Select impartial investigators
An investigation should not be carried out by anyone who is involved in the allegation, such as line managers or HR staff who might have to be witnesses. It is preferable that the investigators are sourced from different sections of the organisation and, if this is not possible, external investigators should be found.
Where practical, the background of one of the investigators (i.e. their race, gender, etc.) should reflect that of the complainant and respondent (that is, the person who has been complained about and thus needs to respond to the allegations).
If complaints involve very senior staff or members of the Human Resources department, it is recommended that external investigators are sought. This will ensure that all parties have faith in the impartiality of the investigation and believe that the junior member of staff will be treated fairly.
Beware of Opinions
The investigation should concentrate on establishing the facts. These include dates, events, reactions to situations and feelings. All these are facts.
However, at no time during the process should the investigators discuss or reveal their own personal thoughts, feelings or beliefs. For this reason, leading questions should be avoided. The investigators should not agree or disagree with any of the statements made during the interview. They should merely note down what the interviewee states and keep their opinions to themselves!
Check out my blog in the next edition of HR Review for more tips on investigating harassment, bullying and discrimination.