How do I conduct an internal investigation after a complaint?

As a business manager, the last thing you want to encounter is seeing your company in the news for illegal or unethical practices. Facing investigations by the federal government may also cause you some discomfort and understandably so.

One reason whistleblowers consider external programs is that managers do not always take adequate action in-house. Showing a commitment to tackling the matter in-house may help to prevent some embarrassment or government meddling.

Provide confidentiality

The Society for Human Resource Managers recommends reassuring employees that you will provide confidential treatment. If you cannot keep all matters under wraps, let the employee know what to expect.

Offer protection

SHRM points out that based on the situation, you may need to protect the alleged victim, the accused party or both. It recommends separating the two parties until further notice, if possible.

Choose an investigator

As a business executive or even the owner of the business, you may feel tempted to handle this matter yourself. However, you have a vested interest in the business, so consider someone who may play a less biased role. Professional investigators, attorneys, accountants and human resource professionals are top choices.

Make a plan

A good investigator generally presents you with a plan or works with you to create one. This may include determining who to question, when and how. The investigator may also propose specific questions to get to the bottom of the matter.

Conduct investigation

SHRM recommends interviewing parties to get the appropriate information. However, this may not prove sufficient for some types of investigations. For instance, when it involves accounting, a forensics accountant may spend more time checking the books than asking questions.

Conclude the investigation

After gathering information, your investigator should present you with information. You may then need to make decisions on how to proceed. In some cases, you may have a moral or legal obligation to disclose some of your findings to relevant authorities.