If a problem or complaint has arisen in your company, a correct investigation can assist you determine what happened and what to try and do about it. You can also help your company avoid liability for employee wrongdoing, but only if you act quickly and take effective steps to fix the problem. Here are the ten steps to a successful investigation in the workplace.
1. Decide whether to investigate.
Before putting on your detective hat, take some time to decide if you really need an investigation. In some situations, for example, if all employees agree with what happened or if the problem appears to be minor, you can reasonably decide that a full investigation is unnecessary. However, in general, it is better to err than to conduct an investigation. If the problem is more serious than it appears, not investigating can lead to legal problems and ongoing problems in the workplace. And sometimes you just can't tell how widespread or substantial a problem is until you take a little look.
2. Act immediately, if necessary.
You may need to act immediately, even before starting your investigation, if a situation is volatile or could cause immediate harm to your business. If an employee is accused of sexually assaulting a co-worker, stealing valuable trade secrets, or carrying a weapon to work, they will likely want to temporarily suspend the accused employee, with pay, while they investigate the matter. But use caution not to prejudge the case or make the accused employee believe that they have already made a choice.
3. Choose an investigator.
You will want a workplace investigator who is experienced and / or
trained in investigative techniques, is impartial and is perceived by the
employees involved as impartial, and who is capable of acting and, if
necessary, testifying in court, in a professional manner about the situation.
If you've got someone who meets this description on your payroll, you're in
luck. If not, you can hire an outside investigator to take care of things for
you. Contact the service of a professional investigator like Edge Investigations today!
4. Plan the investigation.
Take some time to organize your thoughts. Gather any information you already have about the matter, like an employee complaint, a supervisor's report, written warnings, or materials that are a part of the matter (such as X-rated emails or threatening letters). With this information as a guide, think about what you will need to find out to decide what happened. Who will you interview and what will you ask? Are there additional documents that employees or supervisors may have? Is there someone who has witnessed important events, or should they have?
5. Conduct interviews.
The goal of all research is to gather information, and the most basic way to do this is by asking people questions. Most investigations involve a minimum of two interviews: one with the worker accused of wrongdoing and one with the worker who complained or was the victim. Sometimes you may also want to interview witnesses, others who may have seen or heard something important. When interviewing people, try to get as much information as possible by asking open-ended questions.
6. Gather documents and other evidence.
Almost all investigations will rely to some extent on documents: personnel files, emails, company policies, correspondence, and so on. And some investigations will require you to collect other types of evidence, such as drugs, a weapon, photographs, or stolen items.
7. Evaluate the evidence.
The most challenging a part of many investigations, especially if witnesses disagree or contradict one another, is deciding what actually happened. There are some proven methods of deciding where the truth is, methods that we all use in our daily lives to get to the bottom of things. You will want to consider, for example, which story makes the most sense, which behavior was most compelling, and who (if anyone) has a motive for misleading you. And in some situations, you may have to raise your hands and acknowledge that you don't have enough information to decide what really happened.
8. Take action.
Once you decide what happened, you will have to figure out what to do about it. If you conclude that a serious crime occurred, you will need to promptly take disciplinary action to avoid legal liability for that employee's behavior and protect your company and other workers from harm. When deciding how to handle these situations, you need to consider a number of factors, including the severity of the actions and how you have handled similar problems in the past.
9. Document the investigation.
Once your investigation is complete, you must write an investigation report that explains what you probably did and why. Not only will this give the corporate some protection against lawsuits associated with the investigation, but it'll also provide a record within the event of future misconduct by the employees themselves. Among other things, your report should explain how and when the problem came to the attention of the company, what interviews you conducted, what tests you considered, what conclusions you reached, and what you probably did about the matter.
The last step is to follow up with your employees to make sure you have resolved the issue that led to the investigation. Has the misconduct stopped? Has the offender fulfilled any requirements imposed as a result of the investigation, for example, to complete a training course on sexual harassment? If the investigation revealed any systemic problems in the workplace (such as widespread confusion about company policy or a lack of training on topics such as diversity in the workplace or proper techniques for dealing with customers), it is some training may be required.