First and foremost, an investigation needs to take place. This task traditionally falls to HR to perform, although in certain circumstances, it may be prudent to outsource the mechanics of the investigation to ensure full impartiality and transparency.
Regardless of who performs it, the workplace investigation plays a vital role in allowing employees to raise their grievances and have them duly addressed.
An investigation often does little to repair workplace relationships, however – nor does it improve the atmosphere at work, or facilitate team cohesion, said Catherine Gillespie, Director, Workplace Conflict Resolution.
"In respect of the complainant and respondent, an investigation is a win/lose situation. For example, if allegations are substantiated, the complainant wins and the respondent loses," Gillespie explained.
"Very rarely do both parties feel any sense of satisfaction and closure from an investigation. In fact, an investigation usually leaves the participating parties feeling wounded, and this certainly does not support the parties to feel valued and to be producing their best work."
So while an investigation must be impartial and 'best practice', what happens after the investigation is also crucial to ensuring workplace harmony and productivity.
Gillespie offers these top 3 tips for HR professionals to effectively manage the resolution process after a workplace complaint has been lodged:
1. Firstly, systemic issues should be identified, by the investigator and the employer, and addressed by the employer. "A good investigator will be vigilant in looking for factors that have directly and indirectly contributed to the situation," she said.
2. Secondly, if suitable, mediation should be offered to both the complainant and respondent to help the parties agree on how to move forward after the investigation, and work together professionally in the future.
3. Thirdly, after assessing the success of the mediation, a team workshop should be conducted. "This workshop should include team building activities as well as exercises to progress team projects, and to address team and interpersonal issues," Gillespie added.
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