Every business owner knows the satisfaction that comes with smooth day-to-day operations and how sacred that kind of productivity truly is. But it only takes one individual—whether it’s a threatening employee or someone engaging in other types of serious misconduct—to turn everything upside down. This is why workplace investigations are an essential element to any thriving business model.
As a leader, if the buck stops with you in such a situation, it can be tricky to know what steps to take first. The choices you make in the coming hours and days will define how much disruption the rest of your team will endure and whether the situation is resolved quickly or starts to escalate.
But don’t panic. It’s time to take a deep breath and get practical about remedial action. As seasoned corporate investigators, we support businesses navigating this kind of workplace misconduct every day. So discover here key questions that we encourage you to ask yourself as well as our tips on how to steer the course from here. Plus, if you need extra support, we’re only a phone call away.
Taking Action is Everything
Far too many employers who see an employee threatening someone on their staff or get reports of workplace misconduct bury their heads. They don’t want to deal with the repercussions of taking on someone who might play an essential role, or they are intimidated by the prospect of associated mounting paperwork. But this strategy is highly flawed, because if what’s unfolding before you now should later lead to litigation, your delayed response could be considered negligent, drawing substantial legal costs or fines.
“Is remedial action required, such as calling law enforcement, seeking medical support, or making a dangerous condition safe?”
Instead, any complaint of a threatening employee or other serious misconduct allegation should be taken seriously, documented, and acted upon immediately. You need to think of your position as similar to that of a “first responder”. Your staff—and your customer base if this later gets out—need to see that you have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to misconduct.
Safeguard Your Team
Unless you witnessed serious misconduct or threatening behavior yourself, you may not know the truth of any allegation just yet. However, there are steps you can take to safeguard your team until the facts come to light. Particularly if you’ve heard reports of an employee threatening, bullying, or harassing one of their colleagues, you’ll want to take steps to make the complainant feel secure.
“Should we suspend the accused individual for the duration of the investigation and does the complainant need further support?”
This may include moving their workstation, changing their working hours, or putting the accused employee on paid administrative leave. The latter becomes more relevant if it may be necessary to ensure the rest of your team also feel safe in the workplace. Taking temporary measures to ensure that all individuals involved are separated or removed from the premises where appropriate will mitigate the possibility of any further threat.
Gather and Preserve Evidence
Evidence gathering is key to all workplace investigations. This includes gathering documented evidence, CCTV footage, digital records, and—perhaps most crucially—complainant, suspect, and witness statements while memories are fresh.
“What evidence do we need to preserve and whose statements do we need to take? If we uncover a possible crime, what is our reporting obligation?”
All investigative steps taken and interviews conducted must be fully documented including times and dates. Be sure to follow practical and legal guidelines, for example informing the witness of the investigator’s identity, that there will be no retaliation or reward for participation, and how their testimony may be used. The individual charged with conducting this process must be impartial—so free from any relationship with the parties involved.
Drawing and Acting Upon Conclusions
When workplace investigations are launched in response to a complaint about a threatening employee or serious workplace misconduct, the diligence and integrity of their totality are what will ensure a solid conclusion. When every step has been taken by the book, the employer can feel confident to pursue disciplinary steps or enact a dismissal, however, it is important to remember that the story doesn’t always end there.
“Do we have a media response prepared if necessary and what are our policies on external communications?”
Particularly when a threatening employee is let go, it is always best to be prepared in case they bring a wrongful dismissal claim against your company. When prepared for worst case scenarios, any boat rocking can be minimized. You can preempt anything that may impact public perception and have your team ready if a legal issue is raised—all while hoping for the best, which is of course a return to smooth and satisfying productivity.
Do you need impartial and expert support in mounting workplace investigations following serious misconduct or due to a threatening employee? The corporate team here at Lauth Investigations International specializes in conducting swift, discreet, and professional investigations and are ever-ready to guide you through the process. Reach out today to learn more about the various ways in which we can assist.