DickersonBakker Blog

Insubordination or Something Else?

One of our consultants recently spoke with the executive director of an environmental organization. She was having troubles with one of her employees. Though hard-working and dependable, the employee had a habit that drove the ED nuts. When asked to put together presentations or promotional materials for major donors or foundations, the employee would use old folders, reuse labels, and print materials on the back of used paper. The ED felt this gave the organization a shabby look. She confronted the employee and told her to use new materials. But the next time, it happened again—old folders, old paper.

The ED was flummoxed. She liked this employee but was frustrated by the blatant insubordination. When she connected with our team, she was at a loss for what to do and was considering dismissing her employee. In our conversation, our consultant learned that this employee was a die-hard environmentalist. Using new materials not only seemed like a waste, it grated against her very soul. While sympathetic, the ED still needed the behavior to stop. We encouraged the ED to explain the WHY behind the WHAT. You can do this in two ways:

  1. Align your values with their values
  2. Help them understand the big picture

Going back to our example, our team encouraged the ED to align her values (professional image) with that of the employee (environmental conservation), concluding with the big picture (greater impact). For example:

Question: Why is it important to use new folders, labels, and paper with major donors and foundations?

Answer: Because it projects an image of professionalism and organization to the high-end donors. It shows that the organization has its act together and that it can be trusted with their money. Making a better impression on the donor will increase the likelihood of a large gift, which will support the environmental mission the employee is so passionate about.

Instead of telling employees “do this because I say so,” frame the why so they can understand the what. You’ll be surprised by the results.

Are you struggling with a particular employee? Our team of consultants are experts in their field(s) and can show you how to align your values and share the big picture. Contact us to find out how!

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