Insubordination or Saying ‘No’ to Mr.Ridiculous

“C, I want you to finalize that X company proposal before my meeting with them at 10.”
Your boss commands as he signals you to tag along into his office for further instructions.That is the same way he has done it since you joined the company as a junior 2 years ago. Every single time he wears his famous smug face and walks in his intimidating stride.  He knows that the deadline he’s demanding is absurd but being the autocratic leader he’s got to make that signature statement.  This routine has become so familiar that it can be considered an office ritual.

“Wait a minute! Did I just graduate from L University so that I can take this S***?”
You wonder as you quietly pace along while trying to balance the conflict between the turbulent world in your head and holding a friendly conversation with the boss.

Finally, you strengthen your gutts, look him in the eye and bluntly say,
“Sorry Mr.Ridiculous there’s no where in hell  am doing that!”
On a personal level you’ve reached the peak of self esteem and you’ve just given your ego a turbo boost. By the time you come back from your 10 seconds euphoria you are walking out of the sliding doors dishevelled, holding a box full of worthless memorabilia that were once fixtures on your desk and your P45 slip hanging out of your back pocket a little bit earlier than your next payslip.

Insubordination.That is the word that should have popped into your head by now and that of any one who has been in formal employment. The legal definition of insubordination is simply an employee’s refusal to follow a manager’s orders.It’s not a new discovery. It’s a common occurrence in the working world.

If you have been following sports news lately then it comes as no surprise to you that ‘Tevez’ is the new buzzword (if it was a tweet it would be a trending topic).Carlos Tevez an Argentinian striker playing for Manchester City refused a direct order to come off the substitute bench and get into play during the match between his team and Bayern Munich on Tuesday (27 Sept 2011).

There has been various explanations and comments with regards to the strikers behaviour.

According to the striker it was just a matter of miscommunication, “There was some confusion on the bench and I believe my position may have been misunderstood. Going forward I am ready to play when required and to fulfil my obligations” he said during his appology to his fans.

Martin Samuel in his article for daily mail website blamed it on the fat pay cheques used to pull star players,”Spin the man earning £250,000 a week who cares so little for those who fritter their silly little salaries away to follow him around the world.”

His boss Mr. Mancini showed no sympthy for the striker has he declared that he was “finished”.

In my working life I have had a fair share of nightmare bosses whom have been reffered to as ‘that witch’ or ‘the devil’ so in a way I can sympathize with Tevez. I remember during my first employment the manager refused to pay me because he belived that the work was not well done and in response I did not turn up for work the next day. The news spread like fire among my collegues and an atmosphere of unrest arose. I was ordered to refrain from  going to work until I had attended a schduled disciplinary meeting. I later found out that the company did not have enough money at the time to process the payroll for the week so the manager was just trying to cut costs at the expense of the unsuspecting ignorant fool.

In a different occassion my team and I got fed up with the continous delay of payment by a certain company that we all refused to work and staged a walk out to make a point.  The company did not make any money on that trading day and we lost out on our wages.

Thinking about the situation I think Newcastle’s manager Alan Pardew puts it beautifully when he says, “He isn’t the first and he won’t be the last who won’t want to warm up and is sulking a little bit because they are not playing,” referring to the Tevez situation.

It’s not only in sports. There are so many other employees out there confronting their bosses and saying ‘NO!’ However whatever the reason may be behind insubordination it remains a serious charge and can lead to dismissal as Tevez may find out some time in the future. The thing to bear in mind is that this is  a double edged sword and in most cases both sides end up losing something. The general rule for employees who are confronted with a work order they believe is objectionable, unfair, improper, illegal or a violation of the contract is: “work now, grieve later”  (this rule may change depending on circumstances in this case judgement precedes formality).

Interesting facts

In order to uphold the dismissal of an employee for insubordination, arbitrators usually look for two components, both of
which must be present:

  • A refusal to follow a direct, valid work order — The order must be clear, it must come from someone authorized to issue directives, and the employee must understand it as an order.
  • A clear prior warning of the consequences — The supervisor must clearly state the penalty for continued refusal to carry out the order.
  • An employees’ failure (as opposed to refusal) to carry out an order, or protest while carrying out the order, may justify a lesser charge than insubordination and, consequently, a lesser form of discipline, but would not, by itself, constitute insubordination.

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