Two office workers pass a document across the table

A look at how HR investigations should be conducted

In our modern workplace, fostering an environment of trust, respect, and accountability is paramount. This necessitates the implementation of robust mechanisms to address and resolve workplace conflicts promptly and impartially. Successfully handling conflict and achieving conflict resolution can be attested to the pivotal role of conducting fair, unbiased, and timely investigations while maintaining organizational harmony and integrity.

Workplace investigations serve as a cornerstone in addressing allegations of misconduct, discrimination, harassment, or any other form of inappropriate behavior. They provide a structured process for gathering evidence, assessing credibility, and making informed decisions based on facts rather than assumptions or biases. Moreover, they demonstrate a commitment to upholding fundamental principles of fairness, equity, and due process, thereby safeguarding the rights and well-being of all parties involved.

One of the key principles underlying effective workplace investigations is impartiality. Investigations must be conducted by individuals who are objective, unbiased, and possess the necessary skills and expertise to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics sensitively. This often involves appointing trained professionals such as HR personnel, external consultants, or legal advisors who can ensure the integrity and credibility of the investigative process.

Read more: When HR Should Hire a Mediator to Resolve Workplace Conflict

Risks of conducting internal HR investigations

Your human resources department may not be the best option when it comes to handling workplace investigations. In-house investigations can pose several risks, despite the potential benefits of familiarity with company culture and processes. Some of these risks include:

Bias and lack of objectivity

Internal investigators may have pre-existing relationships with the parties involved or be influenced by organizational dynamics, leading to unconscious bias or perceptions of partiality. This can compromise the integrity of the investigation and undermine trust in its findings.

Conflict of interest

Internal investigators may have personal or professional connections to the individuals involved in the complaint, creating a conflict of interest that undermines their impartiality and credibility. This can raise questions about the fairness and transparency of the investigative process.

Perception of retaliation or reprisal

Employees may fear reprisal or retaliation from management or colleagues if they raise concerns or participate in the investigation, particularly if the investigation is conducted internally. This fear can deter employees from coming forward with complaints, leading to underreporting of misconduct and perpetuating a culture of silence.

Limited expertise and experience

Internal investigators may lack the specialized training, expertise, or experience required to conduct thorough and effective investigations, particularly in cases involving complex legal or regulatory issues. This can result in procedural errors, incomplete analyses, and flawed conclusions that undermine the credibility of the investigation.

Confidentiality concerns

Maintaining confidentiality during an internal investigation can be challenging, particularly in small or close-knit organizations where rumors and speculation may spread quickly. Breaches of confidentiality can compromise the privacy and dignity of the parties involved and undermine trust in the investigative process.

Legal and compliance risks

Mishandling workplace investigations can expose organizations to legal liabilities, including lawsuits alleging discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or violations of employment laws. Inadequate documentation, procedural errors, or biased decision-making can weaken the organization’s defense and result in costly legal settlements or judgments.

Reputational damage

Public disclosure of workplace misconduct or mishandling of investigations can damage the organization’s reputation both internally and externally. Negative publicity can erode trust among employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders, leading to long-term consequences for the organization’s brand and bottom line.

To mitigate these risks, organizations may consider outsourcing investigations to external third-party professionals, such as independent HR consultants, legal experts, or specialized investigative firms. Outsourcing can provide an added layer of objectivity, expertise, and confidentiality while demonstrating a commitment to fairness, accountability, and compliance with legal and ethical standards.

If your organization is facing a serious internal conflict, it may be time to consult a third-party professional. Not just anyone will do – it’s incredibly important to do your research and pick the right investigator near you to conduct a thorough, unbiased workplace investigation. The goal is to get all the facts required to make a thoughtful, informed decision based on the outcome of the process.

Discover Global Mindful Solutions’ Investigation services to better understand how we can help you reach conflict resolution and maintain productivity in your workplace.

Explore Workplace Investigation Services

Along with an unbiased approach to workplace investigations, timeliness is also critical in mitigating potential harm, preventing escalation, and restoring trust within the workplace. Delays in addressing complaints not only prolong the suffering of affected parties but also create an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety among employees. Therefore, organizations must establish clear guidelines and timelines for conducting investigations, ensuring that they are completed in a prompt and efficient manner.

