What do you do when an employee hasn’t actually done anything wrong, his (or her) work is competent, but they are so difficult that you can’t just ignore it? The answer is that if all else fails, you may be able to dismiss for some other substantial reason (SOSR).
I have done this several times over the last couple of years. On one occasion a woman raised a grievance which was so unpleasant (and found to be without foundation) that her colleagues refused to work with her.
When they found that she was coming back to work after her absence (voluntary garden leave while the grievance was investigated) 40% of the department in which she worked resigned rather than work with her. We invoked SOSR and dismissed her and the rest of the department retracted their resignations. A useful case for those trying to deal with difficult personalities is that of Perkin v St George's Healthcare NHS Trust.
Ian Perkin had worked for the Trust for more than 16 years. He was the Finance Director and his competence was not in dispute. Unfortunately, his challenging management style made it very difficult for his colleagues to work with him.
The Board described his behaviour "aloof", "stubborn" and "at times intimidating". Disciplinary proceedings were started and during this he launched a verbal attack on the CEO. He was eventually dismissed. While the tribunal found that there were procedural issues, it concluded that the way in which he had conducted himself in defending the proceedings had led to the Trust having no alternative other than to dismiss him.
Mr Perkin had been dismissed because of his personality, which had manifested itself in such a way that the Trust was justified in dismissing for "some other substantial reason". He was entirely to blame for his dismissal.
If you have difficult employees who need to be managed, give us a call. It’s our speciality! (I seem to be the heavy cannon brought out for the most bloody-minded employees ...). For further guidance about workplace investigations call us.
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