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Workplace Investigations: What are the Options?

Workplace investigations are a critical aspect of managing a workplace. Whether it's allegations of harassment, discrimination, or workplace misconduct, having a thorough and fair investigation process in place is essential for promoting a safe and healthy workplace culture.

However, with so many options for conducting workplace investigations, it can be difficult for employers to know where to start. In this article, we will explore the different options available for workplace investigations, the pros and cons of each, and how to choose the right option for your workplace.

people having an informal meeting
Places of employment can be a breeding ground for regulatory violations

Internal Investigations

The most common option for workplace investigations is an internal investigation. This type of investigation is conducted by an internal team or individual, often an HR professional or a designated investigator.


  • Internal investigations are usually the quickest and most cost-effective option.

  • Using internal staff for an investigation can provide insight into the company culture and practices.

  • Internal investigations can be more confidential, as they can be conducted in-house and the findings are usually only shared within the company.


  • Internal investigators may have biases or conflicts of interest.

  • The findings of an internal investigation may not be viewed as impartial or credible by employees or outside parties.

  • There may be limited resources, such as time and expertise, available for an internal investigation.

External Investigations

External investigations are conducted by a third-party, independent investigator. This option is often used when there are concerns about conflicts of interest or the impartiality of an internal investigation.


  • External investigations are often seen as more impartial and credible.

  • External investigators have the experience and expertise to conduct a thorough and professional investigation.

  • External investigations can provide a fresh perspective and unbiased view of the situation.


  • External investigations can be more expensive and time-consuming than internal investigations.

  • The findings of an external investigation may not be as confidential, as the findings may need to be shared with outside parties, such as legal counsel or regulatory agencies.

  • There may be a loss of control over the investigation process and the findings.

Hybrid Investigations

A hybrid investigation is a combination of both internal and external investigations. This option is often used when there are concerns about both impartiality and cost.


  • Hybrid investigations can provide the best of both worlds, combining the cost-effectiveness and internal insight of an internal investigation with the impartiality and expertise of an external investigation.

  • Hybrid investigations can provide a more thorough and balanced investigation process.


  • Hybrid investigations can be more complex and time-consuming to coordinate.

  • There may be a lack of clarity over who is responsible for the investigation and who makes the final decision on the findings.

Choosing the Right Option

The best option for your workplace will depend on a number of factors, including the size and culture of your workplace, the complexity and sensitivity of the situation, and your budget.

When choosing the option for your workplace, consider the following:

  • The impartiality and credibility of the investigation.

  • The cost and resources available for the investigation.

  • The level of confidentiality required for the investigation.

  • The level of control you wish to have over the investigation process and findings.

No matter what option you choose, it is important to have a clear and fair process in place for workplace investigations. This will not only help to promote a safe and healthy workplace culture, but it will also help to protect your company from legal and reputational risks


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