A workplace investigation involves uncovering and understanding the facts behind a
grievance or disciplinary. It is not designed to determine sanctions, simply to present the
So, how do you ensure you conduct a fair and responsible workplace investigation?
Avoid overusing investigations
First things first, before embarking on a workplace investigation, it is important to consider
whether all other options for intervention and resolution have been explored and exhausted
– as discussed previously in our mediation blog. Can the issue be resolved informally in the
first instance? It is crucial that management and HR understand when to pursue a formal
Clear and frequent communication is key in an investigation. A lack of communication from
all parties involved can lead to gaps in understanding, feelings of resentment and a rejection
of the investigation process. If anything, over-communicate Make it clear to everyone
involved – claimant, respondent, witnesses, stakeholders – what is being investigated and
Maintaining a level of empathy can help those involved in the investigation remain focussed
on the task at hand. Investigations are a challenging experience for all involved, often born
out of incidences and situations that are upsetting, stressful or traumatic. The process can
also be challenging for those conducting the investigations too. Outsourcing a workplace
investigation can often help to overcome these issues, and tackle issues of resources, time
and seniority at the same time.
Effective fact finding
Understanding that investigations are a fact-finding exercise is essential. An investigation is
not a one-take scene from the Line of Duty, it is a task to ascertain if there is a case to
answer. It is not the investigator’s role to recommend sanctions or outcomes, simply to
establish and present the facts.
Bias can lead to the unfair treatment of employees during the investigation – including
questioning techniques and interpretation of information – as well as in note-taking, analysis
of evidence and report writing. It is therefore crucial that every investigator undergoes
effective dismantling bias training to ensure a fair, objective and consistent approach to
workplace investigations across your organisation. Again, if bias is a concern, an impartial
third-party investigator may be your best option here.
Are you looking to upskill your in-house teams to conduct fair, responsible and thorough
workplace investigations? Tell Jane offers a three-module training programme for effective
workplace investigations, from preparation, interview techniques and evidence gathering,
dismantling bias and report writing. Our experienced team can also conduct investigations
on your behalf. Email email@example.com to find out more.