When a government agency moves to address substantiated misconduct it’s easy to focus on the external damage that has been done. Were any laws broken? Were vendors or partners harmed? How should the issue be addressed publicly? After those issues are handled, the agency may look inwards to determine whether misconduct is more pervasive, or if it has affected morale.
It’s important to remember that most misconduct has a victim, and that victim often works for you and was subjected to a toxic work environment under your agency’s roof. In some instances, such as sexual harassment or assault, the damage is obvious. But there are plenty of other forms of misconduct that can cause distress. Workplace bullying causes long-term emotional damage. Demanding that subordinates perform ethically questionable or obviously illegal tasks is similarly distressing.
If you want to truly address the damage that’s been done, you need to help victims of misconduct to recover from what they’ve experienced. Victims of misconduct should be acknowledged, and sincere apologies should be issued. Ideally, they will have access to an Employee Assistance Program that can help them address any psychological harm they’ve experienced.
They may also need some degree of separation from the stress stimuli to help them heal. This can range from a couple of days off work to a department transfer. These requests should be accommodated to the extent possible – but remember to never transfer an employee without their approval, as this can be perceived as punishment for reporting misconduct.
Unfortunately, some employees may not feel that they can recover while they’re still working for your organization. If that’s the case, you should work to help them in their career transition, including access to unemployment benefits if they aren’t moving directly from one job to another.
This may not be considered a part of the investigation or the remediation, but it’s an important part of keeping your employees happy and motivated. Other employees will learn how victims of misconduct were treated, and it will impact employee retention, morale, and likelihood to report future instances of misconduct. This, along with the moral obligation to your employees, is reason enough to put forward the effort to repair the damage that was done by your employees, to your employees.
To learn how CMTS:HR can help your organization better handle workplace investigations, call us at 855-636-5361 or email us at Team_CMTSHR@CMTSHR.com.