Surprise! Employees don’t always get along with their bosses. Personality conflicts can destroy morale and create tension that kills productivity.
Plus, when a subordinate belongs to a different protected class than his supervisor, the subordinate may suspect some form of discrimination.
That’s why you should document personality conflicts—even if you’re sure bias isn’t the cause. Not getting along with a subordinate isn’t illegal if the underlying reason has nothing to do with race, sex, age or other protected characteristics. Everyday interpersonal conflicts aren’t grounds for a federal lawsuit.
Recent case: Trent Day, who is black, helped manage an Advance Auto Parts store. He was transferred to another location after he complained that a customer used a racial slur.
Later, it became apparent that Day wasn’t getting along with his white supervisor. Day claimed the supervisor cut his hours, gave him unpleasant duties and wouldn’t provide training.
Day sued, alleging race discrimination.
But it turned out that the conflict between Day and his boss was caused by the fact that one of Day’s friends, who is also black, had impregnated the supervisor’s wife.
Day argued that because his supervisor and pregnant wife were white, racism had to be the reason for the supervisor’s apparent anger at Day because of his friend’s activities.
The court didn’t buy it and chalked it all up to a personality conflict. It threw out the case. (Day v. Advance Stores Company, No. 1:09-CV-664, MD NC, 2010)