How to Manage and Prevent Workplace Discrimination

How to Manage and Prevent Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination, despite the many laws and regulations put in place to deter and address it’s occurrence, remains a pervasive problem for many employers. Navigating the murky waters of how discrimination occurs in its many different forms, some much less obvious than others, is a difficult endeavour that requires constant attention from employers seeking to protect their workplaces from its detrimental impacts.

However, having processes and systems in place to manage and prevent workplace discrimination enables an organisation to address issues far more effectively and, in many cases, prevent them from arising in the first place.

workplace discrimination inhibits diversity

This article will delve into some of the ways that workplace discrimination can be addressed and prevented. Depending on what type of discrimination you are addressing or where you work, the methods you incorporate can differ according to your needs.

The important thing to keep in mind is that workplace discrimination can have far reaching consequences for the victims as well as the company’s overall health, so as an employer, keeping the best interests of all involved parties and seeking action as soon as possible is key.

Below are some of the essential considerations and mechanisms all employers should consider when forming or reviewing their companies approach to anti-discrimination.

Managing Workplace Discrimination 

1. A good reporting system

An adequate system for reporting workplace discrimination is absolutely necessary for employers to include. This means that the system should be easily accessible and made available widely to all employees.

All employees should also be trained on how to utilise the system in their induction or be able to find how to do so via company resources.

The system should also allow for anonymous reports to be made as this is particularly helpful for victims who are fearful of repercussions or not sure how the complaint will be received. Having the ability to make the report without fear of being humiliated and knowing that their privacy will be maintained promotes an environment that encourages employees to speak up against discrimination.

2. Workplace investigation processes

 

When a report is made, undertaking a workplace investigation promptly and confidentially allows for workplace discrimination issues to be resolved more efficiently.

Doing so establishes that the company takes the complaints seriously and allows security to employees by knowing that their concerns will be addressed. The means of investigation will depend on the complaint and its severity, but all employees should have the ability to pursue both formal and informal resolution mechanisms. 

A workplace investigation interview may be required and other forms of documentation might need to be produced, so having a well thought out process and the right people handling the investigation is very important to resolving the issue in a satisfactory manner.

3. Additional support  

Part of the process and resolution of a workplace investigation should include means through which support can be provided to the victim.

For example, the victim could be provided with the option to work on a different project or location whilst the investigation is occurring, or once it has concluded, some additional support from their manager or supervisor whilst they are getting back on their feet.

A key thing to look out for is victimisation which is a fear that many employees face when deciding to make a complaint. Making sure that the employee is not exposed to additional discrimination as a result of victimisation is not only important in meeting the duty of care an employer owes, but also for maintaining an environment where other employees can make workplace discrimination reports without fear of retaliatory action that will inhibit their career growth or make their working environment hostile.  

workplace discrimination prevents effective teamwork

4. Remedial Action 

If a single or group of perpetrators is identified, adequate action in reflection of company policy must be made. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every case will result in someone being fired.

Depending on the context and severity of the discrimination, the employer, and others with the assigned authority, in conjunction with what the victim wants, must come to a decision on how to proceed with any action. This can include mandatory additional training, disciplinary action, legal proceedings, demotions and indeed, in some cases, termination.

Preventing Workplace Discrimination

1. Strong anti-discrimination policies

Having strong no-tolerance policies against discrimination and clear consequences for any infringement is central to the prevention of workplace discrimination.

Know that these policies are not just limited to cementing a strong stance against discrimination against any party, although this is important, but also includes policies that promote and allow for the fair treatment of all employees such as equal opportunities for advancement in roles.

Having the policy is also not capable of preventing discriminatory actions if the employees don’t know about it, so making sure that all employees are aware of and understand the policy is incredibly important.

Furthermore, enforcing the policy so that everyone recognises its significance will help to further establish an environment that inhibits workplace discrimination. 

2. Training/development initiatives for employees

All employees should be provided with educational training on discrimination to improve their understanding of the issue and to help protect themselves from being subjected to it unknowingly.

Beyond just discrimination specific training programs, similar initiatives on themes such as teamwork and diversity should also be introduced to promote harmony and a positive work environment. Beyond the initial onboarding process, these development opportunities should also be required or available and encouraged to employees at any point in their time with the company.

Supervisors and managers in particular should be required to undergo additional development before and during their time in the role as they have an additional responsibility to the employees that look to them for assistance.

3. Do your research 

employers should research workplace discrimination

As an employer, a lot of what you can do to address and prevent discrimination will be based on how much you understand how it operates, how it’s affected your company in the past or present and what different policies and practices can do to target the issue.

