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Conducting an investigation into a HR complaint internally is fraught with danger, especially where the allegations are against senior staff or management, or where the allegations include corruption, systemic corrupt behaviour, criminal behaviour, an inappropriate relationship, harassment, or exposure to employee behaviour that would be crippling if it became public. That is why such workplace investigations are often outsourced. This provides 'distance' and an external investigator is considered more 'independent', when dealing with a workplace conflict, or employee relationship problem. Simple investigations are those involving third party allegations of misuse, mismanagement or theft; the motivators for these may be honest concern, payback for a relationship breakdown, someone with a tendency towards giving power to malicious gossip, or very occasionally maneuvering relating to a promotion.
More complex HR investigations are those that include allegations of systemic criminal actions, theft, drug use, sexual abuse, abuse of power, mixed in with Workcover claims, especially stress claims, or sometimes just plain bad behaviour, and abuse by a manager. These often involve some sort of power play, and exercise of control in influencing the behaviour of others. It should be remember that the exercise of power and control is part of the normal structure of a business; it is the abuse of this power, of the perception of others that power or authority is being abused or circumvented, that create concern.
The restrictions on a HR investigation can include the unwillingness of witnesses, especially people who have been previously 'burnt' by the process (especially government employees); the amount of time that has passed since the original action is a large factor, as well. Sometimes what was once acceptable behaviour has continued, but the expectations have changed, leaving the actor in a position where they are out of step with the companies direction, and the unwillingness to accept this causes conflict.
A more recent actor in HR complaints is the 'entitled' person, the 'superior' person, often a female, who treats others poorly (both male and female) but retreats behind a 'sexist' defence; given the current 'bias' towards females in some workplaces this 'superiority' complex has created frictions that were perhaps once the province of males, who saw themselves as 'superior' to female employees, in a different workplace culture. Some workplaces deal with the problem of 'bad' supervisors by transfer of those who complain, so they are under a different supervisor; some transfer the 'bad' supervisor, offering them a promotion to be rid of them (and sometimes a glowing CV reference, to be sure), in the short term this form of employee conflict may be expected to increase. HR investigation often needs to focus on multiple areas, to give a complete picture of the whole. Some HR investigations need to look at the histories of complainants and those complained about, to understand the current situation. Sometime a HR investigation may actually be focused on assessment of a particular behaviour, across an organisation, to assess compliance or to identify a potential problem. Failure to address a known failing, a known bad behaviour, a systemic issue, can lead to accusations of corruption or mismanagement being leveled against senior executives, who bear the obligations associated with such corporate ethical considerations and behaviours.
Banning the 'office romance', as the Americans have attempted, is useless; humans, who interact, and are attracted, will continue to interact. These interactions often lead to relationships, or marriage. When this is an open occurrence, and there are no impediments to the relationship (such as one party being married, or office funds being used for a lover), then trying to suppress this may be a useless gesture which will generate more hostility than benefit. Where the relationship is hidden, there is a power play involved, it is an illicit affair, infidelity and third parties are involved, or there are other issues, then it becomes company business; a husband who has his wife as secretary (or vice versa, less often) is not an unusual situation, especially in smaller businesses. In public companies, or with politicians, this situation has become less acceptable; especially where allegations of pay without work are raised. These are the matters where a private investigator may be engaged.
HR investigations are not always fast, they do require patience. There is a requirement to keep people informed, to reduce the stress associated with investigations where the investigation is targeted at individuals rather than the corporate behaviour, whilst at the same time maintaining confidentiality. When you need experienced private investigators contact us for a free quote.