A Resolution Approach to Investigations

August 3rd, 2022

“I was angry with my friend; I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe; I told it not, my wrath did grow.” – William Blake  

As we know, the traditional model for workplace investigations is highly formalised, with a focus on policy and disciplinary action, often leaving little room for the parties involved to really feel heard. This process is commonly deeply distressing for employees, as well as time-consuming and expensive for companies. Resolution often comes in the form of the loss of one or more once-valued individuals, causing even greater strain and expense for teams and employers. When the process of investigation is given more consideration than the outcome, disengagement and mistrust occurs, placing yet more barriers in the way of satisfactory resolution.  

It is important that we change this focus and instead look to use a combination of skills and learning in order to choose the most appropriate approach to individual conflicts as they occur and to use these approaches to educate, arming employees with the skills they need to successfully navigate future conflicts.  

At Resolution at Work, we combine mediation and investigations skills and approach all stages of the investigation process with resolution at the fore. It is essential that we can spot the situations that are better suited to informal approaches and make these recommendations at the earliest stage. We will encourage a resolution approach wherever possible and have successfully enabled clients to resolve formal complaints using mediation and other informal conflict resolution approaches which has been positive for everyone concerned. 

In addition, appropriate adjustments in the approach to interviews with individuals can hold the key to resolving conflicts. Empathy, sensitivity and allowing parties a voice can have an incredible impact. By placing the contributions of the individual front and centre, we are empowering those involved, creating a process that works for them and not against them. With this comes the trust and respect needed to move forward towards resolution. In complex cases, perhaps where there is high emotion, or cases involving mental ill health or neurodivergence, it becomes even more important that we can adapt our approach with sensitivity, allowing for positive support throughout the process and making recommendations that include and empower instead of further alienating. Training and conflict coaching can be used to give individuals and teams the skills to foster effective and positive working relationships and heal rifts that may have once seemed insurmountable.  

This approach can have excellent results even in cases at Grievance level, as this case study shows: 

In this case, the individual who had the grievance raised against them had a mental health condition which had by their own admission impacted their conduct and behaviour at the time.  

By ensuring the communication between investigator and the involved parties was sensitively structured to be both inclusive and resolution focused, the investigator was able to foster an environment that allowed for acknowledgement of the impact these behaviors had on the employees involved and to then make constructive and effective recommendations that reflected that impact. The outcome of the investigation did not uphold all of the allegations; however, it was accepted by all concerned, with an acknowledgement that there had been contributing behaviours on both sides.  

 The recommendation then was for mediation, and for conflict coaching for one of the individuals. The outcome has been that the employees involved (who are valued and well regarded) remain in the business and there have been some real beneficial learnings from an organisational perspective as well as a positive impact on the individuals. The recommendation for conflict coaching was upheld, and this has increased their awareness of how to react and respond to conflict and given them the skills to better manage situations should they arise in future.  

Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of fostering good working relationships, and the impact on productivity when this is not made a priority. Unresolved conflict creates an unnecessary burden of cost on businesses that is no longer sustainable. Mediation and conflict coaching adds value in ways that benefit not only the individuals receiving it but the cultures of the businesses they work within. Investing in staff in this way, particularly at management level, allows them to forge trust-led, effective employment relationships and to lead by example.  

For further information about how our team can help to positively resolve issues with our conflict resolution and investigation services please contact [email protected] or call 08000 489235 

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Hayley’s report was very professional, it dealt with all the issues raised and was particularly thorough. She had clearly taken the time to fully understand all of the issues and background. It was complex but the report really helped to break it down and I’m hoping we can progress in a positive manner following the recommendations.

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