Investigating misconduct in the workplace is a tricky business. Getting it wrong can cost your business big time. In one case, an investigator simply accepted the evidence of senior people at an event. He failed to consider conflicting accounts from other people there or follow up on some of the answers he received. His rushed and shoddy investigation cost the business a significant amount of money and time.
Investigators need the time, skills and ability to conduct focused, fair and fearless investigations. It is important to win the trust and confidence of everyone involved. This is a difficult balancing act and involves getting a very clear understanding of what you are being told. An investigator can show empathy but should not cross the line into sympathy or acceptance of what is being said.
A crucial thing to remember is that the investigator should deal in facts and not opinions. I have come across too many investigations where the investigator has asked the wrong questions. A classic example is: “Do you think that ___ is a bully?” Or “have you witnessed ________ bullying ________ ?” The answers to these questions are meaningless and they are only opinions. Investigators need to stick to the facts. Their job is to find out, as best they can, what happened, when and to whom.
It is not an easy job and it is a good idea to make sure that your investigators and properly trained and briefed. They may also need support and guidance during the course of the investigation.
I provide training and support for investigators. I can also handle investigations on your behalf and help HR managers with useful guides on conducting investigations. Please get in touch if you would like any further information.