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Workplace Investigations: 3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Dealing with Employee Misconduct

Are you running a business? Do you rely on your people to work with each other well and meet the behavioural and ethical expectations that you’ve established? While almost all of a work team meet these expectations almost all of the time, it’s also likely that some wont from time to time. Not only does employee misconduct impact on an individual’s performance but it takes a toll on the overall productivity and efficiency of the organisation across work teams and in client service delivery situations.

Regardless of the size, scale and nature of a business, employee issues can crop up even with the best team of professionals working within the organisation, leading the employer into consider whether they might need an independent workspace investigations conducted. Sometimes these can’t be done effectively using the resources within an organisation because of capability issues or perceived conflicts of interest.

In order to help you avoid some of the common risks and pitfalls involved in workplace investigations, it might be useful to consider the following:

  • Failing to Properly Consider a Complaint

    Often employers avoid conducting an investigation because they don’t know where to start or feel like they have to make a decision quickly. As a result, sometimes they ‘jump the gun’ and rush to the decision of firing the guilty employee. When this happens, it often results in negative impacts for the employee, the employers and sometimes those that work in the team affected.

  • Not Taking Immediate Action

    Conversely to the last point, sometimes employers delay or defer the start of an investigation for a variety of reasons, including not understanding what needs to happen or not wanting to potentially create conflict in the workplace. It is essential that when potential issues are brought up by employees, that a quick assessment of the issues and possible next steps is made and a clear way forward decided and acted upon.

  • Showing Inconsistent Behaviour toward Handling of Similar Situations.

    Treating a similar situation in an inconsistent manner may result in claims of discrimination and even bullying and harassment. Make sure that there is a clear consistency of approach to dealing with problems of a similar kind.

    In addition, there are many other challenges associated with workplace investigative processes including perceived bias, confidentiality issues, and clarity around the requisite documentation and reporting outputs. To ensure an effective and impartial investigation, it is important for employers to consider obtaining early advice on the best way forward with each matter and potentially appoint a professional investigator that is experienced, well trained and capable of providing meaningful advice and guidance on workplace matters and completing the process efficiently and effectively.