26 May

Insubordination can be confusing/difficult to explain or describe as most times it is based on a specific situation and as a result, each case must be dealt with based on its own merits. 

We have all heard of an instance when someone says “it’s not my job” or “I won’t do it” but can this be considered as insubordination?

In this blog post, UASA will be expanding on the term and also explaining what a reasonable instruction is. 

What is insubordination?

Insubordination occurs when an employee refuses to accept the authority of his or her employer or of a person in a position of authority over the employee. 

It may be described as resistance to, or defiance of, authority or disobedience, refusal, or failure to obey reasonable and lawful instructions.

What is a reasonable instruction?

A reasonable instruction is one that:

  • The employee is capable of carrying out
  • Involves a task that is not substantially beneath the employee level
  • Does not infringe the rules of the employer, or the laws of the country
  • Involves a task that needs to be done.

Example: If the boss tells the Human Resources Manager on a 5-day week contract to come in on the weekend to repair the faulty elevator, the HR Manager might be entitled to refuse because they are being required to carry out a task:

  • That is completely outside the sphere of the HR Manager’s duties
  • Outside of the HRM’s capabilities
  • Assigned for a time that is not normally worked
  • If carried out by the HRM, could result in danger to users of the elevator.

However, telling the HRM to conduct recruitment interviews because the HR Officer is incapacitated would, in most cases, be both legal and reasonable.

Insubordination vs disrespect

Insubordination applies only upwards and can only be perpetrated by a junior towards a senior.

Disrespect, on the other hand, can apply upwards and downwards. For example, it would be disrespectful for a manager to shout at an employee and tell him/her to ‘get out of the office’.

Disrespect is therefore not necessarily linked to a person’s position of authority. 

Insubordination vs Poor work performance 

Insubordination is not the same as poor work performance. Poor work performance relates to how badly the employee has performed work or missed deadlines. While poor work performance can sometimes be wilful there is usually some work that is done albeit badly.

Poor performance occurs regardless of whether the employee has been given instructions or not. On the other hand, Insubordination means the employee’s refusal to obey a specific instruction whether the instruction relates to work performance or not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.