Business Challenge of the Week - Employee Insubordination

George has a small HVAC company that he bought 6 months ago. George bought the company because it had good revenue and came with some real estate, however he didn't know much if anything about the industry. The previous owners of the business kept everything in their heads and had very little documentation. As a result George quickly came to realize that customer orders were being lost, there was duplication of inventory orders, staff were covering up mistakes and there were many inefficiencies in the business.

Because of George’s need to figure out how the business is run, George has been learning every aspect of the business and trying to document processes and implement new procedures to reduce errors and save money.  Just last week a staff member came up to George and told him in front of other staff that he wasn’t going to follow the new procedures. George almost lost it but walked away in order to keep his cool.

What should George do? What would you do?

Whenever we have a decision to make we need to weigh our options. George had a number of options.  He could:

  1. Do Nothing - This should always be our first consideration. What happens if we do nothing? If we let things rest the way they are. In George’s case he could do nothing but what would happen with the other staff if they thought they didn’t have to follow any procedures that were implemented by the company?
  2. Fire the staff member on the spot. When we get into these situations where our adrenaline is running high we typically make rash decisions on the spot. As much as George probably wanted to fire the person he walked away to keep his cool. George also realized that it was difficult to find employees in the current economic climate.
  3. Set a meeting to deal with the insubordination and the employee
  4. Change the procedures and go back to the old way of doing things with less accountability
  5. Throw in the towel and sell the business

While he may have had some other options, these were the thoughts that went through his head.

As much as he wanted to fire the staff member on the spot, George walked away and set a meeting to deal with the insubordination and the employee on a different date when he had cooled off. George documented the event in case it happened again and gave notice to the employee that future insubordination could result in dismissal.

The next time I met with George he told me that he had indeed fired the employee after another event despite the fact that he knew that he would be hard to replace. The result in the plant was one of relief. The culture changed and George realized that the employee had been causing drama throughout the organization. He also noticed that his team viewed him with more respect.

Would you have handled the situation differently?

Dave Fuller MBA, is an Award Winning Business Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy and a partner in the firm Pivotleader inc which helps businesses Grow, Train and Sell. Have a tough situation in your workplace? Email

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