How to Write Up an Employee for Insubordination

One of the challenges employers and managers face is dealing with employees who are difficult and sometimes deliberately derelict of their responsibilities. If this problem will not be dealt with immediately and accordingly, not only the business will suffer. This can even affect other members of the team.

An employee who is not fulfilling his or her tasks or not complying with the rules and regulations stipulated in the employment contract is manifesting insubordinate behavior. Examples of these can include being sarcastic to the managers when airing one’s side on a certain issue, rolling the eyeballs or expressing disagreement through body language or remarks even with other employees around. As a manager, the burden lies on you to rectify this unacceptable attitude, professionally and legally. This is not an easy thing to do, though.

If a member of your team fails to finish a task included in the employee’s responsibilities and is already aware of this, yet continues to do so regardless of the warnings given, writing a disciplinary letter of insubordination will be for the best of the business and the rest of the company’s workforce.

By resolving this issue on its early stages, you can minimize the risks that can affect the performance of the group as a whole and the morale of the team. To help you in this aspect, here are the steps in coming up with an insubordination letter:

1. Discuss The Issue Verbally And Privately.

Before you end writing a reprimand letter for the behavior of a subordinate at work, it is proper to set up a meeting with him or her to discuss the issue privately, without announcing it to the entire workforce. This way, you can bring this up with the employee and hear what he or she has to say to clarify the issue without embarrassing the person. If this fails, then you can go to t he next step.

2. Gather Facts Surrounding the Incident.

It is important to have all the pertinent information including the verbal discussions and the actions that took place which lead to the employee’s insubordination. Focus on actual facts and write down the dialogue that occurred in verbatim. Also, don’t forget to mention if there were previous warnings issued and include other incidences related to the behavior.

3. Be Objective.

There are some employees who can be competent in doing their tasks but can display behavior that is unbecoming especially if they are sometimes too complacent or comfortable with people at the office. They may even be antagonistic and defensive when confronted about the issue despite others being present. Although it may be clear that you have an employee with an attitude, it is wise not to use this word in your letter. The term “attitude” is considered to be subjective and if the matter will be brought to court, it might work against the company since courts rely on actions and behaviors that are documented and not on mere conflicts of personalities, which the mistake of using the term “attitude” suggests.

4. Get Support from People Present During the Incident.

If there were people like colleagues or clients who witnessed and heard what transpired which led to insubordination, you can also ask them to give their accounts of the incident.

5. Include Company Rules on Insubordination.

One of your strongest weapons is to get back to your employee’s handbook where you can cite the rules and regulations of the company. Itemize what policies have been broken by the concerned employee so he or she will be aware of the violations committed. You may also write the time and date of the employee’s orientation regarding these policies and mention which part of the handbook discusses the issue or issues.

6. Mention the Consequences of Such Behavior and Action Plan Expectations.

It is important that the employee takes this matter seriously so the incident will be prevented from being repeated. He or she should know what is expected of him or her to correct such behavior or perform the tasks on time and correctly. Consequences may be a suspension or at worst, termination.

If you don’t intend to fire the employee in question, an action plan can be asked from this particular member of your team. If an employee has poor performance or is falling behind deadlines, you can ask this person about what he or she intends to do in order to improve the quality of work or meet deadlines. A time table is also crucial at this point. All of these should be included in the action plan the company expects from the employee.

7. Point out the Good Qualities of Your Employee.

Aside from stating the occurrences that lead to this disciplinary action, the consequences and the action plan needed to address the issue, do not forget to include the positive traits of the employee that have contributed to the team. This will help in motivating your employee to improve and change for the better when it comes to his or her attitude towards work.

8. Ensure the Document Will Be Signed by Both Parties.

After the meeting, ask the employee for clarifications and perhaps, refutations on the document. If there is none, have it signed by the employee in acknowledgment that he or she understands what was written. In return, you should also sign the document as evidence that both parties agree on the facts stated in black and white.


Employees are pillars of the business and their performance and behavior greatly contribute to the success and failure of a company. Moreover, business owners invest time and money to thrive in the industry. If the employer or the manager overlooks the wrong practices and unbecoming behavior of the people who work in the company, not only there will be conflicts in the work place. It can also lead to losses and high employee turnover.

The management needs to curtail insubordination as soon as the problem presents itself. Workforce management is not a breeze but if the management knows the steps to handle issues such as insubordination, business operations can run smoothly and the workplace environment will be more harmonious and healthy.