Even managers who’ve been around the block a few times may not have a lot of experience investigating such employee complaints as harassment or discrimination claims.
In a way, it’s a good indicator if you lack familiarity with such complaints – it means your workplace is relatively free of the conditions that lead to them.
What to do, and say
But if you do have to look into complaints – and you should never brush them off – it helps to start with an idea of what you’re going to do and say. Here are some guidelines, with sample language you can use:
- Make sure the investigation is fair to all. Give each side equal time to state their case. “Tell me exactly what happened and why. Take all the time you need.”
- Keep it impartial. Do not hint that you favor one side over another. Say things like “I understand,” and “Can you elaborate?” Don’t make judgmental comments.
- Stick to facts. Don’t be sidetracked when people inject their opinions. Probe to uncover what they actually know. “What did you see?” “Who else was there?” “Can you prove it?”
- Doublecheck for duplicity. People may have hidden agendas. Test what they say. “Is that the real reason?” “Are you sure?”
- Keep it confidential. You cannot guarantee or enforce confidentiality, but you can encourage it for the benefit of all parties involved.
Subscribe to the Leadership Blog
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox