In both civil service and private employment, employees must obey their supervisor's orders unless the order is unlawful. If an employee disobeys his supervisor or is verbally abusive towards her, he can be accused of insubordination. Insubordination is a serious charge and is often grounds for dismissal. To successfully defend yourself, you have to prove that you didn't understand the order or didn't intend to speak abusively to your supervisor.
Familiarize yourself with the legal definition of insubordination. According to the Excessive Discipline Protection Database, legal insubordination occurs when an employee fails to obey a lawful order given by a supervisor or uses disrespectful or abusive language towards the supervisor. If your actions do not fall into these categories, you can claim that you were not insubordinate.
If you do not understand an order or have been given conflicting orders, always ask questions of your supervisor. Questions cannot be considered insubordination unless asked in an abusive manner.
Gather documentation related to the incident, such as a written statement containing your supervisor's order, any applicable laws, and any grievances you filed against your supervisor related to the incident. If there were other witnesses to the incident, get written statements from them.
Present your case to the next in command over your supervisor. If you can prove that you complied with the order to the best of your understanding, the order was unlawful, or that an abusive comment was not directed towards your supervisor, you are not guilty of insubordination.