You can do this in a number of ways, including:

      • Reviewing company policies surrounding discrimination on a regular basis
      • Examining hiring and recruitment criteria carefully and making changes to ensure fair and equal consideration for all
      • Take note of other companies who have successfully minimised discrimination or have practices that you are thinking of implementing and learn from them
      • Increase your personal awareness of discrimination and seek feedback to understand where you or the company can improve

4. Employee affinity groups (aka employee resource groups, ERG’s)

An affinity group for employees brings together those with similar backgrounds, interests, or demographic factors such as gender or religion.

For example, women leadership or mentoring programs are a form of an affinity group present in many organisations today. They allow employees to feel welcome and included, promote friendships, and improve communication and teamwork, particularly for underrepresented or marginalised communities.

For employers, they are especially beneficial in identifying gaps in the company that need to be addressed and help tackle workplace discrimination, both in terms of the severity and number of issues that arise.

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The methods of managing and preventing workplace discrimination for each employer will vary depending on what resources, funding and means they have available to them. Regardless of what you utilise, having strong practices established and enforced will serve as a long-term investment for the company by preventing the detrimental impacts of workplace discrimination over the long term.

The above methods and means are not the only ways you can tackle the issue, but they are ones that all employers need to consider regardless of the size and type of their organisation.

What is embezzlement and how does it occur

What is embezzlement and how does it occur

embezzlement

 Embezzlement occurs when an individual is entrusted with assets that they misappropriate or steal for their own benefit. The individual has access to assets and uses it to take control of properties that are not their own and possess them illegally. Embezzlement happens without consent and it is a form of white-collar crime as there is the intention to misuse the money or property. 

 The embezzler may be acting alone or with a partner who is helping them with their illegal activities. The size of embezzlement varies, it could be something small or something that could be detrimental to the financial health of a business. Embezzlement can be a scheme that was planned out over a period of time and was well thought out. 

 There are situations where embezzlement might go unnoticed and is considered unethical regardless of the impact it has. It is a type of fraud that can be hard to prove as the embezzler takes advantage of the person who trusts them with the assets. They might be oblivious to the employee’s actions as they do not see them in a negative light. The success or the duration of the activities relies on the amount of trust that has been built and the scale of embezzlement. 

 

Difference between embezzlement and theft

Embezzlement can count as a type of theft. However, the main difference between the two is that embezzlement involves an individual misappropriating assets in their possession that they have been entrusted with. The owner of the assets willingly gave access to the embezzler. On the other hand, theft involves the individual stealing assets from the owner while the owner has direct possession of them. 

The owner never planned for the thief to handle their assets or use them in any way. However, the embezzler was entrusted with the assets for a certain purpose. They might have a financial responsibility. Theft might be easier to detect as the asset was in the possession of the owner. 

Embezzlement can have a greater impact than theft. For example, the possessor probably thought highly of the person, highly enough to entrust them with their property or money. If they commit a crime against them, it breaches their trust and negatively affects their financial situation. 

 

Types of embezzlement and examples

-Cash skimming

-Lapping

-Computer embezzlement

-Kickbacks

-Overtime

 

Cash skimming

Cash skimming is also referred to as syphoning. It involves money being taken before the money is recorded in the accounting system of a business. It is never reported and therefore can be hard to identify. It is a very simple type of embezzlement as the employee removes the cash before it enters the books and employers can struggle to prove it. 

Cash skimming is most common in retail or hospitality, where cash handling is involved. The employee might not record a purchase and pocket the money for themselves before it enters the register. By not entering the purchase into the system they do not have to count it into the total revenue at the end of the day and employers can only have suspicions but no proof.

embezzlement

Lapping

 Lapping occurs when payments of customers are continuously allocated to cover the theft of funds. Newer payments are used to cover older ones so there are no discrepancies. The employee is usually responsible for accounts receivables and tries to hide potential debts that might occur by their embezzlement. Smaller businesses might be exposed to this type of activity if they only have one person responsible for finances.

 For example, a worker in a firm might receive a payment for a service and take it for themselves. The second payment they receive will be used to cover the absence of the first payment and the third payment will cover the second.  

 

Computer embezzlement 

 This is a more recent type of embezzlement. It is a cybercrime that involves an employee changing money transactions and business data to allow them to steal money without anyone noticing. They might change customer information and cause unapproved transactions to occur. They might also remove money from transactions electronically. 

