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How would you solve insubordination in leadership?

…without using the labour law as the judge.

How you as a leader handle insubordination is a true test of your leadership abilities. Insubordination shows a lack of respect and one bad apple spoils the batch. Although the labour law and disciplinary hearings are there for extreme cases, mutual respect amongst you and your subordinates is needed to drive, and grow the team from strength to strength.

Respect and leadership go hand in hand. Therefore, it is important to know how to gain respect and to maintain morale with good leadership skills to combat something like insubordination. 

Leaders need to be respected in order to be successful. Earning that respect takes some time and effort, but once that is in the bag, subordinates are more likely to work harder and to follow that leader even through tough times. 

Ever hear of the saying: “respect must be earned”? Do you think to “lead by example” is the answer to the respect issue? These are some of the questions that leaders are faced with and here are the answers to a few more:

  1. If I befriend and think of myself on the same level as my employees,  will that gain my respect? This is a common mistake most good-hearted leaders make. They think that by being seen as equal to their employees, they will become someone relatable or even a friend. However, you as a leader are their manager and thus superior in rank. As difficult as it may be, you should remain the authority figure but treat your employees with empathy, respect, and compassion. Although, employees tend to feel more positive when they believe their opinions matter, they also need to value and respect your position. They will take more offense if a friend reprimands or criticises their work rather than their manager. They should always know who is the boss and who calls the shots, but without rubbing their noses in it. 
  2. If I give my employees freedom and a non-structured work environment, will they respect me more? Being the “fun manager” is not the way to go. Good parents know that by giving a child structure and routine you raise a well-balanced and happy child. People need structure and they need rules, not only in the workplace but in society. We’re not saying that you should push your employees to fill in a timesheet when they go to the loo, we’re simply stating that through giving your employees clear goals, plans, and a well-written job description, your task of gaining respect as their leader will automatically become lighter. 
  3. If I do everything myself, this will be the example my subordinates will follow False! The moment you take on all the responsibility, you take away their respect. Why? Simple! They don’t feel that you trust them and you make them feel incompetent. Trust is the cornerstone of respect. Coach or Mentor an employee to do the work accordingly, rather than taking away the responsibility. Motivation is key. If the team feels unwanted and underutilized, they will feel unworthy and the outcome will be detrimental. Give them enough guidance. If you directly, and privately address each issue they will feel more confident and grateful.
  4. I’m allowed to be late, do less, etc… because I am the boss? Wrong! Lead by example. Be consistent so that people will recognize and respond to what you say. Time management shouldn’t be hard and being on time increases respect for others. If you are late, you don’t respect other’s time and therefore you will not have the respect of your subordinates.
  5. I don’t need to show respect, I need to demand respect? Respect them first and then be prepared to earn and accept their respect. Being a leader means creating opportunities for others to thrive. Only through respecting your employees you will know which opportunities you will have to create for them. Respect will earn you the right to walk their journey with them.

Try to be right, but own being wrong. Remember you are human too, and sometimes people need to see how you handle being wrong, in order to gain some respect. If you can forgive mistakes, employees will also be forgiving towards you.

So, our answer to the question in the heading is simply to gain the respect of your employees. If this seems like a daunting task start with taking the first step. Lead by example. We can assist you with the second step. Although we offer a variety of different soft skills courses, our Develop Your Leadership course is extremely well developed to suit the ever-changing South African workforce reality.