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Respect in the Workplace: Harassment Investigations – A Practice Guide

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No executive leader deliberately plans to oversee a work place investigation. Yet the need to do so can arise, and when it does, it often does so abruptly. Work place investigations are different in kind from law enforcement investigations, or court room cross examinations. Find out what you need to do to be a ‘work place investigation oversight hero”, rather than the person whose investigation ends up in a court case.

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The work world has changed

What used to be acceptable forms of behavior between peers, and between boss and direct report, are now often viewed as ‘harassing’ behaviors. Everyone in the workplace is expected to be respectful in the way they work with team mates and the way in which they manage their direct reports. The number of workplace harassment investigations is constantly increasing. So is the number that end up in court after the fact. It does not need to be this way!

Workplace Investigations Best Practices Don’t Come from Law Enforcement or Court Room Cross Examinations

The investigators who conduct them must themselves work in ways that get at the ‘below the surface’ truth, while staying respectful of the complainants, witnesses, and alleged offenders with whom they interact. Criminal investigation interviewing techniques and court room cross examination techniques don’t achieve this goal. The relationship dynamics in a workplace investigation are very different from those which characterize a law enforcement or court room situation.

Witnesses and alleged offenders cannot be cross examined or pressured in the ways used by law enforcement agents and lawyers. Instead, workplace investigations need to be skilled in building rapport. They need to understand that they are ‘professionals relating to workplace peers’, not law enforcement officers to potential ‘accused’s’, or of court room lawyers cross examining the ‘other side’s’ witness. Few law enforcement agents and court room skilled lawyers act effectively on this crucial difference.

Business executives and business owners are accountable for overseeing work place investigations 

If you are an executive with the need to commission a workplace investigation into harassment, whatever form it takes, you must take responsibility for ensuring that this difference is implemented successfully.  As the investigation business sponsor, you must select investigators who are professional, workplace investigators who understand managerial dynamics and ethics. You retain the responsibility for the oversight of the investigation.  

The Right Mindset – Alleged Offenders. Not Accused; Uncovering What Happened, Not Making a Case

This guide is for you. It provides you with the information you that the investigation you must oversee meets its required process and interview standards. The investigation must deliver actionable results to you that are defend-able before a judge, should any party to the investigation appeal those results in a lawsuit.

If you are a professional investigator, this guide will inform you about the workplace place investigation management standards to which you must comply to deliver actionable results to the investigation business sponsor which will stand the test of a potential follow up law suit.

This book sets out what investigation business sponsors, and the investigators they choose, must do to meet these requirements. The practice guide lays out all of the processes and steps that today’s workplace harassment investigators need to know to thoughtfully conduct such investigations. It’s seven Chapters summarize the deep experience gained by carrying out toxic workplace, sexual harassment and other workplace investigations. Its Appendixes provide sample reports, forms and communication templates.


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