January 12, 2021

How HR Investigations Can Create the Culture You’ve Dreamed Of

How HR Investigations Can Create the Culture You’ve Dreamed Of

From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending topics from the world of work. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent UKG. This post was commissioned by UKG and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. 


Imagine a workplace based upon respect and accountability. Everyone treats each other with respect, and folks are held to account when they engage in disrespectful behavior. No harassment, no bullying, and many morale issues resolved. Sounds lovely, right? 

It can be real. 

Here’s how: Investigate, and when appropriate, discipline. 

Investigation is one the pillars of human resources and critical to building effective workplaces based upon respect and accountability. HR gets stuck trying to figure out if Daisy is using her corporate credit card to improve her wardrobe, whether Steve is the one writing nasty things on the toilet stall, or whether Judy is just trying to get Margaret to improve her work performance or really bullying her. It’s not glamorous but employee morale will get more and more negative if we don’t do anything about it. 

HR Investigation: The Corporate Card

Take Daisy. Misusing the corporate credit card directs valuable resources when the organization is already in trouble financially. HR will go to Finance and ask for the credit card bills, and we may even call vendors to find out what was purchased. Then, we interview Daisy to learn her perspective. If we determine she has misused the card, we may discipline and demand she pay for the expenses herself. Resources are recovered, and Finance can attribute expenses appropriately for tax purposes. If we determine nothing was wrong, we’ve reinforced the importance of appropriate corporate card use. 

HR Investigation: The Vandal

The nasty bathroom stall is tricky, especially if HR doesn’t ever use that particular bathroom. HR will have to go into the bathroom and take pictures. After removing the words, we may interview frequent users of the bathroom, asking them about the content of the messages as well as their job satisfaction. Through this, you may find out a lot of issues occurring as well as who wrote the nasty things. Once you know who, you discipline and maybe even terminate if the words were harassing or derogatory towards a particular individual. Doing nothing is likely not an option. 

HR Investigation: The Suspected Bully

Investigating bullying is really hard. It’s possible that Judy’s words are being misinterpreted by Margaret or that Margaret just really hates Judy and her attempts to hold Margaret accountable to reasonable performance measures. You need to interview both of them, asking about performance measures, whether those measures are appropriately created, how the measures were communicated, and how Margaret is really doing. With all of this information, you may have a “communication 101” discussion with Judy or explain to Margaret that she really isn’t being bullied. HR can’t let this situation continue because eventually, a big blow-up will occur hurting everyone involved. 

HR Investigations Creates a Foundation for Accountability

In each of these situations, the people involved are looking to HR to determine what happened and help hold folks accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, we’ve all worked in places where a coworker got away with bad behavior or poor performance. Management’s failure to hold that coworker accountable made us resentful. We felt it was unfair that we were doing our part, yet management was letting the bad behavior continue. This is exactly why HR investigation lays the foundation for respect and accountability. When management respects everyone, it holds everyone to the same expectations of behavior regardless of status or performance. When someone isn’t meeting expectations, HR investigates as that is the critical first part of accountability. 

Great workplaces exist. They stay great because everyone knows and understands the expectations placed on them. HR also makes them happen.