The Objective of a Workplace Investigation

When a problem is reported in the workplace, it’s the job of human resources (HR) professionals to look into it and figure out what happened. They need to conduct an investigation to uncover the facts and take action if necessary. Unless you work for yourself or are part of a very small company, chances are that your HR department handles all investigations.


HR may bring in external investigators as needed, but their main role is handling these issues from start to finish. An investigation is a methodical process with specific goals and questions in mind. It’s not simply an interview where one party asks questions and another answers them – there’s a strategy behind every step of the process. The primary objective of any workplace investigation should be identifying the cause of an issue and determining how to prevent its recurrence in the future.


What to look for during an investigation

The first step of any investigation is to carefully observe the situation. This means looking at the facts of the situation, the behavior of the people involved and the environment where the incident took place. When observing the facts, it’s important to gather as much data as possible about the incident that triggered the investigation. When observing people’s behavior, try to get a sense of why they acted the way they did. This includes their feelings and intentions as well as their words and actions.


Interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence

The next step is to interview all witnesses involved in the situation. Investigators should interview the complainant and the person accused of wrongdoing as well as any other people who have significant information to add.


If it’s a criminal offense or could result in termination, employers should be careful not to put people on the spot. Instead, they should provide written documentation that explains why they’re being interviewed and how they can exercise their right to remain silent if they don’t wish to answer a particular question.


All interviews should be recorded either audibly or via a typed statement and each person should sign a form acknowledging that they understand their rights and have been provided with a copy of the recording. As investigators collect witness statements and evidence, they should be looking for patterns and inconsistencies. Patterns may indicate that a general problem exists in the workplace. Inconsistencies may show that a specific person was not responsible for an incident.


Determining the cause

Investigators should consider all factors when trying to determine the cause of an incident. They should consider the facts as well as the human factors that contributed to the situation – including the personalities, emotions and motivations of all the people involved. Investigations often consider root causes like the type of work being done, the culture of the workplace, communication issues and the quantity and quality of training and supervision.


Taking corrective action

After investigating the incident, the HR department may conclude that the worker who made the comments was simply joking around with his co-workers. However, the comments made the other person feel uncomfortable and offended. This is a situation where corrective action should be taken. The worker responsible for the comments could apologize to the colleague who felt offended and seek to avoid making similar comments in the future.


Another option would be to recommend that the co-workers take the conversation to another venue where the colleague feels less threatened. If the situation warrants it, the company could also decide to discipline the worker responsible for the comments. If a manager is involved in such an incident, HR will often recommend a more severe corrective action than would be appropriate for an employee of a lower rank.



The workplace investigation process is an important one. It helps to eliminate or minimize the effects of sexual harassment, discrimination, and other types of misconduct. And while these incidents are unfortunate, they’re also very common. In one poll, more than half of people said they’ve experienced workplace misconduct in some form. Thankfully, most investigations result in findings that help companies take steps toward solving problems and making their workplace safer and more respectful.

Jolasers offer a comprehensive workplace investigation service in Melbourne and Regional Victoria

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