Julie Duane, Solicitor Advocate at CG Professional.
Following the historical case of Treganowan v Robert Knee and Co Ltd  a Tribunal was required to determine whether a dismissal was unfair following a clash of personalities between the Claimant and other individuals in the office.
The issue in question was the perception and view of how other individuals in an office environment perceived the Claimant’s behaviour and whether the ill-feeling in the office between individuals could amount to a fair dismissal.
The Claimant in this matter was a boisterous individual who would often boast to her colleagues of her relationship with a man half her age along with other personal matters. Effectively her colleagues disapproved of Mrs Treganowan’s outbursts and her insensitivity towards their feelings. As a result, the relations between the parties at work became unbearable, thereby compromising the employer’s business. The Employment Tribunal at First Instance held that the Claimant’s dismissal was fair, not for the conduct, but for Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR).
The matter was appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal who also held that the dismissal was fair. In this particular case it was held that SOSR may be deemed fair as long as the conflict is sufficiently serious to have an impact on the business and is investigated. However, it is not enough to show that the company is suffering, there must also be attempts to see if relations can be improved in order to avoid dismissal. Effectively employers must show that the working relationship is untenable and that dismissal is necessary.
Employers should, therefore, be aware that where conflicts arise in the workplace and are causing significant disruption due to personality clashes, then there may be scope for termination. Equally, this is more pertinent where small businesses have limited options available to it. Employers should, however, be mindful of opportunities such as redeployment, changing their reporting structure, changing working patterns and also mediation in order to avoid dismissals. Employers should also be quick to distinguish between SOSR and scenarios where it is possible to apportion blame to particular individuals, as this could be construed as a disciplinary/conduct matter, as opposed to SOSR.
If you are encountering a clash of personalities in the workplace and would like some further advice on how to address this, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the CG Professional team who would be more than happy to assist.