How Finance can effectively handle a workplace investigation

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Whether it’s occupational fraud, a staffer dispute or another sticky situation, every company is susceptible to a workplace investigation.

And all workplace investigations, even those you aren’t directly involved in, pose multiple threats for your company: They drain time, decrease productivity, and can spiral into very costly legal matters.

That’s why how workplace investigations are approached and handled is so important. It could be the difference between a fast-resolved incident and arduous, expensive process.

Crash course

If HR or other company leaders requests Finance’s assistance in a workplace investigation, remember these steps for proper, legal conduct:

1. Pause and prepare.Once the issue or claim’s been brought to you, take a minute to think about the severity of the situation. Consider questions like:

  • What’s the nature of the issue (behavioral, professional, etc.)?
  • Were company policies violated?
  • Were state or federal laws broken?
  • How many people are involved?
  • How far does the scope reach?
  • Do outside authorities need to be involved?

2. Gather your documentation.You know how valuable solid evidence can be. So, once you’ve done some upfront thinking, turn to physical documentation. Round up all background information relevant to the situation. That could include anything from personnel files and performance reviews to email exchanges and company policies.

3. Verify what you gathered.The same way you verify a company expense is legitimate, it’s important to check that all your documents and sources are valid, too. If there are any contradictions, dig deeper.

4. Consider supporting factors.When your company’s deciding how to respond to the situation, it’s important to contemplate other factors like:

  • the legal ramifications, risks and costs
  • the consequences outlined in your policy
  • the employee’s past behavior/work performance, and
  • how similar situations were dealt with in the past.

5. Relay and record the outcome.Once your company has decided on the proper course of action, that message can be conveyed to the employee(s) involved. And once again, you’ll want to outline exactly what action was taken, how employees responded, etc., as evidence that your company responded timely and appropriately to the situation.

6. Revise for the future. Workplace issues could be a sign that you need to revisit your company’s policies or culture on a larger scale. Whether it’s tightening certain rules or providing additional training, you should work to make sure the type of situation you just dealt with won’t likely happen again.