Issues arise amongst employees every day, and it’s your job, as the employer, to manage these differences and determine when further action is required. Issues may be brought to your attention by the affected employee, but you may also become aware when others report, or by merely observing workplace behaviour.
Most office friction can be solved quickly and easily, but when issues are related to harassment, discrimination, ethical violations, retaliation or violence, it’s essential to be prepared and planful. Misconduct can create unsafe conditions in the workplace, and it’s your legal obligation to identify and address it according to your policies, applicable standards, and laws. By treating all parties fairly and with respect, you’ll strengthen the trust of your team.
Not sure where to start with a harassment or bullying investigation? Here are 5 key steps to consider, but also remember our team here at Cenera is always here to help!
1. Review and Set Goals
Quickly determine the merit and severity of the complaint, the relevant timeframe, and people involved. Look to your policies, collective agreements, and other guides, such as Occupational Health and Safety laws for processes and standards against which the complaint will be measured. Use all this information to create an investigative strategy and structure.
2. Appoint an Investigator
The Investigator can be an experienced employee from another department or someone who isn’t involved in the matter and doesn’t have close connections with the parties involved.
3. Execute Your Strategy
The Investigator gathers evidence and conducts interviews with the Complainant, the Respondent and relevant witnesses. Interviews should be held in private, neutral locations, and employees must understand that while absolute confidentiality cannot be promised, the Investigator will work hard to maintain each person’s privacy.
4. Analyze Evidence and Determine Findings
The Investigator reviews and weighs the evidence considering the applicable standards and determining, on a balance of probabilities, whether each allegation is substantiated, unsubstantiated or inconclusive.
5. Report, Make Recommendations and Act
The Investigator writes and delivers a final report to the decision-makers, outlining the findings and recommendations for remedial measures for individuals and perhaps for the workplace. Prompt action is then required on your part to help ensure any identified misconduct doesn’t continue, and the workplace is restored. You will meet with the Complainant and Respondent, sharing the appropriate amount of detail, to explain the findings and your decisions about next steps.
When workplace issues arise, it’s crucial to take action right away, make a plan, and follow it. Prompt action assures that you are creating and sustaining a safe, healthy, and respectful workplace. It also helps to ensure you’re doing everything you can to reduce your risk of future liability or challenges.
The effects of workplace misconduct and the process of addressing issues and complaints can take a toll — not only on those directly involved, but also the workplace as a whole. In addition, negative publicity resulting from an ignored or poorly managed complaint can strike a blow to your integrity and reputation, internally and externally.
Cenera is backed by over 23 years of experience, and we are here to help. In cases where you are over capacity or can’t find someone who can stay at an “arm’s length,” our skilled team will conduct neutral, fair, thorough and timely investigations, providing expert advice at all stages of the process.
Visit our workplace investigations page for more information, or contact us if you have any questions or immediate needs.