Partner Vs Steely Eyed Enforcer

October 19, 2022

I received an invitation today to attend a two-hour seminar to learn how to conduct a workplace investigation. The words that jumped off of the brochure included, “reduce your organization’s risk of liability,” “minimize liability,” “decrease the risk of your organization’s liability,” “investigative process,” “documentation processes,” “intricacies of interviewing,” “protect your employees,” “recalcitrant,” “lying,” “credibility,” “good documentation” …

Over my career I have had the opportunity to conduct many investigations. As a baby attorney, I was schooled in all of the above words, and used to participate in seminars discussing those exact same topics.

My attitude and approach has changed after sitting across the table with pen or keyboard in hand waiting for an answer from countless individuals. I now realize that I was trying to have a REGULATORY experience while the person across from me was having a very EMOTIONAL experience. As I tried to cross the T’s and dot the I’s of a company policy, the person on the other side of the table was worried about keeping their job, wondering how they could ever go back to their work team, kicking themselves for not keeping a log when their memory failed, or questioning why they even came forward in the first place.

Granted, knowing how to interview, discern facts, and apply facts to policy prohibitions is critical – and will always have its place. But, equally, if not more important, is the ability to discern the emotional well-being of an individual, a work team, or an organization. I would much rather be part of an organization that helped its leaders demonstrate emotional intelligence and create psychologically safe work teams, then schooled them on the intricacies of federal and state discrimination laws and the latest appellate court decisions.

My personal opinion is that most of us are more concerned about how we feel in the workplace, and only go to the policy manual after a supervisor exhibits they are tone deaf to clues of uncomfortableness. Most of us file complaints as a last resort – hoping for relief – and then when we are in the policy realm – it feels as stiff as the plastic seat we are sitting in during our interview. Don’t believe me – ask your most productive and engaged employees when was the last time they read the policy manual. We create these policies in part because of legal requirements, and in part, because as HR professionals we have been told it is the right thing to do, and in part, because there is some infinitesimal percentage of employees those do’s and don’ts are written for. Don’t get me wrong – my fingerprints are all over what I am taking umbrage with – as I helped write a 550 page handbook for one of the organizations where I worked. (Yikes – uncomfortable vulnerable moment!)

We are certainly able to help you with workplace investigations. But, we much rather partner with you to create environments where policy handbooks, investigations, and steely eyed enforcers of regulation are something only other employers have to worry about.

Your friends at BestDayHR