Are Your Workplace Investigations Taking Too Long?


Workplace investigations are intended to support a resolution to workplace conflict and restore stability. However, recently, many clients have noted that such investigations have only served to worsen team dynamics and morale. This is because they are taking far too long, without any justifiable explanation or genuine appreciation for the resulting harm. This concern applies to both internal investigations and those being conducted by external consultants.

Organizations must exercise due diligence when retaining investigators to ensure they have the capacity to complete an investigation within a reasonable and clearly defined window of time. The only reasonable and defensible basis to adjust this timeline is for unforeseeable delays, such as unavailability of a party or key witness due to a matter outside their control, such as illness. The “busy schedule” of a party, witness or investigator is not an unforeseeable or reasonable basis for delay. If investigators are too busy to complete investigations in a timely manner, they should disclose this at the outset; and the organization should look elsewhere.

When I am contacted by clients to conduct an environmental scan or investigation, I encourage and invite questions such as:

  • Do you have the capacity to conduct this matter?
  • When do you anticipate completion of your review?
  • We need this review to be completed within _____ months (or more urgently) due to the nature of the complaint. Are you able to complete the review by then?
  • In an effort to facilitate completion of this review, we ask that you limit the scope of your investigation to specific issues; and contact us before broadening its scope to include other matters. Are you agreeable to this?

There is nothing disrespectful or inappropriate in asking questions of and establishing expectations with any contractor, including workplace investigators.

Remember, when retaining investigators (and other conflict resolution experts), you are a client who is purchasing an incredibly important service, one that is meant to support your workplace – and make things better. It is up to you to manage such contracts in a manner that facilitates your legal requirement to maintain a psychologically safe, fair and respectful workplace. This includes the need to commence and complete objective investigations in a timely manner.

Please contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions about your workplace investigations – past, present or future. I’m always happy to chat.

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