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Dealing with Employees/employee dissent/passive insubordination


hello= I have an employee who challenged my decision to send her to another location by emailing me with concerns about fairness and job description. after several communications, over about 12 hours, she then said she made up the whole scenario to test how i would handle her. this wasted several hours and several emails/communication time over something that -per her, now is deemed a test of my management skills- I have managed over 20 years at different facilities, and over her directly for the past 5.  i think she realizes that after all of her communications she was wrong, and is now using this "test" scenario as a way to backtrack and "get out of" being in trouble for mouthing off, dissent, and over all lack of team playing.  it's not against any specific policy- but what are your thoughts on this?  that an employee plots to actually test their direct supervisor, wasting both her and mine productivity. Insubordination?  I don't think she was particularly testing me at all, but as she uses this as an excuse I want to address that specifically and need help formulating ideas and speaking points. thanks

Dear Suzanne,

I would handle this in a direct, honest manner. I would tell this employee that you are always willing to discuss your decisions with her to clarify your position, if she is confused about anything, or she has new information that is out of your awareness. However, when a decision has been made you expect full compliance. What concerns you more is the fact that she would set-up a false disagreemen just to test how you would handle it. This wastes time and resources that could be used to accomplish the goals and objectives of the department and the company. If she has a real issue of how you manage her, then you should sit down and discuss specific issues in a responsible, adult manner. Emphasize the fact that you doubt she would appreciate it if you would play games with her instead of treating her in a direct honest way.

I hope this gives you some talking points to cover with this employee.

Good Luck

Joe Buys
Crystal Clear Concepts

Dealing with Employees

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Joe D. Buys


I can answer questions dealing with leadership development, cross-functional team development, conflict resolution, absenteeism management, workplace violence, sexual harassment, diversity in the workplace, supervisor and management training and conducting employee and customer opinion surveys. I can also answer questions dealing with Lean Manufacturing and Administrative Lean for the Office.


I have been a manager then business owner and now consultant for over 40 years. My education and experience working in the real world prepared me for my work as a consultant. However, my experience as a consultant has allowed me to work with some of the top organizations and industries in the world. I have learned from their successes and failures. That has helped me to develop strategies to improve both employee and process performance. I have learned many lessons over the years. However, one stands out above all the others. Without good leadership every organization is ultimately doom to fail. Perhaps Al Gini said it best when he said... "The term “power” comes from the Latin posse: to do, to be able, to change, to influence or effect. To have power is to possess the capacity to control or direct change. All forms of leadership must make use of power. The central issue of power in leadership is not Will it be used? But rather Will it be used wisely and well?" I hope I can help you find the right balance.

Both a BA and MA from Michigan State University.

Past/Present Clients
General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, Dow Chemical, Valasic Foods, Lear Corporation, United States Postal Service

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