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Workplace Investigations: Timing Can Be Everything

Nov 13, 2014
Deb Muller


People often evaluate the success of a new company in terms of its growth rate. In fact, I recently read an article which focused on whether year-on-year revenue growth rates of 20 to 30 percent were sufficient to catapult a company into the realm of its more established peers. But while growing a business is exhilarating, a successful company requires much more than increasing revenues. It demands agile management, infrastructure and procedures because staffing will invariably grow too. More employees bring new levels of complexity to the workplace and potential human resource problems. If the company infrastructure lags behind overall business expansion, workplace problems will not be far behind.

Growing companies, in particular, struggle just to put a workplace investigation procedure in place, and once the process begins, they lack the resources to facilitate it in a timely manner.

Of course, any allegation of employee misconduct, even in a maturing company, is serious. Unresolved accusations take a toll on employee morale and may have severe legal implications. As well, the atmosphere of the entire business can be dampened by the investigation that ensues. Growing companies, in particular, struggle just to put a workplace investigation procedure in place, are unaware of software solutions such as HR Acuity On-Demand, and once the investigation begins, they lack the resources to facilitate it in a timely manner. There are key junctures, and as the investigation unfolds there are many essential actions to be taken at each stage.

In some ways, when it comes to workplace investigations, timing can be everything. Here’s why:


The moment a complaint is filed, the clock starts ticking. Your organization is accountable for all of its actions or its lack of response. Your company must acknowledge that a complaint has been made and if it does not do so quickly, the inaction can be equated to ignoring the situation. Even worse, the basis of the complaint may appear to continue without any formal acknowledgement of the problem. In cases where there is alleged harassment, for example, the employee filing the complaint might argue that (s)he continued to be harassed while the company turned a blind eye to the problem or hesitated while cobbling together a response. So, don’t delay.

  • Acknowledge the complaint and start the workplace investigation as soon as the issue arises.
  • Document your company’s response as well as the date the investigation begins.
  • Note any circumstances which are outside your company’s control, such as a particular individual being on vacation, and record the reason as well as the date when the investigation finally ensues.


Once a problem occurs, a workplace investigation must progress in a timely fashion. The process of interviewing the parties involved, collecting written documentation and evaluating company policies relative to the complaint must be done thoroughly, but not in haste. A timeline with deliverables by human resources or the person overseeing the investigation on behalf of the company is important. Keep the investigation moving, because a timely response by the management is a legal requirement, and can help mitigate potential loss. Importantly, the organization must be proactive. Document the process and make certain deliverables are met. If there is delay, ensure there is a valid reason for the delay, record it, and get the process back on track quickly.


Once a workplace complaint has been thoroughly investigated, a company must conclude the investigation and communicate the results to both parties. It is imperative that the management demonstrate to other employees that it can recognize and address issues with employees that compromise the workplace environment. If skills training is required as part of the remediation, those details must be conveyed in a timely manner as well. A decisive conclusion and communication of the results are critical components of drawing a successful workplace investigation to a close.

Does managing the timing of a workplace investigation sound daunting? It is.

HR Acuity’s scalable, award winning software, methodology and advisory services can help by keeping your workplace investigation on track and timely. To learn more, contact us, or call 888-598-0161 today.


Deb Muller
Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, employee relations case management and investigations software that combines documentation, process, and human expertise so organizations can meet the challenge of managing employee relations in the modern world.

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