10 Tips for Workplace Investigations

Shawnee Love   •  
November 8, 2010

When something happens at work, a workplace investigation is a tried and true method of finding out what happened. Here are some pointers:

  1. Pick your investigator(s) carefully. Investigators should be respected and perceived as unbiased and ideally, they should be trained or experienced in proper interviewing skills and the investigation process.
  2. Follow the investigation steps carefully as laid out in your organization’s policy on investigations (e.g., in the collective agreement or employee handbook).
  3. Keep good notes and be sure to document each step of the investigation process including dates, times, and who was involved.
  4. Hold a sense of urgency while investigating and keep the ball rolling to the conclusion of the case.
  5. Follow the evidence until you have a good understanding of the 5Ws & 1H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How).
  6. The investigation scope should be directly related to the seriousness of the situation and as such investigations may involve not only interviews of those involved (e.g., complainant, respondent, witnesses, etc.) but also reviews of documents and records.  Video, email and computer audits are also appropriate in some scenarios if clearly allowed under the company’s policies.
  7. Consider whether this has happened before in your organization and if so, learn what was done before.
  8. Get rid of your assumptions and keep an open mind.
  9. Base decisions on facts and what has been observed.
  10. Advise the complainant and respondent of the findings to give closure to those involved.

If you have more tips, please add your comments.