 An employee could also launch programs or viruses that will provide them with the necessary information to commit another fraud or improve their current scheme. The person who has access to computer systems and client information can commit more than one crime, potentially even identity or password theft. Other data within the company might also be at risk.

 

Kickbacks

 This occurs when an employee receives an illegal benefit for giving preferential treatment. It usually takes the form of an employee who is responsible for purchases or bookkeeping favouring a certain supplier or vendor because they have an agreement. The agreement helps the personal interests of the employee but not the benefit of the business. A ‘’kickback’’ might also be given to an employee who is trusted within the company, to influence the decision-making of the business. 

 The employee misappropriates the funds of the business by not making favourable decisions even though they are trusted to do so. A recent example of a kickback was in 2021, when a former Netflix executive was convicted of fraud, bribery and kickbacks. Any business is vulnerable when it comes to embezzlement, regardless of its services or size. 

 

Overtime

 Employers pay extra for overtime, so employees might take advantage of this and submit additional hours. They might clock into work early or clock out late to falsify the timesheets and earn more money for hours they have not worked for. A former police officer plead guilty in 2021 to committing overtime embezzlement and receiving money he had not earned legally. 

 Businesses trust employees with their funds by letting them be responsible for their working hours’ records. Exploiting their trust is a crime punishable by law. Employees have to be truthful when recording their hours.

 

How to prevent embezzlement

 Different types of embezzlement will require different prevention strategies. It is always recommended to adopt a proactive rather than a reactive approach. To prevent cases of lapping, businesses might choose to allocate accounting responsibilities to more than one employee. This way more people will be able to check the records and identify if there is suspicious movement. Employees will also be less tempted to embezzle money as they will have a greater fear of being found out. 

 Training employees can prevent all types of embezzlement as employees will be familiar with detecting wrongful activity and will be able to report it. It will also inform workers of the systems that are in place that monitor financial information which could discourage potential embezzlement from occurring in the future. If policies are enforced, individuals will know that the company is taking compliance seriously and is aware of issues that might exist in the workplace. A zero-tolerance policy should be implemented regarding all types of fraud.

 To deal with cash skimming businesses might choose to limit the amount of cash that is in the business. They might opt for card-only payments or install surveillance to monitor suspicious activity. 

 Limiting the access of employees to data and financial information can prevent computer embezzlement. Employers might choose to monitor the workers or reduce their permissions and responsibilities. Experts or software might be needed to prevent a potential virus attack. 

 Performing internal and external audits is necessary, especially if managers suspect fraud or have seen signs of embezzlement. Audits can be conducted as part of a regular schedule or randomly and should always be objective. 

 

Consequences of embezzlement

 Embezzlement has a negative impact on both the employer and the employee. For the employer, it could lead to losses, reduced revenue and data theft. It could influence the business’s reputation among customers and society and could discourage consumers from becoming their clients. It could potentially lead to business failure depending on the severity of the scheme. 

 Penalties vary by country, city and state. They could take the form of fines or imprisonment but the punishment relies on the size of embezzlement, the type and the damage it has caused. The consequences of embezzlement do not only affect the embezzler in the present but also in the future. The individual might struggle to find a job if they have been found guilty. They could also affect their families as well. 

 Consequences could also be affected by the defences. There might be insufficient evidence that could cause the criminal charges to be dropped or there might not be an intent to commit embezzlement. 

 

Conclusion

 Embezzlement is an illegal activity that affects businesses regardless of size or industry. There are many types of embezzlement so businesses need to be prepared to avoid the potential consequences. Preventing the crime is crucial for business survival, minimising the threat and reducing the chances of a similar event happening in the future. Sometimes it can go unnoticed or it can be hard to prove so employers should have enough evidence before pressing charges or pointing fingers. 

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Different Ways Discrimination Could be Occurring in Your Workplace

Different Ways Discrimination Could be Occurring in Your Workplace

The idea of discrimination in the workplace is not new; you’ve probably read of countless cases in the news, have had friends or family experience something similar or perhaps even been subjected to it yourself. In fact, a recent report by Nasdaq found that 55% of people have experienced discrimination at their current place of work. As an employer this can be worrying to hear, but by understanding how to identify discrimination in all its different forms you’ll be better equipped to make sure that your employees are adequately protected and a hostile work environment does not emerge.

Workplace discrimination should be prevented

Safeguarded Characteristics and Workplace Discrimination

Because discrimination is directly tied to action made on the basis of legally safeguarded characteristics, it is important to know what these are and what they can include.

