Disrespectful workplaces, is it time to investigate?

Are you working in a workplace that lacks respect? Hopefully, you’ve heard about a “Respectful Workplace” Policy.  Every employer in BC was legislated to put a policy in place by WorkSafeBC under the Workers Compensation Act and Regulations. But even with that policy, and even when employees endeavour to live up to the standards and expectations within, sometimes things happen that require investigation.  Ideally, that investigation can be done in-house by a trained HR professional but sometimes, an outside resource needs to be brought in.

Bullying and harassment standards that your policy must include:

  • Worker Responsibilities;
  • Employer Responsibilities; and
  • Supervisor Responsibilities.

At The Neutral Zone, we are most often brought in to a disrespectful workplace to investigate complex situations such as those:

  • Where the organization lacks the experience or expertise to complete an investigation;
  • When there is a significant power imbalance between the Complainant and the Respondent;
  • When the need for an impartial third party investigation is critical to deal with an issue that is having  significant impact on the individuals involved and/or on the organization.

Who is involved in an investigation?

Bullying and harassment investigations can be multifaceted.  All parties bring their own truths, realities, and beliefs.  Investigations include:

  • The Complainant: the person who has reported the incident; often the “victim”;
  • The Respondent(s): the person or persons who are named as those who are alleged to be in contravention of the Respectful Workplace Policy;
  • The Witnesses: those who may have seen, heard and been witness to the alleged behaviour, and
  • Any other person who may bring information that is of value to an investigation, such as a co-worker or colleague.

What happens in an investigation?

The Interviews. As Investigators, we need to be able to receive and accept information in an open manner, without bias and with the belief that the information provided is truthful. We are 100% committed to understanding the perspectives and truths of the person in front of us when interviewing.  Only when we are completely open to another’s story, not comparing it to what others have provided previously, can we understand the issues and motivations of the person in front of us, sharing their truth.

Gathering Additional Information. After having gathered as much information as possible, the next step in the investigation is to find factual support for the statements being made, from all parties, to support and corroborate the information that has been gathered. Documents, emails, text messages and other information are critical in any investigation, to provide context and support to the statements being made.

Composing the Report. Capturing the information in the investigation report is the next step.  Focused on the organization’s Respectful Workplace/Bullying and Harassment Policy and with guidance from WorkSafeBC policies and procedures as noted above, the Investigator crafts a report that is based on facts.  Beliefs, opinions and hearsay are not a part of a useful investigation report.  Facts, and at times probabilities, are key.

What happens next?

It is important to note that not every investigation ends with a clear and definitive outcome. At times, the facts do not support the allegations, or there may be insufficient information to be able to determine that the organization’s policies have been breached. Even when there is no clear outcome to an investigation, or not the outcome is not as anticipated, the process creates an opportunity for the organization and its employees to learn and grow and to be better versed in understanding the key elements of creating and maintaining a respectful workplace.   

We have several very talented and experience Investigators at The Neutral Zone Coaching and Consulting Services Inc. If your company is experiencing challenges with bullying and harassment, we can help in several ways including education, facilitation, assessment, and investigation.  Contact us for a free consultation.

Disrespectful workplaces, is it time to investigate?

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