What’s the harm in waiting to conduct a workplace investigation?

Waiting to investigate in the workplace poses several risks that can have detrimental effects on both individuals and the organization as a whole. Some of these risks include:

Continued harm to parties involved

Delaying an investigation prolongs the suffering of individuals who have experienced harassment, discrimination, or other forms of misconduct. This not only perpetuates their distress but also increases the likelihood of further harm, as the behavior may continue unchecked.

Erosion of trust and poor morale

When employees perceive that their concerns are being ignored or neglected, it erodes trust in the organization and its leadership. This can lead to decreased morale, disengagement, and a toxic work environment characterized by fear and resentment.

Conflict escalation

Unresolved issues have the potential to escalate into more serious conflicts, disrupting workplace dynamics and productivity. Left unaddressed, grievances may fester and manifest in retaliation, retaliation complaints, or even legal action, further exacerbating tensions within the organization.

Negative impacts on organization’s reputation

News of workplace misconduct or allegations left unaddressed can tarnish the organization’s reputation both internally and externally. Negative publicity may deter potential employees, clients, or investors and damage relationships with stakeholders, resulting in long-term consequences for the organization’s brand and bottom line.

Legal and financial consequences

Delaying investigations exposes organizations to legal liabilities, including lawsuits alleging negligence, harassment, discrimination, or other violations of employment laws. Legal proceedings can be time-consuming, costly, and damaging to the organization’s finances and reputation.

Loss of talent and high turnover

Employees who feel unsupported or unsafe may choose to leave the organization, resulting in a loss of valuable talent and institutional knowledge. High turnover rates can disrupt operations, strain resources, and hinder organizational growth and stability.

Regulatory compliance risks

In many Canadian jurisdictions, employers have legal obligations to investigate workplace complaints promptly and thoroughly. Failure to comply with regulatory requirements can result in fines, sanctions, or other enforcement actions by regulatory authorities.

Delaying workplace investigations not only prolongs the suffering of affected parties but also exposes organizations to a myriad of risks, including legal, reputational, and operational consequences. By prioritizing the timely and thorough resolution of workplace complaints, organizations can mitigate these risks, uphold their commitment to employee well-being and fairness, and foster a positive and productive work environment.

Read more: The Cost of Unresolved Conflict

In Canada, while there is no specific legal requirement dictating the exact timeframe for completing a workplace investigation, several factors influence the appropriate timeline. These include the complexity of the allegations, the number of witnesses involved, the availability of relevant evidence, and the need for thoroughness and diligence. However, it is generally recognized that investigations should be conducted as expeditiously as possible without compromising their integrity or thoroughness.

Organizations must also prioritize the allocation of time, resources, and support necessary to facilitate timely investigations. This may involve providing adequate training to investigators, implementing streamlined processes and protocols, and leveraging technology to enhance efficiency and transparency.


Failure to conduct unbiased, timely investigations not only undermines the credibility of the investigative process but also exposes organizations to legal liabilities, reputational damage, and erosion of employee morale. Therefore, it is incumbent upon employers to recognize the urgency and significance of addressing workplace complaints promptly and decisively.

Remember: Fair, unbiased, and timely workplace investigations are indispensable tools for fostering a culture of respect, equity, and accountability in the modern workplace. By upholding these principles, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to upholding fundamental rights, promoting employee well-being, and fostering a harmonious and productive work environment.

If your organization is experiencing roadblocks in finding effective ways to manage workplace conflict and needs professional investigation or mediation services, consulting with a neutral third party will help resolve distracting, challenging situations and empower all participants to settle on an agreeable solution that propels your organization forward.

At Global Mindful Solutions, we have established processes that aim to provide insightful, comprehensive solutions with a compassionate and unbiased approach. This allows everyone involved to focus on returning to work and continue to make a positive contribution to their organization while leading fulfilling roles in their careers.

Contact Global Mindful Solutions for neutral, knowledgeable, and effective mediation, facilitation, and restoration services.

613-869-9130 |


343 Preston Street, Suite 1100, Ottawa, ON, K1S 1N4

Related articles on workplace investigations: