Overpolicing with Employee Investigations
Employee misconduct investigations have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic in an unprecedented way. The coronavirus restrictions are different in many states, with many businesses still operating most positions in a remote capacity. In correlation with this wave of remote working, there has also been a wave of interest from employers in hiring a private investigator to spy on their employees while they work from home.
Anyone in business knows that due-diligence is the cornerstone of good practice. A proper level of oversight on behalf of leadership reduces the odds of pervasive issues falling between the cracks in the system and ensuring that problems within the organization are handled swiftly and efficiently. It also demonstrates for the workforce that leadership is engaged with the internal issues of a corporation and is invested in creating a better work environment for their employees. However, there is a threshold where oversight becomes disruptive and unnecessary, and has the potential to further disturb the bottom line.
Private investigators across the globe are seeing an increase in employee misconduct investigations. A private investigator based in Manchester, England, told the Daily Mail recently, “That was a type of work you never really got prior to lockdown. Now we see a lot of enquiries. It is quite prevalent. We get employers using us for surveillance to confirm that people are actually working and not going out of the house.” Employers are feeling understandably uneasy about the prospect of employees working from home without direct supervision. Many employers have transitioned to software that tracks an employee’s production level, or spies on their home computer activity while working. Others are taking it a step further and hiring private investigators to monitor employees while they work from home. For example, an employee might express distress over going out in public during the pandemic, but then be seen out and about.
Private investigators have a skillset that is ideal for this type of surveillance and documentation. However, the overuse of private investigators to police the behavior of employees can also have a detrimental effect on the workforce, particularly if employee malingering is isolated and not rampant within the organization. What it comes down to is a question of reasonable suspicion. A reasonable suspicion constitutes evidence to a reasonable degree that an employee is malingering on company time. When heavy employee misconduct investigations are instituted by leadership on such a wide scale, there is an err of distrust between employer and employee. The employee may decided that if they are not worth their employer’s trust, they might disengage from their job. They might be even more inclined to steal from the employer despite the knowledge that they are under surveillance. That air of distrust between employer and employee can rot the company culture from within, leading to lower returns and higher costs in turnover and training.
The bottom line is that leadership should trust their employees until they give you a reasonable suspicion not to. When that happens, leadership should definitely reach out to private investigators for employee misconduct investigations to get important clarification on their corporate crises.