It was Colonel Mustard, in the kitchen, with the knife! Another mystery solved … but was it really necessary to suspend the entire workforce to conduct workplace investigations into who was cutting the office biscuits in half?
The only thing everyone likes more than a good mystery is finding out the cause or culprit – and everything is revealed. But is every workplace incident, issue and complaint worth investigating? Sometimes, it might be better to just let things be. For example, if the cost of carrying out workplace investigations would greatly outweigh the possible benefits. On other occasions, workplace investigations would almost always be required – for example, if there is a complaint of workplace sexual harassment.
How can you tell whether or not you should be donning your deerstalker and lighting your pipe?
The first key consideration is determining what issues, if any, are actually in dispute. It is not unheard of for both a complainant and a respondent to actually agree on the narrative of what occurred; they might just differ on how those events should be interpreted. Other times, the respondent might actually admit to the behaviour being complained about, and essentially throw themselves before the mercy of their employer, hoping for leniency. In these instances, carrying out workplace investigations might not be necessary or desirable.
Secondly, you should consider how serious the issues in dispute are. You might receive a thousand complaints about differing opinions on, say, what temperature the thermostat should be at — obviously a key issue, but still not worth investigating. Alternatively, a complainant might come to you about a potentially serious issue, such as being bullied by their supervisor. However, they might not wish for you to intervene just yet, as they hope to resolve the issue themselves. And, of course, there will be times where the issues in dispute are clearly serious enough to warrant immediate and extensive investigation.
Finally, consider the business’s duties and obligations under work health and safety laws, workplace policies or otherwise, and determine whether it is necessary to carry out a workplace investigation to meet these obligations.
Generally, we would advise that you err on the side of caution: it is far better to investigate (or ‘inquire’) and attempt to find out what’s really going on, rather than ignore issues that might get worse over time. It is always helpful to discover the underlying causes of any issues in the workplace, as this will allow you to try to resolve any ongoing disputes.
Now that you’ve decided to investigate the mysterious case of the disappearing post-it notes, what should your next steps be? Stay tuned for the next instalment in the workplace investigations saga.