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The Situation Room: Refusal to Carry Out Orders

The Situation Room: Refusal to Carry Out Orders

Just as you are finishing up your first cup of coffee for the morning, a frazzled supervisor bursts into your employee refusaloffice. “She won’t do it!” the supervisor exclaims. “Do what exactly?” as you ponder the image of someone refusing to jump off a cliff.

“She won’t carry out a new order we received from the top!” The exasperated supervisor goes on to tell you the employee in question said she will not carry out the new orders due to her strong religious belief. The employee has worked for the company for a long time and has been reliable over the years. You’ve always been able to count on her to do her job. But now suddenly she refuses to carry out a new rule that was handed down from people with higher pay grades and authority.

You were informed the new rule has been put in place to accommodate a changing population and their needs. The new rule doesn’t pose a safety issue for the employee or others, such as “you must now feed the alligators and make it snappy”. The new rule doesn’t take away any of the employee’s earned pay and benefits. The employee has all the tools and resources to carry out the new rule. The only issue you can find is that this employee has a strong religious belief causing her to not want to carry out the new orders.

What is the first thing you should do?

  • A. Fire the employee for insubordination
  • B. Evaluate an accommodation solution
  • C. Throw the employee in jail
  • D. Ignore the situation, it will go away

Write your answer below in the comments.

Meanwhile consider this...

It was Winston Churchill who said, “True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information." Innovation is dependent on our ability to embrace and consider, even for a moment, conflicting thoughts and ideas.

We know that there will inevitably be conflict of conscience, philosophies and ideas in the workplace. After all, we can't all be and think exactly the same way. For many of us in the private sector, we’ve learned that if we listen to one another even with differing opinions, we may just uncover an innovative solution that will propel the company infinitely forward.

Kim DavisFor this particular public sector issue, Kentucky Clerk, Kim Davis, chose to defy a new Supreme Court rule and refused to give out marriage certificates for same-sex marriages on the basis of her religious belief. Davis was sent to jail as a result. Some argue this employee was an elected official and is to serve the public and that she must carry out all rules and directed. While others feel her religious beliefs are being ignored and further violated with her being sent to jail. There are certainly many more opinions on both sides (and in the middle) that are to be expressed about this issue.

In the private sector there are two requirements employers are required to balance. That is the requirement of accommodating two conflicting protected statuses, religious beliefs and sexual orientation, in a way that doesn’t discriminate against any one. Sounds hard doesn't it? It sometimes is very difficult.

Regardless of the regulatory and political battle afoot regarding this particular issue, we can take away one thing. Successful leaders know how to apply creativity and leverage opposing points of view effectively to achieve more.

About Tresha Moreland

Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite (www.hrcsuite.com). HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

One Comment


  1. The Kim Davis issue doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Kim Davis is a christian who didn’t want to issue same sex marriage certificates because of her religious beliefs. However, legally acknowledging married same sex couples is for governmental purposes; it is not the same as having them marry in her church. Church marriages are not legally binding and are a symbolic ceremony indicating a deity approved of the relationship through a priest marrying the couple.

    Kim Davis doesn’t understand the legal context of her denying couples to be married through the state, as opposed to a religious marriage which takes place in a church and ultimately has no legal meaning. Ironically, Kim has been married and divorced multiple times.

    To answer this article’s question, I’d question the mental state of an employee who believes an all powerful deity will grant them eternal life when they die, if they defy a work order that does not impact their religion outside of work.