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Investigating High-Level Executives

Executive investigations are particularly complex because they can have a dramatic impact on the company. It is generally recommended that when a company executive is involved in an investigative matter, an outside firm should always be used for the sake of transparency and integrity. The consequences of an executive investigation can stir up disfunction and rumors throughout a company or an industry and should always be treated with extreme professionalism.

Establish Clear Policies

Clear policies regarding executive investigations and other policies regarding workplace complaints should be in place. These policies should lay out expected behavior and list inappropriate workplace behavior that can expose executives and other workers to discipline, including the possibility of being terminated from the business. These policies should create a plan on how these investigations will be handled.

Establish an Entity to Receive Complaints

The policies should establish a party or entity that is responsible for receiving and following up on complaints. This is often the human resources office in many businesses. A neutral person should be involved when allegations are against managers or executives. Employees and others should be able to have someone else to report misconduct to when the alleged perpetrator is their supervisor or someone else that they may be afraid of because of their position in the company.

Gather Information

Before talking to the executive, it is important for the person conducting the investigation to gather information. The investigating party will need to speak to potential witnesses, many of whom may include employees and individuals under the executive's ranking. Some potential witnesses may be intimidated by the executive's authority. They may need to be assured that they will not be retaliated against if they provide negative information about the executive. 

Interview the Executive

If the executive is the individual accused of having done some misdeed, they will most likely be the final interview. This requires a careful approach from a seasoned investigator because the power, intelligence, and knowledge of an executive can make this a particularly difficult interview. 

Be Consistent

It is important that the parties conducting executive investigations are consistent. They should closely follow the policies that have been established. Not following established policies can result in inconsistencies in the investigative process or unfair results. Even though executives are ranked higher in the company, management should not be permitted to seize control of workplace investigations. Bias should be avoided regardless of the executive's place in the company. Due to the possible implications, careful evaluation must be given to any decision.

Take Follow-Up Action

If the investigation results in a finding of a substantiated claim, the employer should conduct some type of follow-up action. Employers have a legal duty to act in a reasonable manner under the circumstances. This may include imposing additional training, writing up the executive or taking action to remove the executive from the business, among other possible solutions. Policies may need to be updated, based on the results of executive investigations in order to prevent similar situations from re-occurring.

Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). Investigating High-Level Executives: