Punishing rude employees

Punishing rude employees

Date : 10 October 2018

Reported by : dsh

Category : News


AN employee is expected to obey his employer’s legitimate directives or orders within the scope of his employment. They are also expected to treat their superior, co-workers and customers/clients with respect and dignity.

Being disrespectful to one’s superior, defying or ridiculing the superior’s authority, exhibiting outbursts of anger and frustration towards the company’s management, engaging in sarcastic communication with a hostile tone and sending angry or derogatory email, among others, are conducts which are abhorred at the workplace.

Challenging the authority of one’s supervisor and using insulting and abusive language towards him or her is an indication of insubordination and is contrary to the basic character of the employer-employee relationship. Such behaviour hinders or prevents the employer from carrying out his responsibilities effectively.

Inappropriate behaviour at the workplace may result in the substandard quality of products, production slowdown, poor service delivery and, in certain instances, could even result in damage to the employer’s property.

In the banking industry, for example, where a high standard of care and conduct is expected of an employee, any disruptive or inappropriate behaviour can have a negative effect on clients or customers.

In numerous awards, the Industrial Court have noted that rudeness at the workplace was clearly an act subversive of discipline which warranted nothing less than the punishment of dismissal.

In Roslan Yussof v Toyochem Sdn Bhd (2012), the claimant was dismissed for uttering slanderous remarks (“babi” and “anjing”) to his immediate superior when the latter was attempting to serve a letter of caution on him over his bad record of attendance. The utterance was unbecoming, rude, derogatory and plainly abusive by an employee to his superior.

Again, in Florence Chang Mee Kheng v Kelab Taman Perdana Diraja Kuala Lumpur (2013), the Industrial Court stated, inter alia, that rude, sarcastic and abusive language towards superiors, if allowed, would make it impossible for the company to maintain discipline among its employees and thus, peace and harmony in the workplace would be compromised.

In S Haren C Seganathirajah v Minconsult Sdn Bhd (2007), the claimant was alleged to have persistently challenged the company’s authority by refusing to carry out instructions assigned to him. Further, he was also guilty of insolence and disrespect towards his superior by uttering such things as “I am not answering your bloody letters.” He was rude to his superior and had accused the panel of inquiry of being dyslexic. The evidence revealed that the claimant had used derogatory language towards his superior officer.

The Industrial Court concluded that the claimant was guilty of wilful insubordination for failing to obey the company’s lawful instructions and that the nature of the misconduct was so serious it clearly warranted the extreme punishment of dismissal.

In short, rudeness at the workplace is the highest form of disrespectful behaviour and disobedience which should not be tolerated by any employer. Such behaviour is inconsistent with the employer-employee relationship and is tantamount to an act of insubordination, insolence and impertinence, a gross misconduct at the workplace.


Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws

International Islamic University Malaysia