What if an employee informed you that he is constantly being asked to spend “personal time” with a manger from another department? You know you have to conduct an investigation, right? But before you begin, you must receive cooperation from your boss, be it the General Manager, VP of your division or the CEO. You also have to get a budget approved, which can be expensive depending on what resources you may need.  This may not sound like one of the more difficult investigation challenges since the law requires this investigation. But in reality, many executives are still of the thought that it is better to sweep these issues under the rug in order to avoid creating more liability by making a mountain out of a molehill. What they need from you is a little education and a few hard facts. Here are a couple I like to use:

  • Employers cannot stop employees from acting badly or breaking the law. But employers are legally required to investigate the incidents.
  • In 2015, the EEOC dismissed 53% of the claims filed simply based on the fact that the employer followed the law by conducting a prompt and impartial investigation and taking appropriate corrective action.
  • Studies repeatedly show that employees tend to respect their managers and remain longer in their positions when the company holds problem employees accountable for their actions.

Although this can be a frustrating endeavor, it is often helpful to see it as an opportunity to impart the value and necessity of HR into the minds of those who are not involved with the daily functions. We always suggest setting a meeting rather than just approaching the executive with, “I have this urgent problem”. Inform him or her that you are requesting just 10 minutes to discuss a matter that is time sensitive and is necessary to limit liability exposure. Remember, the less drama you bring into the meeting, the more efficient and effective the response.  Here are a few pointers for the meeting:

  1. Schedule the meeting in a private place where employees won’t be apt to think there is a problem or overhear the conversation.
  2. Consider the 10-minute timeframe when laying out the information you need to discuss. This does not mean that you can plan for 10-minutes of talking, but rather 5 minutes for you to present the case and 5 minutes for questions.
  3. Be prompt. Even if the executive you are meeting with is often late, you need to be there on time or a bit early.
  4. Bring the facts, not the emotions. This is especially important if you do not interact regularly with the executive. Unfortunately, HR professionals have a reputation of being over dramatic. Although I prefer it be referred to as being passionate about their work, calmly stating the facts is much more effective.
  5. If the executive wants to dig into the details of the complaint, it is best to suggest you wait until you get more information since at this point you have only received limited input from one side, so you truly do not know what happened. Then steer the conversation back to the need to conduct an investigation.
  6. End the conversation by promising an email outlining the details of the investigation, such as who will investigate, how long it will take and the cost, and requesting approval. The great part about this is that if you have an executive that will not approve the investigation, you have it in writing for your personal job protection.
  7. Thank the executive for his or her time, and state your appreciation for the support when you need to inform other managers that you will be pulling their staff for interviews, etc.

Once you have received the buy-in and budget, it’s time to investigate. So be sure to follow this blog to have Part 10 delivered to your inbox.