Bruce’s Summary: Having been in industry for some 35 years and now providing investigative consulting in the HR arena, I know performing internal investigations has become one of the largest underlying potential cost items in business. The word neutral should be paramount when considering doing an investigation internally. This article (Part I.) is a good overview on the subject of unconscious bias by the author(s) and certainly brings home the fact of being extremely conscious at the very beginning, in the decision process, when a potential internal investigation is on the horizon of what potential liabilities lie ahead.
Speaking of unconscious bias, for those poor folks who are internal, you already know you’re in trouble when middle or upper management wants it done (investigation) “quickly.” When you hear, “just do it and get it over with but don’t interview so many people this time,” and it is certainly implied that you aren’t being told what to do, “you’re neutral.”
This certainly doesn’t happen in every case but in those where this kind of discussion occurs you already have unconscious bias but not from the investigator, this lies with middle and upper management. Is this the tail wagging the dog? This is a clear signal that something is up and those in power positions are possibly too close and some form of outside help may be needed. It’s not that you can’t do it, the basic reason many times is you and/or the management team are just too close to the issue/person and that is when unconscious bias can and does very easily come into play.
In HR today, HR Professionals can’t be everything to everyone, but professionally we all need to recognize when either the internal investigator or the internal team is too close to the issue/person and that the front end cost of an outside neutral investigator will offset the potential legal cost associated with letting unconscious bias seep into and corrode an investigation. “None of the information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor are Calvin Associates consultants engaged to offer legal advice. If there is a need for legal advice, please contact and seek the advice of independent legal counsel.” www.calvin-associates.com