How to Deal With Workplace Defiance

Implement the appropriate discipline to deal with workplace defiance.
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Defiance in the workplace can spoil relationships among you and your employees and can quickly splinter the workplace enough that you dread going to work each morning. Although an employee can act defiantly in minor and major ways, virtually every workplace forbids this type of behavior. As an employer, act quickly: You need to discipline offenders before other employees see defiance as acceptable.


    As soon as an employee uses defiant language or acts in a defiant manner, take a moment to identify what has happened and put it in context. The website Jamieson Human Resource Consulting recommends identifying just what happened before you do anything. For example, if you lead an informal workplace in which jokes and off-color remarks are common -- as creepy as that can get -- the incident could be an employee slightly crossing the line but not actually trying to insult or disrespect you.


    Communicating clearly with your employees not only helps to build a transparent workplace in which honesty and respect are key, but also helps you address situations in which an employee has been defiant. Business Management Daily stresses communicating with an employee who's acted inappropriately by being direct, immediate and specific. Clearly explain what the employee said or did, state why this behavior is not acceptable, and deal with the issue quickly.

Minor Discipline

    Many workplaces use four standard levels of discipline, reports the website HR Hero. Two are suitable for addressing minor issues. If you believe the employee just got caught up in the moment and had a slip of the tongue, a verbal warning or written warning are appropriate. Whether you reprimand the employee verbally or in writing, Business Management Daily suggests getting the message across: Keep doing this and you will face further discipline.

Major Discipline

    In a case of deliberate defiance, which can include an employee saying something inappropriate to you in front of clients or other employees, more drastic disciplinary action is necessary. HR Hero says suspension and dismissal may be necessary to address serious offenses. In the case of suspension, one or more unpaid days off can quickly teach the employee to behave. In an article on Human Resource Executive Online, lawyer Keisha-Ann Gray reports that while you can dismiss an employee for a single incident of defiant behavior, it's best to do so only after you've documented previous incidents of insubordination.

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