The 10 Most Common Complaint and Workplace Investigation Challenges

Welcome to the new series! Although there are many books, white papers, seminars, etc. on the topic of conducting workplace investigations, these generally are learning tools to tech the process and the legal requirements behind the investigation. However, as any seasoned HR professional will tell you, there are things that can only be learned through the sharing of experience. Those things that come up daily for business owners and HR professionals that they just aren’t prepared for. Over the next couple of weeks, this blog will provide some insight to what happens in “real business” with tips on how to plan for the unexpected complaints and subsequent investigations. Here’s a partial list of what we will be covering. Be sure to sign up for email delivery so you don’t miss a post.

Confidentiality; Please don’t tell my Manager I told you.

When an employee says, “I don’t want you to do anything, I just thought you should know”.

Hygiene, bodily functions and other uncomfortable conversations.

Determining if and when an investigation is required.

Anonymous notification of wrongdoing. Is your company liable?

Planes, trains and automobiles. What really happens during business travel.

The investigation; When your witness won’t speak.

There’s much more to come. Please feel free to send your questions, comments and suggested topics. The Investig8tr is on the case!

This Really Happened; From bad to good.

Early in my HR career, I had one of those mornings. You know, the ones where you come in to work feeling optimistic. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and you just know it is going to be a great day. I was sitting at my desk taking my first sip of coffee, when one of the supervisors came in and said, “I think we have a problem”. After closing the door, the supervisor shared with me that a long-term employee had been showing up to work smelling like alcohol. For a while, he had assumed that the smell was carried over from the night before, but recent incidents had led him to believe that the employee may be drinking on the job. We did not have a reasonable suspicion drug testing policy in place, so the employee was called in and informed that he would be placed on suspension pending an investigation on the suspicion of alcohol use on the job. Within 48 hours we were able to determine, through witness observances and the presence of hidden alcohol bottles, that drinking on the job was occurring and the employee was terminated.

So where is the good you ask? Just under two months later, I received a letter in the mail from the employee. It wasn’t at all what I expected. The terminated employee was writing to thank me for addressing his problem. He stated that he knew others at work and at home were suspicious of his drinking, but did not confront him. He actually wrote that getting fired was the best thing that could have happened. It forced him to face his demons and get his life back on track, and he was looking forward to receiving his 2 month sobriety chip in a few days.

2 mo sobriety chip Lesson learned – We can’t pretend to know what others are going through or what they need. All we can do is act with good intention in a fair and respectful manner, and let the “chips” fall where they may.

 

HR Investigations can be fun!

Well okay, not fun exactly. More like, scary, intimidating, uncomfortable, and very time consuming. But with 1 in 5 companies receiving a complaint requiring an investigation, chances are you will have to face the dreaded investigation at some point as a manager or HR professional. Good news… I am here to help you see the light! HR workplace investigations do not need to haunt you if you understand them, prepare for them, and most importantly, read this blog regularly to become comfortable with the idea of conducting an investigation.  Oh, and by the way, we will have some fun along the way. I promise!

When I asked a few random business professionals what they do when the need arises for a workplace investigation, here is what I heard:

  • We do some form of an investigation when we need to, depending on the complaint.
  • We “sort of” have a process in place
  • My boss thinks an investigation will just open us up to more liability, so we just let it go.
  • I haven’t had my coffee yet. I don’t even want to think about it.

With almost 25 years of HR experience, focused on employee relations, training and investigations (which I believe should be tied together, but we’ll get to that later) the reason I am writing this blog is to bring the investigation need and process to the forefront for HR professionals and managers, and help relieve the fear that is often tied to conducting an investigation. And yes……we will have some FUN along the way!

The blog will include the following, and will be enriched with the participation and feedback from readers.

  • Helpful tips on workplace investigation processes;
  • Real life directives on becoming a better investigator;
  • This Really Happened – a series of true life workplace incidents that will make you laugh, cry or bang your head on your desk (Don’t worry, the names will be changed to protect the innocent, and ummm the guilty too!);
  • Random moments of inspiration that we all so desperately need; and,
  • Tell me what you need. Your feedback is truly important to me, so let me know how I can help you.

That’s all for now. Come see me again soon. But before you go, be sure to add your email address to follow this blog.

L8TR InvestiG8TR