Friday, April 8, 2011

EAP Consultancy: Advising Supervisors on How to Investigate Something

Not all supervisors have access to knowledgeable human resource professionals capable giving them instruction on important duties. It all depends on the company's size and its resources and easy access to these resources if they exist. Still, all companies have the same concerns and worries. And meeting the needs of employers should be a key customer service strategy of yours if you are an employee assistance professional. Caveat: If you can justify the activity as falling within the scope of the core technology.

Be creative in your thinking because you may discover new ways of consulting that will prove your value if you think in these dimensions. One of these areas for discussion is giving supervisors basic instruction during consultations with them on investigating employee incidents--serious or not so serious disruptions or violations of company policies or work rules.

Your job is to help protect companies against the impact of troubled employees.

(Digression: Many EA professionals, especially those of yesteryear would argue that this is the most important goal of employee assistance programs. In fact, it is still listed first in the core technology. If you are an "import" to the EAP field and arrived with the idea of only doing mental health counseling in the workplace, you are missing many key aspects of the profession.)

Here's another point to consider arguing: The customer is the person paying your salary. That isn't the employee client. So always thinking about how to meet their needs with your services raises the value of the profession. Am I wrong?

Continuing........One of the resources you may want to consider helping managers with during consultations is providing guidance to them on conducting investigations. Are there commonly used guidelines for investigating incidents in the workplace associated with disturbing employee conduct? Yes. Most supervisors don't know them.

Rule #1--always tell supervisors that you aren't an attorney and that the supervisor should talk to the human resources manager or other adviser to you cover yourself. That being said, investigations follow a logical path to gather information about an event so that a reliable conclusion about what happened can be drawn. So, get this one down pat, and you will provide a valuable service to reduce risk to the employer. You will really get a "Wow!" out of them. You will be a hero. That's what you want. EA professionals are heroes, remember.

Tell the supervisor that he or she must start of thinking of the process like a hopscotch so they don't go off half-cocked. You're going to take it one square at a time. Many organizations have specific procedures to follow concerning things like sexual harassment and other severe events, so again, remind the supervisor to go looking for this information and inquire about how to conduct these types of investigations.

Still, generally speaking however, go ahead and memorize the following spiel: Consider these steps when investigating other conduct-related incidents: First, notify your supervisor about any incident you think needs investigating. Next, interview parties separately, and in private (ask for all details, and ask for the names of any witnesses). Create a written list of your questions so things stay consistent. Third, keep the information you collect confidential from others you interview - persons involved in an investigation are not entitled to the results of your interviews. Fourth, do not form opinions as you investigate - just write down exactly what is said and move quickly in your investigation; and fifth, arrive at a conclusion - do not disclose the nature of administrative or disciplinary actions, if any, to complainants or witnesses. With this information, discuss your findings with a confidentially approved party. That could be an attorney, but do not forget your employee assistance program professional. Lots of confidentiality there. This might be your final stop before a decision or taking the results to the next level of management.

Now you know a little bit more about this subject and can be a true service to managers who ask you in an EAP appointment--"gee, how do I go about this?" You will no longer have to say. "Gee, I am not sure. Maybe there is a book on it somewhere."