These protected attributes can differ depending on where you are and the field of work you operate in but typically include:

    • Age e.g., not hiring an older yet qualified candidate on the assumption that they will not understand the necessary technology.
    • Gender e.g., not promoting a qualified female employee under the assumption she is not capable of leadership
    • Disability e.g., failing to accommodate to certain disabilities
    • Race e.g., treating an employee with excessive suspicion or hostility due to their race in comparison to their fellow employees
    • Religion e.g., firing someone because they took a day off for a religious holiday
    • Sexual orientation e.g., harassment against an employee on the basis of their sexual orientation
    • Parental status e.g., retaliating against an employee for seeking paternity leave

 

Direct Workplace Discrimination

The first distinction that must be made is between direct and indirect discrimination.

Direct discrimination refers to occurrences when an individual is subjected to negative treatment based on:

    • An attribute that is legally safeguarded.
    • The assumption of an attribute that is legally safeguarded
    • Connection to an individual that has a legally safeguarded attribute

Direct discrimination can be both intentional or unintentional and is often the easiest to identify.

Some examples include:

    • Being denied opportunities for promotion or training
    • Harmful verbal remarks in reference to the protected attribute
    • Not considering an applicant for a job because of their age

It is important to remember that such discrimination, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, is harmful to the employee and the overall health of the organisation. Just because the discrimination was not deliberate, does not mean a legal claim cannot be filed or that the workplace environment is not negatively impacted.

Indirect Workplace Discrimination

Indirect discrimination refers to policies, rules or guidelines implemented neutrally which everyone must follow but are disadvantageous to a particular group of people on the basis of a legally safeguarded attribute.

These policies or rules can be a formal or informal implementation and put in place on a singular or consistent basis. It can refer to but is not limited to hiring criteria, conditions for promotions, dress codes or qualifications and provisions.

Indirect discrimination is not as easy to identify as direct discrimination and is oftentimes unintentional. For example, you could have a dress code policy that applies to all employees in the exact same manner because you’re aiming to be fair. However, if the policy doesn’t allow for certain hairstyles or coverings, it ends up being discriminatory against employees from certain ethnic backgrounds or who have certain religious beliefs.

In this situation, having the same rules for everyone is not viable and the approach must be altered to cater to the diversity of all the employees. This form of discrimination is considered indirect as the original intent was not to discriminate against anyone.

 

Objective Justification

As an employer, you might have good reason to consider introducing a rule or policy that may result in a difference in treatment. For example, you might be trying to make sure your employees health and safety is not compromised.

When this occurs, to prevent the action from being considered discriminatory, an objective justification can be provided. An objective justification is where an employer or service provider showcases that its rules or policies serve a valid purpose and have been implemented for good reason.

There are a few criteria that must be met when proving objective justification and these include:

    • Financial incentive is not the reason behind the policy/action.
    • The aim of the policy/action must meet a legitimate consideration
    • Whether any potentially discriminatory actions are proportionate to the benefit derived from the policy/action
    • There is not alternative means of accomplishing the aim

In most cases, an objective justification can only be utilised as defence when the targeted attribute is age. A difference in treatment on the basis of any other protected characteristic typically falls under direct discrimination.

discrimination has no place in a healthy workplace

Harassment

Harassment is when one is subjected to unwanted behaviour from someone else on the basis of or an association with a safeguarded characteristic.

The behaviour must contribute to developing an offensive and hostile environment or in effect, seek to shed the dignity of the victim.

Whilst there are no rules on what this behaviour could include, some examples are:

    • Inappropriate gestures that are mocking in nature
    • Sexually suggestive or explicit comments
    • Excluding someone intentionally and consistently
    • Making insulting jokes about an ethnic group

An important consideration with harassment is that claiming no intention to harm is not adequate as a defence. The victims’ experiences are the focus so as the employer, it is important to have a code of conduct in place that is adhered to by everyone at work.

Victimisation

Victimisation occurs when a worker does a protected act and is then discriminated against as a result. For example, if an employee made a complaint at work, or supported someone else’s complaint, then suffered detriments like bullying or being demoted.

Victimisation should not be tolerated at all in the workplace as not only can it be incredibly harmful to the employee, but it inhibits a healthy company culture.

Having an environment where employees don’t feel comfortable speaking up about negative treatment in fear of retaliation against them should be actively prevented. As an employer, you can be held responsible for victimisation even if you yourself were not the perpetrator, making this even more imperative.

