Workplace Investigations gone wrong

Workplace Investigations gone wrong – If you conduct investigations/enquiries into complaints of bullying, harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment or any form of misconduct it vitally important that you get it right the first time every time.

A poorly conducted investigation can be detrimental to all parties and the organisation. Remember you are dealing with people lives and careers

How do you get it right the first time every time?

1. By understanding and applying best practice workplace investigation skills, processes & procedures

2. Careful planning of the investigation and the evidence gathering phase, including interviewing

3. By having an in-depth understanding of;

  • The rule of evidence
  • Procedural fairness
  • Laws and regulations
  • Interviewing of complainants, witnesses and respondents

4. Having high level complaint and evidence analysis skills

5. Having the ability to come to sound and logical findings based on the evidence

6. Being able to write clear and concise investigation reports

If you can get all of this right you will be able to conduct a professional investigation.

Need help?

AWPTI conducts a number of workplace investigation training courses – details here –, (also see below) please contact me for more details

Workplace Investigations gone wrong

Accusations of wrongdoing are common in the workplace. Unfortunately, investigations by managers and HR professionals are at times handled poorly.

Here are some common mistakes made by managers and HR professionals in businesses of all sizes, and across all industries:

#1:Failing to carefully plan the investigation

As the old adage goes, fail to plan and you plan to fail.  A carefully planned investigation will take into account what evidence is required to be gathered and how, the order of things and how evidence will be recorded.

#2: Failing to careful analyse the complaint

Everything flows from the complaint analysis, get this wrong and the investigation will be flawed.  Complaints are often full of emotive language and lacking in detail.  The job of the investigator is to discover exactly what happen in the words of the complainant and be able to test the evidence.

#3: Failing to plan the interviews

A good complaint analysis will lead to good interview planning and good interviews that gather the best evidence

#4 Failing to test the evidence

A good workplace investigator prepares for an interview, but is also agile. Be prepared to adapt questions and lines of enquiry to ensure no stone is left unturned. Remember, a good interview is planned and organised, you may have prepared what you want to ask but you should always base question during the interview on the interviewees responses not just your next question.


#5: Vague or poor drafted allegations

Carefully drafted allegations fulfil the first part of procedural fairness – The right to know. Getting the process wrong can result in a lot of time and effort wasted and a flawed investigation outcome.

#6: Promises, delays and potential bias

It’s important for any investigator to be clear and transparent about the process and timelines. Making guesses are often promises you can’t keep. Investigations are often delayed unfortunately that happens.

The Investigator also needs to remind themselves: they are there to investigate, and they are not there to take sides, pre-judge, or to sympathise.

#7: Taking things too fast

All too often Directors, Managers and HR professionals panic at the sight of a complaint and frantically start investigating it. Yes, action needs to be taken, but it’s important to stop, take stock and consider if an investigation appropriate.

Take a moment to consider:

  • Who is an appropriate investigator?
  • What evidence exists?
  • Who will be involved in the investigation?
  • Once the investigation is completed, if we need to move to a disciplinary process, who will be responsible for that process?

Glossing over these fundamental considerations may result in your investigation being flawed or a complete waste of time.

#8: Pressure from the top

Investigations take time, investigators should not be pressured to get things done too fast and thereby compromising the investigation. It takes as long as it takes, however the investigation should be carried out in a timely manner.

Importantly the investigator should not bow to pressure from the organisation or senior management to come to a finding to suit them that is not based on the evidence.

Not sure – get help

An AWPTI workplace investigation course will ensure that;

  • You can conduct a professional workplace investigation using best practice practices and procedures.
  • You will avoid the mistakes as listed
  • Your investigation will withstand scrutiny

Please check out these links for your options:

Conducting Workplace Investigations Full Course

Conducting Workplace Investigations Open Course 

Conducting Workplace Investigations Basic courses.

Sexual Harassment Investigation Training

Some other articles worth considering;

Workplace Investigations 2023

Sexual Harassment Employer’s Positive Duty

AWPTI – workplace investigation based in Sydney, conducting workplace investigation through-out NSW, and nationwide including Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, Western Australia, the ACT/Canberra, Northern Territory and Tasmania.

Workplace training national wide and internationally

Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations