as a result.
  • Your instruction is part of your employee's work. In other words, you can't fire your accountant for refusing to go to BMW to sort out your private motor plan issues, and he couldn't.
Always follow all the requirements for a fair hearing.
Now let's have a look at some offences and the sanctions you can impose.
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Use this table as a guide to work out the appropriate sanction for different offences

Insolence Minor or less serious acts of disrespect, rudeness or cheekiness Written warning for first offence
Failure to follow a lawful and reasonable instruction Disobedience isn't an intentional challenging of authority but negligence or forgetfulness Written warning for a first offence
Refusal to follow a lawful and reasonable instruction Instruction is both lawful and reasonable and the employee's refusal is an unreasonable show of defiance or challenge to your authority Dismissal for a first offence
Gross insubordination The conduct is significantly unacceptable (whether or not it's a direct and intentional challenge to your authority) and jeopardises the continued employment relationship Dismissal for a first offence

For more detail on insubordination, turn to chapter I01: Insubordination  of your Labour Law for Managers Handbook. Still not subscribed? Click here now.
Until next time,
Taryn Strugnell
P.S. Do you have a pressing questions about insubordination? Go to www.labourandhrclub.co.za to get an answer now!

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