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Unbiased Evaluation

DIY Investigations? Know your capabilities and the potential pitfalls before starting.

Matters that create a critical vulnerability to the organization must be dealt with quickly and effectively. If you’re considering handling an investigation yourself, as a leader you will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Organizations, small or large, simple or complex, inevitably must deal with situations that require an investigation. Many “internal” investigations aim to uncover the truth about alleged misconduct. This behavior often involves employees who can occupy any level or function of the organization. This suggests that issues which do arise vary widely in their scope and impact. Organizations often have resources internally that can address many issues that do not pose a high legal risk or a major disruption of business operations. The assets needed to address urgent situations can be drawn from internal staff. Certainly, management, HR, senior leadership, legal and other specialties can be pulled from their day-to-day duties to confront the issue. However, there is a point of diminishing return that must be considered when conducting internal investigations with available staff. Certainly, matters that create a critical vulnerability to the organization must be dealt with quickly and effectively. Handling investigations yourself should cause you pause regardless of the issue. And as a leader, you will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Do you have the necessary internal skill sets available to meet these basic requirements? Any investigation requires good planning, consistent execution, analytical skill, sensitivity, and a solid grasp of the legalities involved. Knowing this, you must first ask yourself if you have the necessary internal skill sets available to meet these basic requirements. Investigations often take you places where you might not expect, literally and metaphorically. Your team must be prepared to:

  • Collect and examine written or recorded evidence

  • Conduct interviews with suspects and witnesses

  • Conduct surveillance operations

  • Do some computer and network forensic work

  • Answer and present to senior leadership, lawyers and human resources

  • Interface with law enforcement

  • Introduce evidence in court

  • Answer questions on the witness stand

DIY Investigation: The Advantages If your internal team possesses the required basic investigative skills, running an investigation solely within the company structure does have certain benefits.

  • It can give the company tighter control over the costs of the investigation both from a monetary and resource perspective.

  • Internal investigations might afford the organization the ability to control the timing and manner of the work.

  • It can also help control the findings by mitigating the disclosure of facts.

DIY Investigation: The Disadvantages Internal investigations conducted by your staff also have disadvantages. Confrontation From a business and relationship perspective, relying on internal investigators may cause uncomfortable situations when asking probing questions of colleagues. These interactions may become heated and confrontational. Damaged Reputations Further, your internal investigation team must take care to not accuse employees or unnecessarily damaging anyone's reputation in the course of their work. Ineffective Investigation In some instances, your internal staff may not have the skill set to resolve the matter. Or, you may not be able to divert your staff to attend to the problem because of staffing needs elsewhere. Finally, if the situation is sensitive, urgent and critical your staff may not know how to respond. If this is the case, know that specialized, external help is available. The Advantages of Professional Investigation While hiring an investigative firm can be more expensive than using your own staff, professional investigators do this work on a regular basis and are equipped for these scenarios. Generate independent viewpoints Issues are professionally and impartially investigated. There are no personal or professional relationship issues with your employees. They are able to generate independent viewpoints and objectively investigate and assess a particular problem so that corrective action can be applied. Reduce Friction Importantly, the investigator is seen as someone who effectively imposes the corporate will. This reduces potential friction between management and employees. It helps deflect animosity by placing the act of imposing the will of the company on the investigator even though the investigator works for the company. This subtle shift goes a long way to maintaining critical working relationships. Deter bad behavior Sometimes an external presence has a deterring effect on certain behaviors. This is often more desirable for the health of the organization than a referral to law enforcement or some other resolution that might demoralize and distract employees. If you realize that the problem requires special skills, the best option might be to bring in professional investigators to manage the situation. To determine if an outside investigation firm is best for your organization call Tiffany at 724.888.2405 or email


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