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Is it unfair to dismiss for personality clashes?

Posted On: [23/03/2022]

Dismissal for Personality Clashes

Case law shows that where there are serious personality clashes between colleagues that cause disruption at work, an employer can dismiss fairly for Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR).  Your employer must make sure that the real reason for the dismissal is the dysfunctional working environment and not a misconduct dismissal in disguise. The breakdown of the working relationship must be the principal reason for dismissal not the conduct that led to the breakdown. This is because your employer must follow different fair processes for each type of dismissal.  

In Gallacher v Abellio Scotrail Ltd [2020], the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) said that if the reason for dismissal is breakdown in working relations, than it may be fair to dismiss without going through any conduct or capability procedures (including an appeal).

In this case, a senior manager's relationship with her line manager and others in her team deteriorated at a critical juncture for the employer's business. The employer decided to dismiss her at an appraisal meeting with no procedure, forewarning or right of appeal.

The Employment Tribunal (ET) said that her dismissal was fair in the particular circumstances. The EAT agreed with the ET and noted that there may be rare cases,  where procedures may be dispensed with because they are reasonably considered by the employer to be futile.  Taking account of all the circumstances of the case where both sides had agreed that the working relationship between senior managers had broken down, the dismissal was found to be fair.

However, the EAT issued a warning that "dismissals without following any procedures will always be subject to extra caution on the part of the tribunal before being considered to fall within the band of reasonable responses." A distinguishing factor in this case was that the breakdown was between two senior managers whose good working relationship was important to the success of the business at a difficult time. The EAT said that "seniority will always be a relevant factor with any substantial disparity in seniority between protagonists being likely to put the tribunal on high alert that the alleged breakdown in relations is a cloak for another reason for dismissal".

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