For many months now, the subject of insubordination has been at the center of at least two incidents in Rockingham. Many people have a skewed, watered-down understanding of the word “insubordination,” and I would like to cast a clear and dynamic light on its definition, as it pertains to the workplace.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines insubordination as “not obeying orders: refusing to follow orders: disobedient to authority.” In the workplace, insubordination is a deliberate and inexcusable refusal to obey reasonable instructions which relate to an employee’s job function. It does not matter whether the subordinate in question either outwardly refuses to complete the request or silently withholds the requested services. Complaining about the request is not insubordination. Not delivering upon the request is, and action on the part of the employer is necessary to prevent further insubordinate behavior.
Insubordination is a serious and troubling matter for boards, as well as private employers, to deal with.
Policies may be in place to allow for a multitude of remedies, or actions, to attempt to stop the insubordination, but to be clear, by definition, there is nothing dismissive about the necessity to take action. One cannot say, “Oh, he or she was not insubordinate to me, just you.” This is not about personalities, but the running of a business. A board, just as a private company, is a “body,” a single being, that must be obeyed by its employee(s), according to their job description.
Boards delegate, as do private employers, necessary work to smaller groups, with committees being equal to supervisors, to research and recommend to the larger entity, as its superior. Information is requested and required to make insightful recommendations. The requests cannot be ignored by the employee to avoid disclosure or lighten their workload. If the employee considers the request improper, the request must be completed first, and the grievance process is the next step. It is not for the employee to decide for themselves which rules they will follow and which they will not. The continued insubordinate acts of one employee can breed insubordination among all staff members.
The purpose of describing all this is to point out the seriousness of the term and what it entails in the workplace. Community entities must deal with employees as any other private sector business should, with organizational policies in place to expect and receive maximum performance from tax dollars secured to support it. To allow reports of insubordination to flourish in an environment, without taking corrective action, simply because boards are afraid to mete out the full measure of the policies they are elected to uphold, is unacceptable.
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