A workplace investigation is a stressful procedure for everyone involved and it can cause anxiety for employees who are experiencing it as an outsider. When employees are being investigated other members of their team may feel threatened and unsure of how this could affect them. The individuals who are being investigated themselves will need a lot of support and clarity as this may be a new situation for them. It is important for managers to find ways to protect their team before, during and after an investigation. If someone is being investigated, it does not mean they are guilty. Employers need to be aware of the feelings of the complainant, the accused, the witnesses and their teams.
Protecting your workplace
When an employee is being investigated, it is very likely that the team of the employee will be affected by the process. A lot of team members report experiencing high stress and sleep difficulties as a result of constantly thinking about the investigation. They have also reported a worse mood and lower work enjoyment. Witnesses are also impacted, sometimes with guilt because even though they are telling the truth, they fear that their actions will cost the accused to lose their job. They may believe that the incident is not severe enough for the person being investigated to lose their livelihood or suffer other consequences.
Before employees are investigated
Once allegations have been made against an employee, it is important to listen to both parties and understand the issue that is being investigated. The company needs to ensure procedural fairness and give the person investigated a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side. This will ensure that all parties involved feel fairly treated and lowers the chances of employee retaliation.
It reduces the possibility of complaints made about the investigation and leads to a more accurate outcome. An investigation involves more than one side, so the result will not be clear if only one side is favoured.
Managers should focus on preventing gossip while the investigation is taking place. Rumours and false claims are not helpful and could potentially damage the effectiveness of the process due to people being influenced by outsiders. If the event being investigated had multiple witnesses, then the investigator should contact those witnesses directly to avoid speculation and distorted memories.
During an internal investigation, companies tend to ignore the planning process which leads to poorer results. Setting clear objectives and goals is important for reaching a faster and more reliable outcome. An investigation should not always be the first option, but sometimes it has to be. The business may choose to take other forms of action and only resort to an investigation once all other options have been exhausted.
During an investigation
When employees are being investigated, information could easily leak to third parties. The more people involved in the investigation, the easier it is for outsiders to know what is going on. Managers need to highlight how crucial it is for everyone to keep the information to themselves and not share it with others. It protects the confidentiality of the people being investigated and prevents a toxic environment from forming in the workplace.
Polonious holds ISO27001 certification which ensures that we comply with the highest standards when conducting thorough investigations. We protect the identities of the individuals being investigated for as long as necessary and handle sensitive matters with professionalism. We prioritise a fair investigation conducted with integrity and honesty. If you want to learn more about how we can help you protect your organisation, request a demo!
All parties should be provided with an explanation about what their responsibilities are and why the investigation is taking place. This will clear any confusion and give employees a better idea of what is happening. During this process, the employee being investigated may need to be suspended, however, they will still be able to share their side of the story and any evidence they have.
Employees will feel more confident if they know the why and how of the investigation. It will drive away any fears they might have and encourage them to be more open.
Uncertainty is high in investigations, even for those who are not being investigated. They may feel like they will be contacted or they are more careful with their actions even though they are not doing anything wrong. This is why communication is important before, during and after the process. Employers should encourage everyone to seek help and guidance if they feel anxious or uncomfortable. They should provide staff with resources for their mental health and help them feel supported during the investigation.
They could give employees a person to contact if they have any questions or are unsure about something.
If the employees feel threatened, it will affect their performance and overall well-being so managers need to come up with strategies that will minimise the impact the investigation will have on the workplace. These strategies could include team lunches or outings and team activities that will improve communication and trust.
The business should highlight that it will remain objective during the whole process and will only make decisions based on evidence. It should assure employees that the investigator has been chosen carefully and be transparent on how the process will be undertaken.
After the investigation
Once the investigation has been concluded, the parties investigated should be informed of the outcome as well as how the outcome was reached. The investigator should highlight how the evidence lead to the conclusion and how the perspectives of both sides were taken into consideration. Closure letters can be provided to all individuals necessary to increase the level of transparency.
It needs to be communicated to employees how their team might change and if company policies may be modified or replaced. If the investigation has found wrongdoing, employees should be informed of what corrective action the accused is facing or will face. This will assure employees that misconduct is taken seriously and non-compliance with policies and laws has consequences. It will emphasise that the company is prioritising the safety and wellbeing of its employees and stakeholders.
Team building activities may be required to boost morale and collaboration. Managers can choose to host a trivia night, or an event that encourages employees to get to know each other by sharing interesting facts about themselves.
An effective investigation can act as a reminder that employees are always encouraged to speak up about any issues they have detected and report wrongful activities. Employers may also seek professional help and advice from mental health experts to ensure that they have taken all steps to minimise the impact of the investigation on the well-being of their employees.
If as a result of the investigation, an employee has lost faith in the company, the manager of the employee can have a discussion with them and decide whether a mutual separation is necessary. This scenario usually involves the complainant as they feel that the person they accused was not properly investigated or the outcome was not fair in their opinion. Sometimes it is impossible to avoid situations like this from arising as workplaces are comprised of different individuals with diverse opinions and thoughts.
Polonious specialises in many kinds of internal investigations including fraud, misconduct and dispute investigations. We provide our clients with an easy way to store their evidence, including videos, images and documents and offer faster turnaround times. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! Request a demo and learn more about how we can help your business.
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