Dictionary Definition



1 defiance of authority [ant: subordination]
2 an insubordinate act [syn: rebelliousness]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The quality of being insubordinate; disobedience to lawful authority.


The quality of being insubordinate



fr-noun f

Extensive Definition

Insubordination is the act of a subordinate deliberately disobeying a lawful order. A lawful order is a directive from a legitimate representative of an organization, a person who has been designated as having the authority to issue the order, to a subordinate within the organization who is expected to carry out the directive as part of his or her duties within the organization.
Refusing to perform an action that is not ethical or legal is not insubordination. Refusing to perform an action that is not within the scope of authority of the person issuing the order is not insubordination.
Insubordination is typically a punishable offense in hierarchical organizations which depend on people lower in the chain of command to do as they are told.


The concept of insubordination is most often associated with military organizations, as military organizations have a chain of command and lawful orders given by a commissioned officer (CO) or noncommissioned officer (NCO) are expected to be carried out by the person to whom the order is given. Refusal of a military officer to obey his (civilian) superiors would also count, though in some nations the head of the government is (at least technically) also the most superior officer of the military (see for example Commander in Chief).


Other types of hierarchical structures, especially corporations, may also use insubordination as a reason for dismissal or censure of an employee.
There have been a number of court cases in the United States which have involved charges of insubordination from the employer with counter charges of infringement of First Amendment rights from the employee. A number of these cases have reached the U.S. Supreme Court usually involving a conflict between an institution of higher education and a faculty member.
In the modern workplace in the Western world, hierarchical power relationships are usually sufficiently internalized so that the issue of formal charges of insubordination are rare. In his book, Disciplined Minds, American physicist and writer Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organisations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favours the right interests – or skewers the disfavoured ones” in the absence of overt control.


There have been a number of famous and infamous people who have committed insubordination or publicly objected to an organizational practice.

See also

insubordination in Danish: Lydighedsnægtelse
insubordination in German: Insubordination
insubordination in French: Insoumission
insubordination in Hebrew: סרבנות

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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