How To Deal With Insubordinate Staff for First Time Business Owners

Business owners, when you first hire staff for your business, one of the most important steps is laying the ground rules.

However, it’s only natural that certain rules or policies are stepped over by staff, and as a person in authority, it’s vital that we put our foot down when an employee is out of line.

For first-time business owners like myself, I struggled with this.  Simply because I was so concerned with not wanting to come off as being unreasonable and illogical. I wanted to exercise judgment wisely.

Many a time I would find myself feeling guilty when I reprimanded a staff or when I was forced to stand my ground. But there are a couple of things that as a business owner and leader that we must remind ourselves, especially being a first-timer in such a situation.

Here is how I dealt with insubordinate staff for first-time business owners in five steps:

Also, read:

7 Habits Every Small Business Owner Should Develop

Get Comfortable with Being in Authority

Playing the role of an authoritative figure can be tricky and rather challenging, this is especially so if you are too confrontational or the total opposite, confrontation phobic. Bringing a balance requires you to first be comfortable with your role as a business owner.

You will have to learn how to deal with situations where:

  • The people working for you aren’t performing in the way that you need
  • Be comfortable with raising the issue and correcting their behavior
  • Setting consequences if it persists, and then enforcing those consequences,
  • And doing it all in a way that’s direct, straightforward, and fair (not defensive or insecure or overly harsh).

These are essential pieces of being an effective business owner. Learn in advance how to deal with possible situations that you may be likely to encounter later in the business.

Some examples of conflicts that you might have to deal with include; handling an employee that is leaving, employees who are bad in dealing with customers, employees who are trying really hard but just not doing a good job, employees who do not follow through on things you ask them to do.

Eliminate The Feeling of Guilt [restrict]

Handling a noncompliant employee sometimes raises the need to be harsh and to lay down unpleasant consequences.

It is important for you to be able to eliminate the feeling of guilt and to remember that you have acted responsibly and soundly within the parameters of your power as a business owner.

If you are very afraid of confrontation, you will work overly hard to minimize any negative impact.

And when the time to reprimand your employee comes, it might go something like this:“Rob, I wanted to talk to you about this whole attendance policy thing—I actually don’t have that much of a problem with it but you know how HR is—and by the way, did you hear about Ray at the holiday party? Insane, right? Anyway—you might want to try a little harder to get in around 9. Is that OK?”

The result is often counter to what you hoped to communicate: The employee doesn’t even know he has a problem to fix.

Firstly because the fact that you are pointing out a point of rectification is not clear. Moreover, the tone of the conversation lacks urgency. It sounds more like a casual encouragement instead of a red flag requiring immediate action.

Unclear and indirect confrontational approaches such as this can result in misinterpretations, not yielding any changes or improvements.

For instance, an employee could misunderstand that he had been given a promotion when in reality he was being issued a warning.

Company Rules and Policies Are Important

While it is also necessary to be emotionally sound and sometimes sensitive towards the needs of your employees, it is very important to make sure that you are acting while adhering to (and not compromising) on company rules and policies that you have established for your business.

Develop hard and clear rules, and always fall back on them when rectifying employee misconduct and violations.

It is also necessary to clearly draw the implications and actions that would be meted out well in advance, to the employee in the event of a failure to adhere to company ground rules and policies.

It is crucial for you to reiterate this when you are reprimanding or warning your employee.

Make sure that you develop an image of a business owner who expects nothing less than strict compliance and adherence to company rules and policies and that a failure to do so, will be immediately reprimanded.

Don’t Get Emotional

As a business owner, you must always maintain a rational approach, at all times. This is especially necessary when dealing with conflicts and in heated communications.

Address the issue from a rational standpoint without getting emotionally involved. Make sure that you are able to draw a clear line between the external issue and your personal life.

The key is to not take the conflict personally, always remember to approach it from a problem-solving perspective. You have to remember that, no matter how valid your complaints, you will appear as a business owner who is somewhat crazy when you lose control of your emotions.

What’s more, your unfortunate employee will be overwhelmed by the rapid-fire feedback. Hence, there will be no conceivable way he or she can parse through it all, let alone effectively shift any unwanted behaviors.

Above All, Be Professional

Maintaining professionalism throughout the process is mandatory.  This is because you will have to ensure the functionality of your business. Furthermore, it is needed to draw out clear boundaries between a professional and a non-professional setting.

Being a professional business owner means being able to calmly and clearly state the issue at hand, the impact, and give no more than three examples of when it occurred.

For example: “Ray, I want to talk with you about your behavior at the holiday party and the effect it’s having on the reputation of yourself and this team. I noticed you were slurring your words, at one point you stood on a table and danced, and at another spilled your drink on Cathy.”

Avoid using words such as “your unprofessional, ridiculous, sloppy behavior.” The lesser objectives you use, the less likely someone is to become defensive.

What if you have more than three examples or more than one issue to resolve? That only means you waited too long to have this conversation.

Waiting to confront your employee till later, not only impacts their performance but also puts a strain on your business.

Actionable Takeaway:
Business owners should not only reprimand employees for their mistakes. They should also appreciate and compliment employees for a good job done.

Treat all employees fairly and a establish a supportive workplace environment. Measure performance objectively. This will motivate employees to perform better in their jobs.

When employees feel a sense of ownership in their job roles, they step up to embrace change in their workings.


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