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Workplace Assessments & Investigations

When I’m working with leadership or mediating in an organizational setting, I’m making evaluations of the workplace dynamics and health. Investigations and assessments can be viewed as formalizations of these on-going perceptions and analysis.

Formal investigations and assessments are called for when you need an “insiders” knowledge of work relationships or work culture. They are based on interviews and other sources such as email records. These inquiries are generally time consuming and expensive, so whether you have me or another consultant do the work, be sure to understand what is being done and what the product will be. You can easily end up with a product that is not entirely satisfying.

Three types of inquiries:

1) Investigations

An investigation determines if wrong doing has occurred and it usually proceeds based on the policy of your organization and in a manner that is consistent with standards such as human rights legislation. It answers questions such as, “Did Ann bully Jennifer on February 7, 2023?” “Is there a pattern of sexual harassment and discrimination on Bill’s team.”

2) Workplace Assessments or Reviews

A workplace assessment seeks a deep understanding of culture and relationship dynamics in a section of your organization. The purpose is to provide perceptions and viewpoints that will empower you to improve the well-being and productivity of personnel as well as foster organizational health and a respectful workplace.

This link below takes you to the Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations under the Canada Labour Code. It provides a regulatory perspective on Assessments and Investigations. Investigations are somewhat misleadingly laid out under “Resolution Process.” I say “misleading” because although investigations make a finding on particular behaviours, they frequently erode trust in a workplace and they often fail to resolve underlying conflict.

3) Hybrid Assessment Investigations

Jane Morley and Jean Greatbatch coined this term for processes that combine elements from both assessments and investigations. One example is to conduct interviews that result in a statement of facts about an incident, as in an investigation. But the consultant doesn’t take the next step of making a finding (saying whether a standard was broken). Instead, a communication process is built that resolves the conflict which was the cause of the offending behaviour described in the statement of facts.

Returning to an example further above. If not forced to formally investigate whether gender-based discrimination has occurred, one could conduct an assessment based on the question, “Is there a pattern of disrespectful behaviour towards women on Bill’s team?” Although framed as a closed question, the goal could be to uncover the character of interactions with women on the team with an eye towards suggesting strategies that could build respectful working relations.

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