Steps to Take in Advance of Workplace Investigations
Although I strongly suggest that major workplace investigations be conducted by outside assistance (less chance of bias), I wanted to provide some steps to take in advance of any investigation to make sure you have your ducks in a row.
The effective resolution of conflict in the workplace is often contingent upon proactive prevention programs including sound policies, effective training, and comprehensive intervention and follow up. Thus, an effective investigation begins with sound policies in place that are consistently and fairly followed. Even before you are aware of the need for an investigation, you need to carefully consider the company policies with regard to misconduct. Familiarize yourself with the general guidelines that the company has in place. This applies whether you are reviewing your policies overall or if you suddenly find yourself thrust into an investigation. When I do investigations, I typically will ask to see the employee handbook or policy manual prior to meeting with anyone in order to review some of these polices.
So, what exactly are you looking for? To assess all of the company’s policies, there are seven basic questions you must ask. The results of these questions will yield a great deal about the organization’s culture, method of problem-solving, consistency, communication style, and the seriousness with which the organization addresses these types of problems.
The questions are:
1. Is there consistency in all policies?
2. Are the policies clear and easily understood?
3. Do the policies utilize a maximum reservation of rights?
4. Is there consistency in application for all policies?
5. Do the policies contain all of the appropriate and required elements?
6. Are positions of authority and their responsibilities clearly defined? (In other words, who is considered management, and what is the hierarchy?)
7. How do employees know about these policies?
For each specific policy, do the following:
1. Review the types of misconduct covered by the policy, the roles and responsibilities of management and employees.
2. Review the extent to which the policy has been disseminated and whether training has been done.
This will determine whether all parties have been properly put on notice as to the policies’ existence and their responsibilities under each of the policies.
3. Review guidelines articulated under the policies with respect to specific steps that management will take in the event of a complaint of alleged violation. Review specific steps that aggrieved employees are required to take to resolve their workplace issues.
Workplace investigations can be very time consuming but in the final analysis they can help ward off allegations that the employer knew of a situation and did nothing. If you need any assistance with an investigation please let us know.