Ways to Deal with a Sensitive Workplace Investigation.

In a sensitive workplace investigation, the stakes are high for all parties involved. A HR representative must navigate tricky waters to ensure that the investigation is conducted fairly and that everyone remains comfortable throughout the process.

But what if your employee feels like she’s being treated unfairly? What if your employee becomes so uncomfortable that he/she begins looking for another job? What if you fear the repercussions of this investigation will bleed over into every department?

There could be several sensitive factors in play during any workplace investigation, but here are three ways to deal with them.


Communicate the Process from the Start

No matter how sensitive the investigation, your employees should know exactly what they are supposed to do. For example, they should know who they should report to, how they should report the incident, and how long the investigation will take.

If you work in a large organization with many HR procedures, your employees may already know this information. If not, communicating the process in detail will ensure that your employees don’t feel blindsided by the investigation.

A good way to communicate this information is by including it in an employee handbook. Your handbook is something employees will have access to in both professional and personal settings – so it’s a good place to start. If your organization doesn’t have a handbook, you can easily create one using a website like Squarespace.


Be transparent about your HR policies and investigations

As you conduct your investigation, make sure your employees understand why you’re asking a particular question or requesting a certain piece of information. If your employee feels like you’re constantly asking for more information than necessary, their experience of this investigation could become unbearable.

Conducting investigations can be time consuming and emotionally draining. Keeping the lines of communication open with your employee will help you get through it faster. If your employee is confused about why you’re asking a certain question, they may assume the worst. This can set them up to feel like the investigation is rigged against them – which will make the rest of the investigation even more uncomfortable.


Be transparent about the reasons for the investigation

Your employee might be wondering why this investigation is happening in the first place. If it isn’t related to a complaint they have made, maybe they are just worried about being investigated for no reason. If you’re conducting an investigation that is unrelated to any complaint made by your employee, make sure they understands the reasons for it. You may not be able to give them additional information, but you can let him know that the investigation has nothing to do with them.

If you conduct a sensitive investigation and don’t reveal the reasons for it, your employees will be left to assume the worst. They may think that you’re targeting them because of their age, race, gender, etc. If you don’t make clear that the investigation has nothing to do with any protected class, your employees may feel forced to quit.


Allow your employees to have a voice – even during sensitive investigations

It’s important to remember that even during sensitive investigations, your employees deserve a voice. If there is anything they would like to be added to the investigation, ask them to submit a memo.

If you’re conducting an investigation into discrimination or harassment, your employee may feel like he can’t have a voice or contribute to the investigation. If you conduct your investigation in a way that allows for a voice, they may feel more comfortable participating in the process. If your employee is experiencing discrimination or harassment, they may be afraid that speaking out will make the situation worse. Assure them that you’re conducting an investigation so that the situation can be resolved once and for all.



It’s important to remember that no matter how sensitive the investigation is, you must conduct it fairly. If your employee feels like he’s being treated unfairly during the investigation, they may file a complaint with HR or management.

When conducting investigations into sensitive situations, keep the following tips in mind: communicate the process from the start, be transparent about your HR policies and investigations, be transparent about the reasons for the investigation, and allow your employees to have a voice. By doing so, you can conduct a fair and comfortable investigation even when the situation is sensitive.

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