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I have been “away” for the last number of years, and here I am, back in Halifax, with my own workplace investigation practice.
My pleasure at being home has been tempered by the potholes populating Halifax streets. As I was bobbing and weaving down roads leading toward and away from everywhere, I started thinking about the similarity between potholes and workplace investigations. Going eastward along Bayers Road, it occurred to me that like the inevitability of potholes in the Canadian spring, workplace investigations are also inevitable. Now, just as all potholes are not ‘lose your whole car’ crevices but can also be little bumps that simply spill your coffee, workplace investigations can be those small ‘i’ investigations that entail looking into a missed shift or expense claim not yet paid; or they can take the form of big ‘I’ investigations involving several complaints of harassment spanning months or years of time. And thus, in the short time since my return I have come to know the streets that I need to by-pass. In so doing, it is not that I believe that the potholes in those areas no longer exist but I have the experience and knowledge to take another route.
I would draw the same analogy with workplace investigations; there are going to be situations where the existence of an issue will necessitate conducting an investigation and it is critical to know what route that investigation will take. While I am not capable of fixing the potholes that I encounter, I am able to minimize damage to my car by travelling down streets with good pavement. Employers, too, are able to minimize the effects of issues of conflict, allegations of harassment, and improper exercise of authority by recognizing the early signs of a problem, seeking the assistance of external expertise, and addressing the issue in a timely manner. Just as potholes do not always result in replacing my rear axle, an issue requiring a workplace investigation does not signal the end of a long established great work environment but rather shows that issues, matters, and concerns of the workforce will be taken seriously; assessed in a thorough and unbiased manner; and addressed appropriately in the circumstances. Remember: Caution road bumps and workplace bumps ahead!