Can a dismissal based on a personality clash be fair?
In extreme cases, yes it can. In the leading Court of Appeal case of Perkin v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, it was confirmed that a person’s behaviour ( in this case, an executive with the NHS) confirmed that an employee’s personality is capable of being a potentially fair reason for dismissal. This is provided that the employee’s actions can be brought within the ambit of “conduct” or “some other substantial reason“.
In the Perkins case, the Court of Appeal considered the dismissal of an executive after senior colleagues raised concerns about his abrasive manner and management style, although his competence was not in question. Although the dismissal was held to be procedurally unfair, the executive’s behaviour, including making unfounded accusations against colleagues, justified the reduction of his compensation to zero.
In terms of process, it would be important for an employer to first properly investigate and give the individual time to improve unless an employer wants to risk an unfair dismissal claim being successful (as in the Perkin case, even though the award was then reduced to zero by the tribunal).