INVESTIGATION MEETINGS – THE DO’S AND DON’TS
During the course of your employment you may face the prospect of being involved in a disciplinary process. Each employer is responsible for carrying out its own disciplinary procedures by following a prescribed policy in regard to how these procedures are to be conducted. In general they should always begin with an investigation meeting. In order for an investigation meeting to be initiated by an employer, you should first be notified in writing that either a complaint has been made against you or that there has been an allegation made against you. The complaint or allegation can be for example an issue with the manner in which you performed your duties, your behaviour towards a patient or it could be an allegation of serious misconduct. For simplicity we will refer to the notification as ‘the complaint’.
It is understandable that the immediate reaction to these notifications are feelings of anger, injustice and fear. This is a normal reaction to an incredibly stressful situation. However what can happen is emotions fuel you to vent your feelings to whoever will listen in order to justify your position. You talk to your colleagues about the injustices that you are facing and human resources or managers are contacted to try and ‘resolve’ the matter before it can be taken any further.
Our advice to you when you are faced with a complaint or allegation that has been made against you is: do not discuss the matter with any other person in your workplace. Do not discuss the matter with managers’, with human resources, colleagues or any other staff member in your place of employment. The reason is that you are reacting emotionally to the situation. When you react emotionally your decisions are based on your feelings as opposed to the facts and can be to your detriment. Your employer is interested in the facts and you should only provide them with the facts. An emotional reaction is often accompanied by ‘loose lips’ and too much, often irrelevant information being disclosed which can detract from the matter at hand and exacerbate the allegations made against you.
Instead take some time to absorb that you have had a complaint made against you and do not instantly react. Being notified that there is a pending investigation with regard to a complaint does not mean the complaint has any basis or validity. Contact APEX to discuss the complaint, we can help you put things in perspective and offer support, advice and guidance on how to deal with this stressful situation. Further discussing the matter with APEX will give you an opportunity to vent your feelings and allows you time to process what has happened.
In regard to managing the complaint, your first course of action is making sure that you have all the information in regard to the complaint from your employer. Get a clear explanation of what the allegations are, before agreeing to have any meetings scheduled to discuss them. This point cannot be emphasised enough! Gather all the evidence your employer intends to use to justify the complaint made against you. APEX can assist you in gathering this information.
You are entitled to know exactly why your employer is carrying out an investigation process. Therefore request that your employer provide all the evidence pertaining to the complaint, ask your employer to provide a copy of the complaint, examples of incidents complained of, dates, times and relevant information about all the parties involved in the matter. Further always ask for your employer’s policies with regard to their disciplinary procedures and make sure you understand how your employer is required to carry out their own procedure.
Do not accept a notification that does not spell out exactly why you are being investigated. Having all the pertinent information affords you an opportunity to prepare a response to your employer that specifically addresses the complaint made against you. You will have a clear perspective on the matters that need to be discussed and what information you need to disclose during the course of the investigation. An investigation meeting should not be used as a ‘fishing expedition’ to gather all and any information from you. The information disclosed at the investigation meeting will determine whether further action is taken by your employer, so what you disclose needs to be accurate and relevant.