Personality clashes at work are sadly anything but rare, but employers are under a duty to take reasonable steps to resolve such issues before they get out of hand. In one case where that signally failed to happen, a veteran teacher won the right to compensation for the psychiatric injury he suffered.
The man had enjoyed a happy and successful teaching career until a new principal took over at the school where he worked. They disagreed from the outset in respect of teaching methods and managerial style and accusations and counter-accusations flew over a period of several years. Formal grievance procedures had been instituted on both sides and the teacher took periods of sick leave as his mental health suffered.
In upholding his damages claim, a judge found that his employer had negligently failed to provide him with adequate training and support on his return from one period of sickness absence. There had also been a culpable failure to deal with one of his grievances in a timely manner.
The employer was on notice of his fragile mental health after he suffered a previous breakdown. More could have been done to help him and there was a deflection of issues arising from the personality clash that were unwisely and inaptly left largely to the principal to deal with. The employer’s negligence had worsened the teacher’s existing mental health problems over a period of about two years.
The amount of his compensation remains to be assessed.