One of the most important jobs of an investigator is to establish a pattern of facts. Multiple witnesses reporting the same sequence of events bolsters confidence in the accuracy of the claim. Finding the same error at multiple locations establishes an agency-wide challenge. And multiple instances of the same bad behavior help establish intentionality in employee misconduct.
That last one is one of the most valuable tools in an investigator’s toolkit. Many improper interactions with co-workers can be explained away as a misunderstanding or a temporary lapse in judgement. But investigators are adept at establishing a pattern where one person is accused of similar behavior over a period of years or even decades. While the pattern may go unnoticed due to a change of managers or departments, an HR investigator can put together those pieces to help determine that employee is intentionally and repeatedly abusing or harassing other employees.
The most important tool for establishing a fact pattern is the mindset of an investigator. The best HR investigators are instinctively driven to gather as much knowledge about a situation as possible. During the course of investigations and interviews, they often hear allegations of similar improper behavior in that person’s past. As that behavior is substantiated and a pattern of employee misconduct is established, confidence in the investigator’s assessment rises.
The next best tool, however, is a system that can make patterns easier to recognize. HR investigation management software should bring to the forefront when two or more historical allegations share things in common, whether that is a subject, a location, or even a tool being used in the misconduct. While HR personnel are certainly meticulous enough to find this data and put it together themselves, a “self-searching” system can save countless hours of work, allowing them to focus on the facts of the cases rather than the linkages that connect them.
Here are two examples of an HR investigator establishing a pattern of bad behavior, making that behavior public, and removing the person from the organization.
- 1. An Office for Dispute Resolution internal investigation at Harvard resulted in a retired faculty member being stripped of privileges and barred from campus events. Over two dozen people alleged bad behavior, leading Harvard’s president to order an external review of what led to this behavior going unpunished (and in many cases unreported) for such a long period of time.
- 2. Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts publicly fired the state’s Director of Administrative Services after complaints that the director allowed sexual harassment allegations to go for months without being addressed. The governor empowered HR investigators from two outside state agencies to investigate the Department of Administrative Services. They found that the Director had repeatedly ignored recommendations to take action on the case. This was the second time Ricketts had fired someone for an improper response to a harassment allegations.
Cases like these are among the best opportunities for HR investigators to demonstrate their value, in part because their investigations unravel a series of related but previously unconnected facts that makes it impossible to explain away bad behavior. If your HR investigations management system isn’t helping you as you work to connect the dots in cases like these, it might be time to consider a new one!
To learn how CMTS:HR can help your HR department close cases more efficiently, call us at 855-636-5361 or email us at Team_CMTSHR@CMTSHR.com.