Quashing Bias in Internal Investigations

With the current outbreak of COVID-19 keeping many employees at home, corporations in the midst of internal overhaul are feeling the drag. Investigations that could improve a corporation from within could be on hold, or being conducted by an internal investigator to mitigate the complications of the stay-at-home order. An internal investigation can often be the sharpest of double-edged swords in the business world. From employee theft to executive misconduct, internal investigations can often be the most attractive option for management and C-level executives. Internal investigations provide the investigating company with enough control over the situations to make crucial in-house decisions, overhaul faulty processes, and improve the quality of life of their organization, all while flying under the radar of public scrutiny. However, the obvious inherent issue with an internal investigation is an implicit level of bias that can have devastating consequences.

The idea of implicit bias within a corporation is usually brought up with regards to their diversity and how the lack of it creates blind spots within leadership. However, implicit bias can be the poison that rots an investigation from the inside out. There are innumerable factors that can influence a person’s inherent bias, like interactions with others, personal experiences, or exposure to external stimuli that can change a person’s beliefs. These factors are exacerbated when the investigator in question is part of the corporation or organization being investigation.

When an investigation is handled internally, leadership can obviously trust the investigator to conduct their fact-finding missions swiftly and discreetly with the best interests of the company in mind, but this comes at a cost, and that cost is internal bias.Internal investigators already have the bias of experience and personal belief as human beings. On top of that, you can add the inherent bias of being a part of the organization they are investigating. Internal investigations can have a myriad of consequences, the most extreme of which would be the dissolution of the corporation. That factor alone—the preservation of one’s job—is one of the strongest motivations for skewing results of an internal investigation in the corporation’s favor. When the investigator has a direct or indirect stake in the preservation of the corporation, the investigation can never be objective—leads will go unpursued, testimony uncorroborated, and important facts might be excluded from the findings of the investigation. This level of bias is something that many companies simply cannot afford.

Appointing an internal investigator to handle pervasive issues may sound like good money sense that also provides a layer of protection for the corporation, but the consequential costs of such an investigation can be astronomical. Internal bias can set an investigation back for weeks, leading to more lost productivity and profits. First and foremost, a faulty internal investigation can have litigious consequences that leadership might not foresee. For example, an internal investigation that results in the termination of an employee can result in a wrongful termination lawsuit on behalf of the former employee. If the investigation is subsequently found to be biased, the court could award the former employee with damages as part of a settlement, which can have devastating financial repercussions for the corporation or organization.

One of the worst parts of internal investigations is that the repercussions can end in the investigation being a huge waste of time and money for a corporation—like in the wrongful termination suit against IBM in 2013. An internal investigation into the employee’s misconduct resulted in that employee being terminated, and when the suit was brought to court, IBM wanted to show the court that they had conducted a fair investigation. The findings of IBM’s internal investigation were precluded from trial because it was determined by the court that the investigation was in fact biased. The court found that the internal investigator did not interview witnesses who might have supported the employee’s version of events. This resulted in countless of useless hours processed through payroll, not to mention the waste of resources and loss of productivity that consequently occurred. This is why if your corporation is considering conducting an internal investigation, it is a solid investment to hire an independent investigator before initiating an investigation.

Hiring a private investigator may seem like an unconventional way to approach an internal investigation. After all, how are you supposed to willingly invite an investigator who is a stranger to your organization and trust them to give you the best recommendations to improve it from within? Regardless of which private or independent investigator you hire, there is always one thing your money guarantees, and that’s objectivity. Unlike the aforementioned IBM case in which the internal investigation was precluded from trial due to bias, independent investigators are exactly that—independent, and their objectivity comes with a much higher threshold of bias and scrutiny. This means money spent on an investigation now won’t be for nothing when consequential litigation comes up on the docket.

Because private investigators are independent from the organization, their findings and testimony come with a higher degree of integrity. Private investigators have no direct or indirect stake in the outcome of an independent investigation, so their factual findings are not clouded by office politics or industry bias. They only have their verified resources and a toolbox of experience that allows them to gather evidence and follow leads internal investigators might not have considered or ignored. Internal bias can derail an investigation from the beginning, and it’s important to have an independent set of eyes in order to prevent lost productivity and manhours.

Furthermore, having an independent investigator like one of the quality private investigators with Lauth Investigations International, you know that you can trust the results of any investigation are free of internal bias. It is the source of intelligence that has the power to improve any corporation or organization from within—resolving pervasive issues within the workplace that contribute to drop in employee morale & engagement, productivity, and profits. Call Lauth Investigations International today to get a free consultation on our corporate culture audit and corporate intelligence services.

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