• Aryeh Brickner

How to handle a “disobedient” employee? Lessons from the Green Bay Packers.

This past Sunday, NFL fans were robbed. We missed seeing a potential game winning two-minute drive by Aaron Rogers because his teammate Ty Montgomery didn’t listen to his coaches and chose to run a kickoff out of the end zone, resulting in a fumble. Montgomery has since been traded, but what should a manager do when an employee doesn’t follow his or her instructions?

First and foremost, before a manager accuses an employee of “insubordination,” they should clarify with a 100% degree of certainty that indeed this was the employee’s intention. After all, breakdowns, in communications happen. But assuming the employee says something along the lines, “Yes, I understood what you asked for, but I decided to do something else” what’s your next move?

How to deal with an employee who disregards instructions?

1. Don’t ignore it! If an employee has blatantly disregarded your instructions, you must speak with him or her about it. If you aren’t the type that likes confrontation, too bad.

2. Don’t focus on the outcome. Let’s go back to Sunday’s game. If Montgomery would have ended up running for a touchdown would it have made a difference? Not really. Even if the outcome was positive it’s important for there to be a clear understanding with the employee that their actions are not acceptable.

3. Don’t make it about your ego. “How dare you not listen to ME!” Make it about the proverbial chain of command and how it’s important for them to respect their manager’s wishes.

4. Discuss it with them. Are they contrite? Do they realize they went “rogue”? Do they care? Do they understand the impact on your as a manager?

Figure out what went wrong. In a normally functioning office there’s a culture of respect and communication. If your employee wasn’t going to listen to you, he or she should have said so. Why didn’t they come to you? Do they not respect your opinion?

5. Use it as a learning example. This doesn’t mean smear the employee’s name in the mud but make sure your team understands that your directives are not suggestions.

6. Take preventative measures against future occurrences. Put as much of your instructions in writing so there won’t be any confusion after the fact about what you asked for.

7. Move on. If it’s a one-time incidence you can probably give the employee a pass. We all make mistakes in judgement one time or another. But if there’s a pattern of disregarding instructions and or the employee clearly shows a lack of respect for you as a manager, don’t waste time before you make a change. That type of employee and that sort of behavior will only sow seeds of negativity within your team.

Have you ever dealt with an insubordinate employee? How did you handle it?

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