Q & A Session – Does Disagreeing with Management Constitute Insubordination?


Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.


Is it lawful for an employer to discipline an employee (subordinate) for insubordination or any other type of charge for failing to “shut up” during a discussion?

For example, I’ve had several meetings in which I could tell that the new management wished I would stop disagreeing with him. At the end of these discussions, I’ve always done what they’ve told me to do, but I’ve felt within my rights to tell them in person that I disagreed with what they were suggesting. I always did this in a respectful manner, referring to them as “Sir.” I am not speaking of a situation where I am following them around the office saying, “But, but, but…” I am talking about a meeting in which we are discussing the future direction of this office and policies within it and I happen to disagree with what he says.


Most leaders will seek the input of those around them, including subordinates, when making day-to-day decisions. When the input is unwelcome, as it sometimes is, a supervisor is within his or her rights to say “Stop talking. I don’t want to hear anything else from you.” An employee who persists would be insubordinate.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.

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About Author

Debra Roth

Debra L. Roth is a partner at the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth, a federal employment law firm in Washington, D.C. She is general counsel to the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association, host of the “FEDtalk” program on Federal News Radio, and a regular contributor to Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show. Email your legal questions to lawyer@federaltimes.com.

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