What Is Post-Investigation “Repair Work”?
A workplace investigation is never an emotionally tempered, tidy event, with a clearly marked beginning and end. We would all like it to be confined in this way, but it never is. While investigations are incredibly valuable, hard feelings on both sides are a certainty and resentments can linger long after a problem is resolved to the satisfaction of agencies, the law, and the organization.
While employment lawyers often tell their clients simply to resume business as usual after an investigation, this advice does not consider the threat such an atmosphere poses to an organization’s operations.. In fact, this advice ignores a critical “missing link” of investigations; that is, how organizations address these resentments and, in some cases, anger and hostility. In reality, some of the most important work begins after an investigation is complete, when it seems all complaints should have been addressed and resolved. Indeed, it is equally important — if not more so — to repair the relationship between the parties.
Without addressing this potentially toxic atmosphere that remains between complainants and accused—what I call “the aftermath of an investigation”—the workplace remains a fraught environment in which distrust of supervisors, fears of retaliation, and wounded feelings will simmer.
Having conducted workplace investigations and acted as counsel in employment disputes, I understand the disruptive scope of the experience as well as the intensity of feelings involved. With my experience in HR, I also know the ways in which this ordeal can affect the work environment afterwards, leading to a likelihood of more accusations.
As part of the services I offer in mediating workplace conflicts, I work with former complainants and accused whose working relationship has been seriously damaged, causing conflict between them to persist long after an investigation. In this highly charged period, I offer solutions that defuse the hard feelings that can often lead to further costly complaints.
The perception of due diligence upon completion of an investigation can lead employers to a false sense of security, but smart employers consider what can happen in the aftermath of the investigation. I will anticipate these residual effects on businesses and provide the ways and means to avoid prolonged disturbances and misunderstandings among employees.