There is no doubt that people are speaking up more frequently about harassment in the workplace and beyond (discriminatory, sexual and personal). Not too many days go by that we don’t see something in the media drawing our attention to harassment.
Most recently, we’ve heard of Shauna Hunt, the City News reporter who was confronted with sexual slurs at a recent Toronto soccer game.
And of course, Jian Ghomeshi is someone who has become a household name because of his inappropriate behaviours and he brought negative attention to CBC management and their ineffective response to complaints.
The majority of those tasked with conducting an investigation are inexperienced and that can mean trouble. The main problem inexperienced people run into is keeping their own biases in check. Sometimes, the inexperienced interviewer is too sympathetic and he or she expresses opinions or makes apologies for what has happened. There is often a failure to appropriately plan the investigation in many cases and interviews are rushed or corners are cut for the sake of ‘getting back to work’. It is important that the investigator is clear on the purpose of the investigation and sticks to that when gathering evidence. Often, investigators hear a lot of information that doesn’t have direct relevance to the issue at hand and the fact-finding that you are required to perform when determining whether allegations are indeed accurate. It takes practice to learn how to make people feel safe and comfortable while remaining neutral – you cannot be an advocate for anyone. We hear things that can be upsetting and emotional; however, we need to control our emotions.
It takes work to become a good interviewer and it takes practice. It’s not usually the main role of either a manager or human resources person to conduct investigations, so it only stands to reason that training is required to ensure if and when the time does come; the process is clear.
Now that I am primarily a workplace investigator, I can say without hesitation that I now realize that even though I did a number of investigations as a human resources practitioner and thought I had handled them well; I had a lot to learn. I know that had there been more training on workplace investigations at the time, I would have done better.
Employees are becoming far more litigious because they are better informed as a result of the ‘information highway’. Human rights and changes in legislation are talked about frequently.
Be sure that those people tasked with investigations are trained. There are opportunities now that did not exist a few years ago. While our training is not the only training out there; we do offer interviewing techniques as well as information on planning, assessing your mandate, gathering evidence and report-writing.
If you want to learn more about an upcoming training session that Simply Communicating is delivering – click here.
We also offer coaching directly to clients that are managing internal investigations and of course; we conduct investigations for employers and offer licensed professional private investigators for that purpose.