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To conclude, discrimination can take on many different forms within the workplace. Having policies in place to prevent discrimination, and actively making sure that any revisions or extra provisions are included, is incredibly important to making sure that the workplace does not suffer long term detriment. As an employer, you owe a duty of care to employees to protect their best interests at work and making sure you remained informed and aware about discrimination is one way you can do that.

How does a code of practice help your business?

How does a code of practice help your business?

Code of practice

 A code of practice provides information and guidelines for businesses to meet the Work Health and Safety standards and abide by the relevant laws. The details are not meant to act as a replacement for the laws, rather they aim to assist the business in complying with the work health and safety laws and regulations. A code of practice is usually not mandatory and can be adapted to different occupations and organisations. It applies to individuals that have a duty of care in the workplace, typically the employer’s duty of care to employees. A code of practice is generally initiated by government or industry bodies. 

 A code of practice needs to be approved by local regulators. An approved code of practice might be used in court as evidence but it is usually not mandatory to comply with the code. Countries and states have different requirements, policies and expectations related to the code of practice. Businesses need to be aware that the requirements might change over the years and they need to stay updated. 

 

What is included in a code of practice

 The code of practice includes information on how to deal with certain issues and hazards. It has its limitations, however, as it does not cover all the relevant risks that an organisation might face. A code of practice includes ways for businesses to identify, control and manage risks. It is important to understand the wording in the code.

 Sentences that use non-committal language such as ‘may’ could be an optional action a business may take. Sentences that use more authoritative language such as ‘should’ refer to recommendations in relation to an event. However, when words like ‘must’, ‘mandatory’ and ‘requires’ are present, there is an indication that the actions need to be taken for legal reasons. These activities are usually necessary to abide by work health and safety laws. 

 Before businesses decide to create a code of practice and what to include in it, they need to consider whether guidance is necessary in order to comply with the laws and regulations. Therefore, a successful code of practice should provide clear and concise information on how to meet work health and safety standards. The code will need to highlight the risk it is addressing and the recommended or required course of action businesses need to take to manage it. 

 All the details related to the risks, hazards or problems need to be written in a way that allows for updates to occur in terms of changing laws. However, employers need to make sure the code does not need constant editing because of weaknesses in terms of language and information. 

Regarding its structure, a code of practice usually includes a cover page, a table of contents, relevant definitions and information and appendices at the end. 

 

Examples

 There is a diverse range of codes of practice that apply to different industries. They address the various risks and hazards businesses may face in their workplace. A single code of practice will not be suitable for every company, every service or product. Some common codes of practice regulate:

 

-Children and young workers

-Confined spaces

-First Aid in the Workplace

-How to manage work health and safety risks

-Safe design of structures

 

Children and young workers

 This code of practice was developed for people under 18 who might be in a workplace. It covers activities and safety measures regardless of the working status of the individuals. Some examples include a child entering a shop as a customer or a child entering someone’s workplace unknowingly. The code focuses on how to reduce risks associated with children as their actions can be unpredictable. It also covers the conduct of others, such as adult employees, and how their actions can affect the welfare of a child. 

 

For young workers, it could be that they are inexperienced and are unaware of how to deal with a situation. The code of practice outlines the training that young workers will need to receive to become more knowledgeable and assist them in responding to different events. A lot of young people get hurt at work from risks that could have been prevented if adequate training had been provided. This is why the code is important, to create an environment where young workers feel comfortable with asking for assistance, clarification and where they feel comfortable – not intimidated. 

 

Confined spaces

 A confined space refers to an area that poses or could pose a risk to individuals. It is usually not constructed for people to occupy it, not only because of its size but the way it is designed as well. For example, lack of ventilation may be a reason a confined space poses a risk to people. This code of practice covers confined spaces that could be a risk to the stakeholders of a business. It could be because of their low oxygen levels, high risk of injury or death or dangerous materials contained within that space. 

 The confined spaces code of practice provides the scope and definitions, as well as the locations of these areas within the workplace. It also outlines the responsibilities of managers and supervisors and a risk assessment guideline. 

 

First aid in the workplace

 This is a very common code of practice that is usually found in most, if not all workplaces. It explains the procedures, training and steps that need to be taken to provide first aid in the case of an incident. Businesses need to provide adequate facilities for first aid as well as first aid kits and relevant equipment that all employees need to have access to. A first aid code of practice outlines who counts as an employee of the business and whether some employees will need to receive special training to become first aiders. It also explains what needs to be included in a first aid kit, as well as its location and design. 

