Should you choose an external investigator? As an employer or manager, dealing with harassment complaints can be extremely difficult as you are dealing with typically a highly emotional situation that you may not be well versed in. Once presented with a complaint or aware of a situation, one of the early decisions for managers or the employer to make is whether to use an external investigator, or to complete the investigation internally. There are many factors involved when making this decision. Some circumstances when an external investigator should be used are discussed below.
1. Internal Skills
Investigations are highly sensitive and require a high level of expertise and experience to be conducted effectively and thoroughly. If you lack the internal expertise to conduct an investigation, it is best to engage an external investigator. They will have the in-depth specialist experience and up to date knowledge to conduct a thorough, fair, and impartial investigation.
2. Time and Resources
Investigations require immediate and focused attention and they take a lot of time. It is in the best interest of those involved, as well as in the best interest of the organization, to complete the investigation as quickly as possible. If your internal investigations team has other competing work priorities or if they don’t have the resources to act fast, an external investigator should be considered. Further to this, keeping staff focused on their day-to-day work, rather than an investigation, will minimize internal organizational disruption. An external investigator will be dedicated and focused on completing the investigation and will cause minimal distribution to day-to-day operations.
If there is a risk of bias, real or perceived among your internal team, or if neutrality, again real or perceived, is a high priority, an external investigator is your best choice.
External investigators approach the investigation free of preconceived opinions and biases. They have no working or other relationships with those participating in the investigation and they can remain impartial as they sift through the investigative information. External investigators are not bringing any knowledge or baggage of past work history. They do not know what would be considered a favorable finding by management or the employer. It can be difficult for internal investigators to remain this impartial as they investigate, especially if they have a connection with those involved.
4. Complex Complaints
Complex complaints, or those that span over a long period of time, require intense focus and high levels of expertise to sort through the details and information. An external investigator will have the training, patience, skills, and tools to methodically and thoroughly handle a multifaceted investigation.
5. High Level Employees
When complaints involve a high-level employee, it can be very difficult for internal investigators to investigate. It is especially difficult if the investigator is a direct or indirect report of anyone involved in the investigation.
When an employee investigates a leader, it inevitably changes their relationship. This can be very difficult for the internal investigator and any leader involved in the investigation. And, with an existing relationship, it will be even harder for the internal investigator to remain unbiased and not (intentionally or unintentionally) find in the favour of the organizational leader.
When making the decision on whether or not to use an external investigator, consider the above points and keep in mind that hiring external investigations sends a firm message that the organization is taking the complaint very seriously. If you remain uncertain, please call Dawn, Nicole, or Leah at 1.844.842.4949, and we will help guide you through the decision-making process.