We have completed our workplace investigation, summarised and assessed all the relevant evidence, made a decision, on the balance of probabilities, whether allegations have been proven or not and provided a comprehensive investigation report.
This should solve the workplace conflict and allow everyone to move forward. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although the conduct may have been identified and dealt with in accordance with company policy and procedures, will that always provide a sustainable solution?
The difficulty with workplace investigations is that they are primary focused on the alleged conduct and, at times, not focusing on the greater effect an investigation could have on other employees, productivity and harmony in the workplace and the staff perception particularly if an investigation is viewed as targeted to achieve a certain objective.
The conclusion of a workplace investigation does not translate to the conclusion of workplace conflict. How we deliver the outcome to all parties involved in extremely important as it sets the scene on how we intend to progress. Any outcome must be delivered in good faith to all parties while outlining a plan on how we intend to move beyond the conflict.
Not all outcomes will be considered the right outcome but providing a plan will help any organisation navigate the bumpy road following any workplace investigation. There will be division among employees, there will be gossip on how the investigation was conducted and why a certain outcome was achieved, there will be discontent and there will definitely be a party who will claim “victory” and another who will feel as they had been “defeated”.
These are all expected reactions and how we prepare for them and address them will give us a very good indication on whether we will be conducting further workplace investigations or we are on the right path for a positive and cohesive workplace environment.
A workplace investigation should be viewed as a tool to proactively deal with behaviours and conflicts by preventing other similar issues, sending a positive message to staff, finding solutions and not favouring one over the other. By adopting this positive outlook, rather than one focusing on the negatives, we will have a more open mind and allow any outcome to positively influence change beneficial to the company and the individuals. The benefits of a workplace investigations by far outweigh the risks but we need to be strapped in as the disruption takes time to put in the past and a ‘back to business as usual’ approach won’t work. We might need to rebuild the team, rebuild morale and use the completion of each investigation as an opportunity to reflect, at a higher level, what is really going on and to put in place support for all participants so they can work effectively and productively together ensures you have used what can be a destructive and challenging workplace process, to make a positive contribution to the health and safety of your workplace.