If you ask a CEO or HR professional if they conduct HR investigations, they will say “of course”. But when you dig in a bit further, all too often there is an “unless” statement. Here are some of the worst reasons that I have heard so far this year:
Of course we do investigations, unless….
- the owners tell us not to because they don’t want the story to get out and upset the workforce.
- it’s open enrollment. We have to prioritize and getting employees enrolled in benefits is more important.
- the complaint is about someone in the sales department. The culture with them is different, and the Director prefers to handle issues in his department himself.
- the HR manager is out. There is no one else trained to do investigations, so if she is out for more than a week, by the time she returns it is generally too late.
- it’s a situation that we think will open a whole can of worms. Let’s face it, there are some people who will not change their behavior and the company won’t discipline them, so it’s better to just leave it alone.
Conducting a thorough and unbiased workplace investigation is the single best way to protect the company from liability. Although some employers are still fearful that an investigation will increase potential liability, the statics show this to be untrue.
In most cases, employees know what is happening in the workplace long before management or HR. Not acting is a clear message to employees that that rules don’t apply to everyone, and civility in the workplace is not a company priority.
Send employees the right message by clearly communicating your investigation process to reduce fear and ensure accountability across the entire organization. Then, investigate every time a situation of improper behavior comes to light to earn trust within your workforce.
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