 Signs might be required for employees to know where to find the first aid kit, first aid facilities or the first aider. Workplaces that comply with this code of practice usually meet the standards of work health and safety requirements.

Code of practice

How to manage work health and safety risks

 The goal of this code is the overall goal of a code of practice. To protect employees from work health and safety risks. All employers have a duty of care to their staff. This document shows the measures employers should take to ensure risk minimisation and prevention as well as hazard identification. 

 It outlines clearly how to assess risks, control them and review those controls. It also offers examples of the risk management process and a guide on how employers or management can evaluate if something will go wrong.

Safe design of structures

 This code of practice includes guidelines on how structures could be designed to abide by the work health and safety laws. People who usually comply with this code are building designers, developers and architects along with anyone else who can influence the final structural design. Some of the structures covered include roads, bridges and buildings.

-Electrical safety

-Fire and emergencies

-Movement of people and materials

-Radiation 

-Working environment

 Code of practice gives information about the risks during the design phase, the development phase and events that might need to be accounted for such as potential demolition or modification. 

Advantages

 All codes of practice focus on protecting employees and encouraging compliance with work health and safety laws. Abiding by these laws means that fatalities and injuries decrease. In Australia in 2020, 194 were fatally injured but the fatality rate has decreased over the years. Taking initiatives to protect employees is beneficial in more than one way.

 The most obvious benefit is that employee welfare is looked after and employees feel cared for. They do not need to take time off due to an injury at work and a safe work environment is can increase productivity. A code of practice also ensures that there are very few or no claims against the business that could result in lawsuits and additional costs. 

 A code of practice minimises the risk of damaging the organisation’s reputation. If society deems that the business does not care about the safety of its employees then the ethicality and reputation of the company will be put into question. Even though a code of practice is usually not mandatory, it can demonstrate how the business values its workers and wants to provide them with an environment with virtually no hazards.  

Conclusion

 A code of practice is not meant to replace the work health and safety laws. It serves as a guide to help businesses protect their employees’ welfare. Compliance is usually not mandatory but the code of practice offers many benefits to both employers and employees. There are various codes that apply to different industries and they can be adapted to fit diverse organisations. 

 One document might not be able to assess all risks in the workplace, but by following different codes, companies can decrease injuries and fatalities at work. It is important to remember that the codes apply to anyone that could visit the workplace, not only employees.

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8 Ways to Find the Truth in a Workplace Investigation

8 Ways to Find the Truth in a Workplace Investigation

Finding the truth in a workplace investigation is incredibly important in ensuring that all parties involved are treated fairly and any malpractice is addressed effectively. The last thing you want to achieve is a false accusation against an innocent person but navigating all the different opinions, arguments and evidence can be difficult. 

finding the truth in a workplace investigation

However, there are some practices that you can incorporate that will help you find the truth in the most effective way possible and as an employer, it’s not only necessary to be aware of what these are but to actively implement them during workplace investigations. There are a number of methods available and what you decide to utilise in a particular investigation will depend on the dynamics of the situation, your purpose and who you’re working with.

What methods can you use to find the truth?

1. Be prepared and plan in advance

The first step should always be to have a plan in place for how you and any other relevant authorities have decided to approach the investigation. This includes collating all the information and evidence you already have, for example, any initial complaints, relevant emails, reports or warnings.  

There are a number of other decisions you will also need to make such as:

All of these considerations will influence what questions you ask and whether you are successful in finding the truth in a workplace investigation.

2. Make sure the person knows why they’re being interviewed 

 

Remember that open communication is an important aspect of a fair workplace investigation and that the interview is not meant to be secretive or intimidating. Often there are more than just one or two parties that need to be interviewed and many of them may be confused or a little scared and unsure of what’s going on. To make sure that everyone feels as comfortable and open to honestly discussing the circumstances, it’s important that they all know why they’re being asked to interview. They should also be assured of their rights and confidentiality, not only because this is best practice but also because it allows them to feel more secure in sharing information they may initially be hesitant to.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to inform the interviewee of details like:

    • The time, location, and date of the interview as soon as possible
    • Where they can seek extra support and information 
    • Their responsibility to maintain confidentiality 
    • Whether or not there will be any recording devices present
    • What they can expect to occur after the interview and any follow up procedures 

3. Asking the right questions to the right person

The questions you ask and how you ask them will shape the outcome of the overall workplace investigation. It’s best to have a draft version of the questions prepared but it’s simultaneously just as important to not treat the draft like a strict script.  Part of having a conducive interview will be using what you’re learning during the conversation itself to influence what you discuss – perhaps some planned questions become obsolete, or a need arises to ask additional questions that were not considered necessary beforehand

The questions should be open and encourage the interviewee to respond in detail. For example instead of starting with “Didn’t you….”, be more open with your phrasing by using language such as “Describe…” or “Explain…”.If you feel there could be more elaboration, gently prompt them to expand with follow up questions. Make sure not to ask multiple questions in a single instance because this often leads to one being forgotten, or important details to be excluded.

