Workplace Investigations: Avoid Them Through Better Planning and Processes

Investigations into workplace bullying and harassment can be expensive not only in the outlay and diversion of resources, but also in their overall effect on workplace culture, trust, retention, absenteeism and “presenteeism”, etc. In fact, as Gray and Marshall report, “Investigations are a significant investment, so be honest up front: if resources are not available, the HR group risks over-reaching, and the damage of a botched investigation can be greater than the original complaint.”[1]

Despite all of the information, training and regulations about bullying and harassment available to organizations, are investigations still happening so frequently?

Several HR professionals that we have worked with have told us that when unhappy employees have no other resources or processes to follow, and don’t feel comfortable speaking up, they will file a bullying or harassment complaint because their employer can’t ignore it. While there are very legitimate bullying and harassment issues that require appropriate attention, we also know that many of these complaints can relate more to general workplace conflict, can be managed in a more productive manner, and even prevented.

Conflict in any environment is inevitable, and in the workplace, where we spend a huge amount of time interacting with co-workers, managers, clients, etc., it can be both frequent and especially destructive.  By putting a workplace conflict management program in place, employers can prevent the worst effects of conflict and manage what does arise effectively.

Consider the difference:

An employee in a company that has no explicit system in place, and perhaps a culture where conflict is avoided, will generally either leave or work in a less than effective manner. If they stay and decide to take action, and if their problem with others can even remotely be framed as bullying and harassment, they will often follow the path available to them under the relevant WorkSafeBC regulations. Since the investigative process is rarely pleasant for anyone involved, this is likely to lead to an expensive and unhappy outcome all around. The overall approach is defensive and reactive.

 

An employee in a company with a conflict management program in place, first of all, likely has received training in conflict management skills and works for a manager who is trained in the conflict management skills important in leadership. The workplace culture allows for people to speak up about problems without retribution. If the manager is unable to help resolve the problem, then the manager or the HR team is trained to assess, or has access to someone who can assess the situation and steer it to the most effective resources and/or process. The overall approach is open and proactive.

There are skilled investigators available who can approach this process in the healthiest manner possible, and can help everyone achieve the best possible outcome. However, what is healthier for the workplace overall, and therefore for the business itself, is a well-planned, communicated and established program where investigation is only one of many possible tools, and is only used when appropriate.

Conflict is expensive. We can help.

Contact us at 604-684-1300 x200 (or toll-free 1-877-656-1300 x200) to find out how we can design and operate or support a workplace conflict management program for your organization.

[1] Gray, H. and Marshall, G. Investigation is the New Arbitration. PeopleTalk, Spring 2017.

Conflict is expensive. We can help. Visit us at HRMA Conference & Tradeshow 2017

Volunteers Make a Big Impact
(and We’re Thankful!)

Mediate BC is blessed to have a great many skilled and talented people who volunteer their time. By participating in our public events, writing for our blog, contributing to social media and even making videos, these amazing people have helped educate the public about their conflict resolution options and imparted useful skills in all sorts of contexts.

It is National Volunteer Week (April 23-29, 2017) in Canada., so Mediate BC wanted to take a moment to publicly recognize and thank our volunteers for their contribution and commitment.

Impact

At Mediate BC we lead, promote and facilitate effective conflict resolution. Our volunteers help us live this mission by:

  • Engaging over 2,100 people at events across the province
  • Helping us make 400,000 social media impressions
  • Contributing to over 20 blog posts
  • Developing & contributing to 7 Mediate BC CPD events
  • Developing new Standards of Conduct for Med-Arb
  • Providing feedback on our Complaints Process
  • And so much more!

Our volunteers are truly making an impact and Mediate BC is a stronger organization thanks to our volunteers. We appreciate your generosity and support.

Mediate BC also recognizes the countless volunteer hours that go into some of the joint events we’ve had with the following organizations this year: BCAMI, Conciliation and Arbitration Board of Canada, Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, CoRe Conflict Resolution Society, Justice Education Society, Justice Institute of British Columbia, People’s Law School, and the Virtual Mediation Lab.

Our Volunteers

Thank you to our 2015/2016 Roster Mediator volunteers!

