I recently conducted a workplace investigation that included an allegation that an internal workplace investigation was unfair. Several witnesses who were interviewed as part of the internal investigation had provided evidence that was favourable to the complainant, but neither party to the internal investigation was provided with an opportunity to respond to this witness evidence in a follow-up interview.
As workplace investigators, we regularly conduct interviews where the interviewee is accompanied by a representative from their union or association. Many collective agreements have provisions that allow employees to have their representative present during any interviews that are conducted as part of a workplace investigation, regardless of whether the employee participates as a party to the investigation or as a witness.
In the normal course of a workplace investigation, the investigator interviews the parties and the witnesses, obtains relevant documents, conducts follow-up interviews where needed, and then drafts a report using the evidence gathered.
Workplace assessments have emerged as a popular and very useful tool to proactively address and respond to concerns in the workplace. It is quite often used to gather information about culture, practices, or behaviours in the workplace, to identify the cause of conflicts, or to identify potential opportunities for improvement in particular areas…
As workplace investigators, we can sometimes find ourselves in situations with complainants, where it feels as though we are not fully grasping what a complainant is alleging. These situations made me reflect on tools that I have used to help steer me in the right direction to better understand a complainant’s allegations.
Several of my investigations have led me to reflect on the phenomenon of “groupthink,” and how it impacts the workplace and intrudes upon workplace investigations. Groupthink is a term that was first coined by social psychologist Irving Janis, and refers to a group that, when working together, strives for harmony and consensus above all else.
On the evening of Sunday, March 7, I, along with 17 million other people, tuned in to watch Oprah’s interview of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I am the first to admit that I wanted to hear all the details about their decision to step back as “senior” members of the Royal Family, but as an investigator, I also was also interested in how Oprah approached the interview – how she asked her questions, what she asked, and how Harry and Meghan would respond.
My first experience with a workplace investigation was vicariously first-hand, when a close friend of mine was named as a respondent and I became their de facto support person. The investigation was ongoing for three months. During that time, my friend ate, slept, and breathed that investigation.