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How to Conduct Effective Internal Investigations in the Workplace

Any sizable business situation may arise when employees feel that his or her rights have been violated. Such violations may be regarding social issues or company policies. Even the company may feel that certain sections of employees or a specific employee are flouting policies and passing on sensitive information. In any such situation, business managers must be prepared to launch an internal investigation in the workplace that is comprehensive and objective.

Here are some tips on how to conduct an investigation in the workplace.

A Comfortable Level with Employee Helps

As the employee shoots off mail and letters regarding a violation, you need to initiate dialogue with him or her and empathize with the cause. The purpose is to establish a comfortable relationship with the employee. You need to respond properly to the queries raised by the employee. This is needed to ascertain the nature of the problem and make sure that you can assuage the feeling of the employee. You need to make him/her understand that you understand the problem objectively.

Interview the employee

You need to have an initial interview with the employee. This will help you get an idea about the issue and whether you can resolve it informally. An information resolution to the satisfaction of the employee should be at the core of your effort. You need to launch an internal investigation in the workplace only when all the efforts at reconciliation fail. The interview can help you get to the facts and obtain answers for basic questions like What, Where, Who, Why, and When.

Educating the Employee

Difficult situations may evoke emotions and that may result in reprisals that can get out of control. This is why you need to convey to the concerned that:

  • The company policy does not allow any reprisals even if there is a legitimate issue. It needs to be resolved at the level of proper authority within the organization.
  • If it is felt that an internal investigation in the workplace is needed, she will be notified about it. You should also let her know who is going to conduct the investigation.
  • Disclosure of information will be limited within the organization and prohibited outside the organization.
  • It is her duty to keep the investigation confidential.
  • The investigating authority would be getting back to her from time to time for updates and information. In essence, she should be ready to cooperate with the investigation as and when necessary so that a resolution can be achieved.
  • Suggestions would be sought from her about her views to resolve the matter.
  • She should also be made aware about steps that will be followed in internal investigation.

Organize the investigation

You need to piece together the facts obtained from the employee and find out from records and plan an internal investigation in the workplace accordingly. You can call witnesses to testify after this stage to piece together the important elements of the incident or violation. Before examining the witnesses, you need to prepare by:

  1. Going through guidelines, policies and practices specific to the situation and how to conduct an investigation in the workplace. This may involve HR policy, ethics brochures, different manuals, benefits books etc.
  2. Determining which relevant records can help in the investigation. This may include employee’s personnel files, performance appraisals, expense reports and documents generated from interviews of witnesses as well as the employee, etc.

This is a very important step in assuaging the feelings of an aggrieved employee. You need to determine whether the alleged violation merits interim action.

Above are certain ways to conduct an effective internal investigation in the workplace. This will help you to conduct an investigation without hurting anyone’s dignity and respect and for creating a healthy working environment.

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