Rebecca Alleyne
Peter Altridge
Lisa Arora
Nancy Baker
Grace Baker
Kat Bellamano
Linda Bonnell
Joseph Boskovich
Kari Boyle
Joan Braun
Colleen Cattell, QC
Maria Constantinescu
Nicholette D’Angelo
Tara Day
Jerome Dickey
Jory Faibish
Katherine Fraser
Kaitlin Fulton
Carrie Gallant
Leanne Harder
Chris Harris
Brandon Hastings
Arlene H. Henry, QC
Carol Hickman, QC
Brenda Hooper
Darrin Hotte
Kyra Hudson
Paul Jacks
Aurora Johannson
Sharon Kelly
Vivian Kerenyi
Edwin Knight
Tara Kowalski
Wendy Lakusta
Michael Lomax
Gavin Mather
Yuki Matsuno
Elaine McCormack
Shelina Neallani
Leslie Palleson
Wayne Plenert
Donna Rintoul
Amy Robertson
Shelina Sayani
Colleen Selby
Amanda Semenoff
Maria Silva
Gordon Sloan
Norm Smookler
Donna Soules
Sharon Sutherland
Paul Taberner
Lori Williams

We would also like to recognize our Board of Directors and members of our Roster Committee, all of whom serve on a volunteer basis. Their guidance and oversight is invaluable to Mediate BC. These are time-consuming and intense volunteer roles that provide an enormous benefit to all of us in the mediation community. Thank you to all the current and former Directors and Roster Committee members who served Mediate BC over the past year:

Board of Directors
Brian Gibbard, Chair
Lori Charvat, Vice-Chair
Bill Keen, Treasurer
Richard Stewart, QC, Secretary
Judge Andrea Brownstone
Julie Daum
Gayle Bedard (former)
Jane Morley, QC (former)
Wayne Plenert (former)
Paul Taberner (former)
Roster Committee
Carol Hickman, QC, Chair
Richard Stewart, QC, Vice-Chair
Leanne Harder
Arlene H.Henry, QC
Angela Stadel
Jim Vilvang, QC
Dan Williams
Nick de Domenico (former)
Wayne Plenert (former)

Thank you all!

In Memory of Betty Ife

Elizabeth Anne Ife Dec. 31, 1956 - Mar. 20, 2017
Elizabeth Anne Ife
Dec. 31, 1956 – Mar. 20, 2017

Betty Ife was a dear friend, colleague, mediator, teacher and mentor. In whatever role you knew Betty, she stood apart as someone very special with a genuine appreciation for people. Serving on the FMC Board of Directors for 10 years in her various roles as President, Treasurer, Editor of Resolve, FMC Certification Chair and numerous other committees, Betty was a tremendous advocate for mediation.

Betty was a transformational leader, had a gift for innovative thinking, was extremely passionate about family mediation and was committed to improving the field. She worked as a Family Justice Counsellor in the Burnaby, Surrey and the North Shore Family Justice Centres for 20 years. Her first profession was as a teacher and she obtained a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Education. She was passionate about assisting families with domestic violence issues and participated on innovative committees in Delta (DOVE) and the North Shore (ICAT). She was also trained as Crown Counsel Victim/Witness Services Volunteer Caseworker.

Betty was a mentor for new family mediators with the Mediate BC Family Mediation Practicum Program and she was on the faculty with the Justice Institute of British Columbia. She co-authored a parent education program called “Separated With Children-Dealing with the Finances” with the Justice Education Society of British Columbia. Betty’s energy, integrity, commitment and countless contributions were remarkable. Betty was one of a kind and will be sorely missed by many as an advocate, colleague and friend.

She leaves behind her sister Debbie and Debbie’s husband Fred Adams and their extended family.

Gathering

Those of you who would like to join the gathering of Betty’s friends, family and colleagues; we will meet:

Thursday, March 30th 2:00 – 4:00PM
Royal Canadian Legion
123 West 15th Street, North Vancouver

In lieu of flowers, donations will be gratefully accepted at the North Shore Crisis Services Society by calling 604-987-0366, where the Betty Ife Fund will be set up to help those in need.

It is with great regret that we advise of Betty Ife’s unexpected passing. We extend our condolences to Betty’s family, friends and colleagues. We deeply appreciate Linda Bonnell in preparing these remarks on the work of her dear friend.