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Quick facts on insubordination and insolence

by , 22 July 2015
Insubordination and insolence are different concepts. The difference lies in an employee's behaviour. As the employer, you must know the difference between these two terms.

Today I'm clearing up these two terms for you, for if you weren't sure. It's easy to get muddle up! I'm going to make this as simple as possible so that you're clear on the difference between the two.

What is insubordination?

Here are the facts you need to know:
  • When an employee refuses to carry out a lawful, reasonable instruction. One that you, the employer, have given him.
  • In such a case, you as the employer can dismiss the employee. But only if the nature of refusal is deliberate and serious.
  • It isn't about an employee being disrespectful. As the CCMA outlines, insubordination is to do with refusals.
  • It's a very serious transgression.

An example of insubordination: You instruct an employee to fetch a file from the cabinet for you. She responds, 'Fetch it yourself!'
Warning: 1 out of 3 dismissals are deemed as 'unfair' by the CCMA!
Chairing a disciplinary hearing isn't easy. With all the disciplinary codes and procedures you have to remember...
The roles and rules you need to adhere to...
The different questions you need to ask...
The different types of evidence that can legally be presented...
There are dozens of things you need to keep in mind to give each employee a fair hearing.
But what if I told you that chairing a hearing that follows the right disciplinary process is as easy as five simple steps?

What is insolence?

Take note about the differences in comparison to insubordination:
  • It's a slippery concept. But it's to do with offensive, disrespectful conduct.
  • In such a case, you as the employer can discipline the employee.
  • You can only dismiss an employee for insolence if it persists.
  • It's a less serious transgression than insubordination.

An example of insolence: An employee's car breaks down. You ask one who's already at work to go fetch her. He responds, 'Do I have to? It's not my problem…' You tell him, 'I understand, but she needs to get here.' He then stands up, mumbles something and storms off.

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