Let’s be honest – we choose our friends but most of our staff have little choice about who they work with.  We all remember ex-colleagues who have driven us to distraction for various reasons but what happens if you are faced with a situation in your business where one of your staff refuses to work with a colleague…and what do you do about it?
Working relationships can break down for a variety of reasons including:

  • Personality clashes
  • Socially unacceptable behaviour
  • Finding out that a colleague is HIV positive
  • Finding out that a colleague has a sensitive spent criminal conviction

If you are faced with this situation, you will need to observe the following:
1. Take immediate action to prevent escalation – interview all relevant parties and take statements. Arrange an informal meeting to discuss any differences and agree measures to improve the situation with a scheduled review(s).
2. Consider disciplinary action and/or educational awareness – If the allegations are proven to be unreasonable and based on groundless prejudice such as an employee being HIV positive, consider disciplinary action on the grounds of bullying or harassment against the protestors.  Of course, this may further inflame the situation and cause disruption to your business, so allaying concerns through educational awareness may calm the situation.
3. Dismissal should always be a last resort – Pressure from employees to dismiss should always be a last resort, as the threat of industrial action cannot be taken into account when assessing the fairness of a dismissal.  A tribunal would closely examine the conduct of the employer and the procedure that it went through in reaching the decision to dismiss.  Examining whether the employee could have been given alternative work or relocated to another work location would be scrutinised in addition to the extent that the situation was seriously harming the employer’s business interests, leaving it with no choice but to dismiss for the good of the business.


By Bruce Ramshaw

Principal Consultant


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