Do’s and Don’ts of Internal Investigations

HR Resource
January 7, 2013 — 2,765 views  
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Internal investigation is a very important process of an organization’s security program. It becomes a very serious matter when employees are suspected due to violating the rules of the company. Also known as ‘insider threats’, these employees can cause a lot of damage to the company. Such threats can manifest in a wide variety of forms like accounting fraud, theft of assets, unauthorized access to data, sexual harassment, retaliation, and inappropriate ways of communication or behavior.

Internal investigations try to reveal the truth regarding suspected misconduct within the company. However, the right way of conducting internal investigations is to ensure that the relationship with innocent employees is maintained. So, a good internal investigation asks for consistent execution, good planning, solid grasp, and analytical skills to understand the legalities involved.

The main part of internal investigations includes examination and collection of recorded and written evidence, network forensics, and interviews with witnesses and suspects. It may even require you to consult managers. So, before conducting the investigation, here are few things you should consider.

The do’s of Internal Investigations

While conducting internal investigations, always review the relevant policies regarding the case carefully beforehand. Be updated about the current laws and policies regarding the case, including local, state, and federal laws. Go for legal advice if you are not very sure about the steps you should take. Keep all your goals, observations, and discussions in mind before making any decision. It is also essential to be straightforward, clear, and direct while conducting the investigation. Your discussions should be very concise; always remember that there are always two possible victims - the accused and the accuser. So, it is crucial not to come to a decision before you investigate everything.

It is important that you listen and then record the questions and comments from your employee. Always communicate personally; avoid communication by phone so that you observe the reactions of the person properly.

The Don’ts of Internal Investigation

Whether the case in hand is about discrimination or harassment, do not make your personal opinion very evident. Check your body language, as it can reveal a lot about your opinion. While dealing with your employees, ensure that you are not biased. Even if the employee is your closest friend, you will have to be fair with your decision. Never soft-pedal tough discussions as they will not work.

You should not make promises before you gather all the information. While solving a particular case, your discussions should be confined only to that case. Do not discuss similar situations you have come across, which involve other employees. Never answer questions instantaneously; take some time out and then answer. Ensure that you do not answer in the initial stages of the investigation, but only listen to your employees and record their comments. Never use emails as your mode of communication. Even while delivering a very difficult message or while negotiating, be very direct. This will avoid any kind of misunderstanding that can occur due to emails.  

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