Finding the truth in a workplace investigation is also often a matter of questioning the right people so another aspect that must be considered is whether all the relevant parties are being included and tailoring your questions to each person and their particular involvement. For example, asking someone who was not present what they thought of a certain event will not necessarily aid you in the workplace investigation process.

4. Keep it professional

Your behaviour during the interview will set the tone for how it proceeds and will also influence what is gained from the session. Ensure that you are not overly casual or too cold in demeanour, stay polite and friendly but professional in reflection of your role. It’s also important that as the interviewer, you take control and guide the interview effectively. Keep the focus on the interviewee and their role and prevent the conversation from deviating into irrelevant topics. If the other party becomes visibly upset or aggressive, keep calm and remind them of their responsibility, what their rights and options are and offer a small break.

remaining professional when finding the truth in an investigation

5. Avoid casting judgement or implying blame

The interviewee may have to delve into actions or behaviour that they may not be proud of or that you find personally unsavoury or unprofessional. As the interviewer, it is critical that you do not engage with your personal feelings and remain neutral. The interview session’s purpose is not to assign blame and it is absolutely critical to avoid behaving as if you’re judging the interviewee based on what they say. Doing so can make them defensive and reluctant to share more which will be detrimental to the workplace investigation.

6. Take note of visual communication

The interviewee’s body language can also say a lot about what they’re actually saying. This doesn’t mean you should start drawing conclusions based on a body movement or their tone but being aware of this can aid in gaining a general understanding of how the person feels about a subject. Are they becoming more defensive, passive, or aggressive based on the questions? Are they raising their voice or perhaps mumbling or stammering? These visual cues are important because they can ascertain the emotional response of the interviewee and hence aid in finding the truth of what occurred.

Being mindful of your own body language will also be helpful in encouraging open communication. Show that you are actively listening and engaging with the interviewee and make them feel heard. Try to keep your own movements open and avoid gestures like crossing your arms as it can denote a negative visual cue. 

7. Implement positive confrontation

Positive confrontation refers to the discussion of subjects that may be sensitive but in a manner that is respectful to the person and conducive to the investigation. There is a high chance that you may need to bring up issues or events that are delicate or confront the person with something they did (only in the scenario you are certain of their actions). Using a positive confrontation model will allow you to gather the information you need for the workplace investigation and give the other person a chance to discuss their view of what occurred without the interaction becoming unprofessional.

8. Document the investigation process and findings 

 

Your findings during the interview will likely need to be reviewed by other people with authority that are involved in the workplace investigation. Making sure that you document the workplace investigation correctly and comprehensively will allow the investigation to proceed towards finding the truth as soon as possible. There may be a number of documentations you need to complete based on your company policies so ensuring that you’re aware of what you need to do in the follow up is a key responsibility. Adequate written records are also very helpful in the scenario that any legal proceedings occur and in future cases of misconduct or malpractice. 

 

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There are hence many considerations for employers when seeking the truth in a workplace investigation. Each employer must decide what methods and means to incorporate in their investigation processes, and this can change depending on the particulars of the case that arises. However, the above eight methods are ones that should be thought about carefully as they will prove to be important factors regardless of the nature of the situation.

How conflict of interest could affect your organisation

How conflict of interest could affect your organisation

Conflict of interest

 Conflict of interest occurs when an individual may have or may be seen to have reasons to prioritise their own personal gain over the company’s interest. The individual cannot be trusted as their focus is on their wealth, status and networks over the business they work for. In doing so, they ignore the responsibilities they have as an employee and exploit their position for their benefit. 

 Anyone in an organisation can have a conflict of interest regardless of their position. However, the problem is more serious when senior management chooses their own personal interest over those of the company. Depending on the situation and its severity there are different actions that can address this issue. 

 

Examples of conflict of interest

There are many examples but the most common ones are:

-Competitor business

 An employee might use the knowledge they acquired from work to start their own business. They might become a competitor. On top of that, the employee might choose to use the company’s resources to help their own business grow. They might be using program subscriptions for their own business. They could potentially redirect customers to their startup instead of the one they work for. It shows that the staff member is not loyal to the company.

