TO DEVELOP AND NURTURE A CULTURE OF RESPECT, WHERE
WORKERS FEEL SAFE AND ABLE TO SPEAK UP WHEN THERE
ARE ISSUES, IS SOMETHING HR CAN’T DO ALONE.
INTERNAL VS. EXTERNAL INVESTIGATIONS
Once an incident comes to light, organizations will need to decide
whether to handle an investigation internally or bring in external
On the one hand, it’s frequently in an organization’s best interest
to keep investigations internal, since there are costs and
implications of looking beyond the organization for help. If the
goal is to handle an investigation internally, however, the person at
the helm needs to have both the time and the expertise – and that
can be a tall order.
When there is a serious complaint, hiring a third-party investigator
can make sense.
“If an HR person is carrying out the role of listening to the complainant,
then investigating, then deciding – especially when this
HR person knows all the parties – it’s a lot to take on and it might
also be perceived as less fair or impartial,” said McNaught.
When a situation has the potential to be very high profile or attract
media attention, then looking beyond the organization’s walls
is a wise move.
“You can probably think of any number of the high-profile sexual
harassment cases we’ve read about in the media recently and
ask yourself: Would they really have wanted someone internal to
investigate that?” said Thomlinson. “Many of these organizations
make the decision to go outside the moment they see what’s on
While HR tends to be the keeper and promoter of sexual harassment
policies and procedures, as well as the point-person in the case
of a complaint, it’s an organization-wide issue at heart. To develop
and nurture a culture of respect, where workers feel safe and able
to speak up when there are issues, is something HR can’t do alone.
Continued on page 26
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24 ❚ OCTOBER 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL