Workplace Investigations – A recent case


We recently conducted a workplace investigation at a large organisation to examine why the organisation seemed to be riddled with conflict. There were allegations of harassment and bullying as well as discrimination. We expected an organisation of this size to be relatively well run and organised. However what we found was the opposite – there was an absence of organisational systems in place and no comprehensive policies and procedures around employee conduct nor were there any performance review processes in place.

What effect does this have of an organisation? What we found was that the employees were unmotivated and distrustful at work. There were no clear disciplinary procedures in place to keep them in check.
We took statements from at least ten employees to gauge the situation and to hear directly from the CEO, senior management and the front line employees.

We found that the managers had no idea how to performance manage and were doing things so informally that there was no documentation in difficult employees files that would back up evidence of their poor performance. There was no doubt that unfair dismissal litigation was waiting to happen. In order to defend a claim of unfair dismissal, an employer must have proper disciplinary policies and procedures in place which allow proper investigation of any under-performance, and provide the chance for an employee to achieve set performance criteria.

There is no doubt that a lack of systems and policies supports an environment for an ongoing culture of inherent bad behaviours and conflict and also leaves the organisation open to legal proceedings under relevant legislation.

In our report to the company we made a number of recommendation which included drafting and implementing a new set of policies and procedures so that the staff knew what was expected of them, right from the basic principles of customer service, a policy around office gossip and innuendo which was rife in this particular organisation as well as a through grievance policy so that staff were able to raise any issues they had with management appropriately. Policies are living and evolving documents that need to be reviewed and regularly in order to keep up to date with the legislation. They serve numerous functions including disciplinary action, termination, discrimination, bullying, harassment, internet use, health and safety and social media to name a few.

Respectful behaviour policies that link with performance management policies, grievance procedures, disciplinary, OH&S policies and a number of other organisational policies and procedures are very important for the ongoing ‘health’ of the organisation. This also ensures that employees know what their rights and responsibilities are in relation to the expectations of the organisation.

Hawke Segal Mediation offers a service to businesses that are struggling with demotivated or unhappy employees. We assess the organisation by talking to managers and employees to get a sense of where the issues lie. For employees to remain motivated and dedicated to their jobs it is essential that they have an avenue to receive regular performance feedback and guidance. This contributes positively to an organisation’s bottom line and improves communication and employment relationships as well as aligning individual and team performance with organisational goals and objectives.

Hawke Segal Mediation specialise in workplace investigations, workplace mediations and conflict management training.