Post Investigation Recovery
While workplace investigations are intended to help maintain a positive company culture or ensure everyone in the workplace complies with laws, regulations, and policies, there is a darker side to workplace investigations that many people don’t talk about. Workplace investigations are emotionally taxing on all parties involved, and regardless of the outcome, the post-investigation period is an important and delicate one.
What Happens After Investigation?
During the workplace investigation, an investigator will explore a complaint, and interview all parties involved, as well as other staff members who may have witnessed incidents associated with the charge. For example, if an investigator investigates a claim of sexual harassment, that investigator may interview the complainant, the individual accused of the harassment, as well as individuals who have worked closely with the accused at various points.
Because such investigations rely heavily on reporting by employees and others involved in the case, the post-investigation period can create workplace discomfort or anxiety. The complainant may fear retaliation or being ostracized by their peers. The individual accused in the complaint may feel angry and embarrassed or may fear being disliked by other employees because of the claim. Finally, the witnesses may feel guilty for not having crucial information to share or may fear retaliation for “blowing the whistle” if they do share relevant information.
In short, a tense work environment regardless of the outcome of the investigation is likely. Whether the complaint is found to be with or without merit, one party is expected to be unhappy, and this can create a new and challenging dynamic among colleagues.
How Can I Mitigate Discomfort?
Post investigation processes can lead to discomfort among employees, but there are ways to mitigate discomfort and get things back on track quickly. The following steps can help alleviate any tension that is felt during the post-investigation process.
Inform the involved parties: Let both the reporting party and the accused know the investigation is complete. It will be necessary to leave out confidential information, but it is essential to address the inquiry with the involved parties when it concludes.
Inform the witnesses that investigation is over. Witnesses can worry about the investigation process too, and they should be given a definite endpoint for the procedure. When the investigation is done, do tell the witnesses that the investigation has concluded and they amount of confidentiality they can expect.
Follow through on discipline. Follow through with discipline that is consistent with the employer's values. This may include moving them to a different team to help the complainant or terminating their employment.
Carry out processes that will help all team member to get back on track and normalize their workday. Diffusing tension, making workplace accommodations and creating a safe environment to voice concerns is the most efficient way to normalizethe workspace again.
What Can My Business Do Moving Forward?
To avoid future issues, every business could benefit from creating processes, procedures, and policies that help mitigate the risk of harassment and other workplace problems. Create a plan that addresses sexual harassment, discrimination, and religious tolerance. These policies should include information regarding the businesses stance, a transparent procedure for filing a complaint, and clear-cut disciplinary actions for those violating company policies.
It can also be beneficial to craft policies for normalizing a workplace investigation after tension or “drama.” Normalization strategies may include regular meetings and check-ins, anonymous surveys and reporting, or checkpoints that address discipline and required accommodations to make everyone within the company comfortable.
The Bottom Line
Workplace investigations, while a necessity can create tension for all involved parties. While no business wants to investigate their employees, it is often a necessary evil. Because of the emotional nature of many investigations, it is necessary to craft a plan to deal with the workplace environment in the days, weeks and months following the investigation. Companies can mitigate the effects of the investigation by dealing with it appropriately. Expect emotions to run high for some time after the investigation, and ensure HR is prepared to deal with any fallout from the investigation. By properly managing expectations, behaviors, and collaboration after an investigation, a working group can strengthen its emotional intelligence, group resiliency, and efficiency.
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Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). Post Investigation Recovery. https://www.lynchlf.com/blog/post-investigation-recovery/