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Memo to Managers
E&C Investigations: Do’s and Don’ts for Managers
It’s one of the parts of your job you like the least: you receive a complaint about a team member, and an internal investigation is underway.
As a manager, your participation in workplace investigations is critical in creating optimal outcomes. You also have the very important role of maintaining confidentiality and coaching all of the team members who may be involved to do “the right things right,” both during and after the investigation.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Do: Be open and honest with investigators. Now is not the time to shade the facts to steer the outcome of the investigation. We need to know what actually happened, good or bad.
- Don’t: Discuss details of the investigation with other members of your team. If other team members become aware of an investigation, a good talking point to use is, “For a variety of important reasons, details of the investigation are confidential, and that means I can’t discuss this issue with you. I hope you understand.”
- Do: Ask questions about the role (if any) you are expected to play in the investigation – the compliance, HR, and legal teams want to be a resource to you.
- Don’t: Take any steps to investigate the issue yourself unless the steps have been approved. Often, actions that seem like they would be helpful (questioning a member of the team or going through emails or files) can compromise an investigation.
- Do: Be objective. Stay neutral during an investigation: the outcome may surprise you.
- Don’t: Retaliate. It can be difficult to keep personal feelings out of an investigation. But no matter your perspective, no retaliation is acceptable—whether against the subject of the investigation, the person who brought forward the complaint, or a witness who participates in the investigation.
- Do: Think about what, if anything, you can do as a manager to change your team culture or processes to address the root cause of a complaint.
Workplace investigations can be difficult for everyone involved. But ultimately, going through the process of an investigation is essential in helping correct issues that can undermine a healthy corporate culture.
Questions of the Month
Q. A member of my team is under investigation for harassment. It’s supposed to be confidential, but a lot of people seem to know about it. What steps should I take now?
If it seems that the investigation has become a common topic of discussion (or gossip), consider holding a brief meeting with your team. Point out that investigations are part of a healthy process, but that the details of an investigation should be confidential. Employees should not be sharing sensitive information while the investigation is taking place. That said, keep in mind that employees may, depending on their status and which country they work in, have the legal right to discuss things that would affect their terms and conditions of employment. Therefore, before outright prohibiting discussions about the investigation, check in with your legal team for guidance.
Q. An ethics and compliance investigation related to misconduct by someone on my team has just concluded. While they were cleared of wrongdoing, I still believe they made unacceptable errors in judgement. I’m afraid my strong feelings about the issue will impact my ability to manage the individual. I’m not sure what to do.
Since the person was not found to have violated any policy, you should not take any negative action against them. Instead, reach out to your HR or ethics and compliance leaders and explain your feelings. While it may be appropriate for you to share your expectations for your team member’s behavior going forward, you should not substitute your judgment or values for those of the organization. HR and/or ethics and compliance can give you guidance on how they would like you to manage the person—or they may decide that you should no longer manage him or her.
Multiyear compliance training plans help you make sure your workforce is trained frequently, consistently and thoroughly on the most critical topics for your business. In this post, we provide seven simple steps you can follow to build your multiyear compliance training plan today.
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