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Let’s not make this awkward: what to do after a workplace investigation

So you’ve completed a workplace investigation and reported the results to the parties. But things are tense. Understandably, investigations related to workplace harassment, discrimination, reprisal, and violence, will often lead to feelings of mistrust and isolation. Especially if the complainant and respondent stay.

But there are things employers and organizations can do to help restore the workplace and ensure things move forward.

Of course, during the investigation it is important to receive confidentiality agreements from all parties, ensuring that knowledge about the complaint is contained. It is also important to let parties know that any form of reprisal will not be tolerated.

But the importance of reminding parties of duties around confidentiality and reprisal after the investigation has concluded is often overlooked. The parties should be reminded when provided the results of the investigation.

Here are some more tips that can help create a healthy work environment after the investigation:

  • Meeting with the complainant – While the law doesn’t require you to have an in-person meeting with the complainant, it’s a good idea. You can thank the complainant for bringing the complaint to make it known that your organization takes workplace complaints seriously. You can also ask the complainant about their ideas on what can make the work environment better, so they feel included.
  • Meeting with the respondent  – Likewise, schedule a meeting with the respondent. Especially if the allegations are substantiated, you should reassure the respondent that they have a place in the organization. They should also be reminded that any form of reprisal or retaliation will not be tolerated, and  that you are there to hear their concerns. This way, they will feel safe to continue working.
  • Consider a culture audit/additional training – Instances of harassment, discrimination, and incivility are sometimes part of a bigger workplace problem. If the investigation reveals that the harassment and discrimination is systemic, linked to widespread incivility, or has created a toxic work environment, a culture audit may be beneficial.  Similarly, if the investigation reveals that ignorance about the law and the organization’s policy is widespread, then organization wide training may be a solution. 

Remember, the investigation process doesn’t end at the report. Organizations should take steps to ensure that everyone feels safe to continue to work in a safe, respectful, and healthy workplace.