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HR tip: Personality problem


These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Question: "One of our supervisors has a dreadful personality for which he has been warned. Can we dismiss him?"

HR Tip:
You cannot dismiss someone just because you do not like their personality. If we all did that, there would be massive unemployment.

You may take action against someone only if their personality has a demonstrable adverse effect on the work operation. This might include criticising customers or management staff outside the immediate work area, being sarcastic towards colleagues in team meetings, being persistently rude, shouting rather than using a normal conversational voice.

You should try as much as possible to persuade the employee to change his behaviour by, I suggest, indicating the effect he is having on others. If this fails then you can invoke the disciplinary procedure and ultimately move to dismissal. But you really do need to try hard to bring about a behaviour change.

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2 Responses

  1. Addressing Personality Issues Requires Focus
    If the issue is fault-based, I would invoke the Disciplinary Procedure. If it is capability based, and there is a procedure for progessing such issues, that should be invoked. Invoking the Disciplinary Procedure for a capability issue might be fraught later.

    If the actual issues do not fit either of the above routes, and/or a formal approach is inappropriate for whatever reason, I recommend mediation with a view to either keeping the employee on board (but under terms enabling changed circumstances) or exiting him/her.

    Good luck.
    Keith Davis.

  2. Possible conversations re personality problem
    Dismissal is usually a last resort. You don’t say what the dysfunctional behaviours are, nor the opportunities provided for the person to change. Unless the person is suffering from a genuine clinical psychological condition, it is likely that there is an underlying reason for their behaviour. Personality problems,sometimes called personality clashes can be defined as 2 or more people having entrenched views about what they see as right or wrong and being unwilling to shift position. A simple definition of a personality clash is ‘childish behaviour’. Dysfunctional behaviour is interesting. It is often undertaken to get some attention. The biggest reinforcer of human behaviour is the need for attention,the 2nd biggest, is the need to be right and not wrong. It might be worth checking what values/beliefs the person has signed up to (compared to organisational values); what their individual work/life goals are; and see if these are mutually compatible with those of the organisation. Seek to find out at what level there is agreement between you both in terms of establishing common ground. Eg they might under-perform with customers and colleagues, yet still have a desire for the company to thrive. Keep chunking the discussion up a level until you find an area of common ground and then you can start to establish agreements about the levels of performance/attitudes required to achieve the common goal. Dysfunctional behaviour can also stem from a person having a feeling of vulnerability. If you can identify what is making them vulnerable and help to remove the vulnerability then performance often improves.
    None of these are easy conversations, especially whilst a voice in your own head may be saying ‘it shouldn’t be this way /this person should know better’ etc. These beliefs may drive your own behaviour and effect your ability to listen. Stay in the conversation and good luck.

    Duncan Miles
    Inspire Training and Consultancy Ltd
    [email protected]

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