Tough guys are a liability

Russell Brown

Progressive employee protection laws mean the days of aggressive management
styles are disappearing fast.

Aggression in the workplace is a leadership consideration, but there are also
legal considerations employers must bear in mind. Employers have a legal
obligation to investigate all allegations of abusive or intimidating behaviour.

An employee who resigns after being subjected to verbal abuse from a
colleague or superior may be well within their rights to pursue a claim for
constructive dismissal, particularly if their employer failed to investigate the

If a manager is found to have subjected a subordinate to verbal abuse,
employment tribunals have held that it is important to provide the manager with
an opportunity to apologise. A warning should always be considered before
resorting to dismissal in order to avoid allegations of unfair dismissal.

In the most severe disciplinary cases, an employer may be forced to dismiss
an employee immediately for gross misconduct. Employers are advised to always
suspend with a view to completing a thorough investigation before dismissing.
Failure to do so exposes employers to an unfair dismissal claim.

Given that employers are required to follow a fair procedure and demonstrate
that their actions were reasonable in view of the circumstances, the absence of
a thorough investigation will be frowned upon by a tribunal.

Environmental considerations play a vital role in determining behaviour that
is acceptable in the workplace. Foul language and aggression may be common on a
building site or football pitch, but would be unacceptable in an office.

Any employer must uphold acceptable levels of behaviour and discipline, and
bring to account those who break the rules. Effective leadership training and
accessible support and advice for all employees will also help to attract and
retain a committed workforce.

Russell Brown is a solicitor specialising in employment law at law firm

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