How to properly investigate whistleblowing reports

How to properly investigate whistleblowing reports

May 7, 2022

When an employee makes an informal or formal complaint, the employer should take immediate action to stop the alleged conflict, protect the parties involved and initiate investigations. Responsiveness to a complaint and an investigation will not only provide the best information and evidence, but it will also increase the credibility of both the investigator and the employer.

Investigations can help the organization identify and solve internal problems before they become more widespread. Given that each complaint has the potential to go to trial, employers should investigate each case in a way that can be brought before a court, if necessary.

In short, these are:

  • Create a plan for the investigation
  • Present relevant issues
  • Hold interviews

We take a closer look at each point below.

Create a plan for the investigation

An investigation must be planned to be effective and correctly conducted. A complete plan should include an overview of the issue, the development of a witness list, sources of information and evidence. It should also include interview questions focused on obtaining important information and details, and a process for storing documentation (eg interview notes and e-mails). which could be treated as evidence).

Also read: What is whistleblowing? And why is it important?

Present relevant issues

The questions asked during the investigation should be clear even before interviews begin. However, it is common for additional questions to arise during each interview. Something that is good to keep in mind is to ask questions that are relevant to what he has.

To design the questions to get the information you need, without it being a leading question. It should preferably be open-ended questions, as these work best to obtain information.

Hold interviews

It is during the interviews that you will gather the majority of all information through discussions with the parties involved, and by asking relevant questions. The most important thing is to remember not to be biased or ask leading questions. This also includes that you do not show extra sympathy or give a personal opinion regarding what happened or the people involved.

It is also advisable to remind the parties involved not to discuss the meetings outside the room. By noting everything that is said, and by acting objectively, the possibility of success is ever greater. The investigator must determine the credibility of the employees. Interviews give different accounts, and sometimes conflicting versions of events. 

Be aware that the issue is very personal for the employees. Due to the personal and emotional nature of the issue, their individual perceptions of what happened may be clouded by personal interests, or if their jobs are at stake, they may even lie.

Compile information & take disciplinary action

Once all the information has been collected and compiled, prepare a proposal for action to be presented to senior management or any manager. The investigator or management member, as well as legal advisers, should make the final decision on any employment measures that are justified based on the investigation report. The employer must take into account all parties involved as well as organizational processes, not just if the accused is guilty, in the final decision.

Once a decision has been made, the employer should notify both the complaining employee and the accused of the outcome. It is important to inform the complainant that the organization took the complaint seriously and took appropriate action.

The organization must ensure that the complainant agrees that he or she has been properly heard and understood, even if he or she does not agree with the results. The investigator should set a time frame for following up the whistleblower to ensure that there are no other problems and that he or she returns to the work environment.

To summarize

By being well prepared with questions before each interview, you give the investigation good conditions to proceed smoothly. Try to be objective and not offer your own opinion on what is being discussed.

By asking relevant and open questions, you get as much information as possible about what happened. The most important thing is to get a good overview of what has actually happened, so that the right decision can be made as easily as possible. Remember to take note of everything that is said and to compile the information between interviews.

With all the information in hand, you can take any disciplinary action. It is also a good idea to book a follow-up with the whistleblower, no matter how this process ends, to ensure that they have not experienced adverse effects or other problems.

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