Article: Internal Investigations - Mind the sensitivities

Performance Management

Internal Investigations - Mind the sensitivities

Every investigation requires a different approach and HR needs to be cognizant of the nuances that come into play
Internal Investigations - Mind the sensitivities

The objective of any investigation is to unravel the facts and take appropriate corrective action in line with company’s expectations and code of conduct


It is not uncommon for Human Resource practitioners to carry out different employee investigations for issues relating to conduct and performance. These investigations, which are conducted in closed doors and labelled as highly confidential, in fact, have their roots running into core cultural elements of the organization like trust, morale and equity. The manner and the protocol with which these investigations are conducted send strong signals within the organization. Every investigation is unique and requires a different approach. As cultural advocates, it is important that HR professionals are cognizant of certain sensitivities, nuances and emotions which come into interplay during such proceedings.

Treading with Caution Approach

Don’t dent the credibility:

People build credibility over a period of time by earning the respect and trust of different stakeholders. When someone is alleged to have done something wrong, the first thing that comes under threat is the credibility. The employee starts feeling vulnerable. He might be innocent but the fact that he is being questioned is enough for him to feel anguished.

Don’t create insecurity:

The objective of any investigation is to unravel the facts and take appropriate corrective action in line with company’s expectations and code of conduct. Every bit of investigation breeds insecurity into the culture and adds uncertainty to the environment. Hinting someone’s job and entitlement at stake will create more insecurity than fear.

Don’t try to set an example:

A common tactic is to take a higher degree action in order to set a strong precedence for others. It does act as a deterrent but at the cost of future actions. The magnitude of the action will set a standard for such deviations. It should not be seen as a ‘poor scapegoat’ incident by others.

Don’t rhyme with Business:

It is easy to concur with business leadership and go with the flow. In such a case, HR appears more like a business spokesperson than a fair investigator. A lot of the times, associates perceive HR of being hands in glove with business. The last message that should go to the employees is that the HR partner did what business wanted him to do.

Don’t breach anonymity assurance:

A lot of members linked with the incident are taken into confidence during investigation. They open up on a personal commitment that their identity and inputs will remain confidential. The true test of anonymity has been well defined by a common proverb that says the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. When classified information becomes known to employees, it doesn’t matter how many people know it.


Best of the class companies are known to deal with internal violations and deviations firmly through different fair and objective mechanisms. These mechanisms can take the form of a simple questioning, detailed investigation or a structured inquiry. They preach and practice comprehensive rule books and code of conduct handbooks, which are used as reference bibles for deciding the course and degree of corrective actions. What really makes a difference is the manner in which an investigation is carried out? How it is perceived? And what it really achieves?

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Topics: Performance Management, #BestPractices

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