 

-Nepotism

 Nepotism is the act of hiring an individual because of personal relations rather than their skills. An example of that is an unqualified employee being hired by having their uncle who already works in that company. Influencing the recruitment process is unfair and could damage the business in the long term due to the person not having the adequate qualifications required. Relationships between staff members, romantic or otherwise, can cause more issues as bias can affect decision making. Nepotism does not occur if the selection process is based on an individual having the right skills and experience.

 

-Financial

 Financial conflict of interest means that the employee’s finances are affected by decisions they need to make in relation to the business. It can include bribery and fraud. For example, if the employee is the co-owner for another company the business is dealing with. It could also include an employee getting paid to disclose information about the company they are working for to competitors. This is also a breach of confidentiality. 

 

Difference between actual, potential and perceived conflict of interest

 An actual conflict of interest describes a real personal interest that might influence a person’s decisions as an employee. There is a direct conflict between the commitment to themselves and the commitment to the company. They might not be aware that they are not being objective and are neglecting their duties to the organisation. 

 A potential conflict of interest occurs when the personal interests of an employee might affect their actions in the future. An example of this could be if two employees within the business start a romantic relationship and one of the parties is a supervisor. 

 Perceived conflict of interest is a situation where there could be no actual or potential conflict of interest. Stakeholders or the public might make a reasonable observation that there could be personal interests influencing decisions when in fact it is not clear that this is the case. The public might think that the employee is making decisions based on a current or future personal gain.

Conflict of interest

How to prevent conflicts of interest

 Preventing conflicts of interest is advantageous for a company as it reduces the likelihood of unpredictable issues materialising. It also ensures that employees are always working towards the company’s goals instead of other goals. Some steps employers can take are:

 

-Requiring employees to disclose relevant information

-Developing policies 

-Training

-Encouraging reporting

 

Requiring employees to disclose relevant information

 One of the strategies management can take to prevent conflict of interest is requiring employees to provide a statement where they disclose any information that could affect their responsibility as a staff member. Employers can include this condition in the contract to increase the chances of admission. As an example, most people do not read the terms and conditions of competitions or giveaways. So in order to avoid conflict of interest in competitions, businesses stipulate in the terms and conditions that they do not allow employees or their relatives to join. Employees can disclose this information online, through a management tool, or by submitting a written form. 

 

Developing policies

 The policy can outline the degree to which an employee can act depending on their position. It can outline the actions they can take for the company and the limitations. The policy can also inform employees on the types of conflicts and how to identify them and manage them. This can be beneficial for employees who are unaware that their actions or relations might constitute a potential conflict of interest. It can also discourage people from acting on their personal interests as they are aware of the consequences. A policy sets expectations that all employees have to follow. The business should also develop a procedure that highlights how the conflicts of interest and relevant parties will be managed. 

Training

 All employees should be trained to recognise what conflicts of interest are and how it can affect the company. They should be given examples that help them determine if they are participating in activities against the company’s interests. Staff should be given guidance on how to avoid these situations, not hiring family members is an example. The management should clearly outline what someone should do if they find themselves in that position. 

 

Encouraging reporting

 Employees that might observe wrongful actions might feel unjustified in reporting it to the management. They might think that it is not their problem or that reporting it might cause issues for them. For this reason, the management needs to encourage employees to come forward by creating a safe environment. Investigation tools might also help in detecting and reporting conflicts of interest based on business activities such as the lack of provision of disclosure statements. 

 

Implications 

 Conflicts of interest can have negative consequences for all parties involved. If an employee redirects customers to their business it harms the company as it will most likely result in revenue losses for the organisation and loss of clientele. If the conflict is financial in nature then it can be detrimental as it can hurt the reputation of the company and its financial resources.

 The employees involved might lose their position, be terminated or even be found of breaking the law. They might struggle to find work in the same industry and they might need to pay fines or provide compensation for the damage they caused. Many times the consequences vary depending on the position of the individual in the company and whether their actions were intentional or unintentional. It was recently found that Andrew Grieger from Southern Mallee breached many conflict of interest rules

 

 

Conclusion

 Conflict of interest might seem beneficial in the short term for the employee but it can be harmful in the long term. There are many instances where conflict of interest can arise and the company needs to be prepared to deal with the parties involved. A comprehensive policy that covers all areas in detail should be in place to assist in protecting the organisation. Training and encouragement of reporting are also helpful in avoiding the potential consequences.

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