No one likes the idea of being investigated at work. Whether the complaint against you is valid or not, it is quite easy to make your situation much worse by reacting poorly to the investigation itself. And there are also things you can do to help smooth out this whole process and improve the outcome of the investigation.
If you’ve been informed that an investigation is underway and you’re not sure what to do next, here are some survival tips that can help.
1 – Talk to an attorney
You have the right to talk with an employment law attorney when under investigation. And you should exercise that right. A workplace investigation can ruin your career and even lead to you being accused of serious crimes.
You shouldn’t underestimate how much things can go wrong in situations like this. Even if you did nothing wrong, there is no way to account for any goals or agendas the people involved in the investigation may have. If you’re looking for a good example of how investigators and prosecutors can try to bend the rules to get their desired outcome, check out this article covering the Philip Esformes situation.
Given the stakes, talking to an attorney is only reasonable. And even if you’d rather not have your attorney represent you throughout the investigation, you should still consult with him regularly to make sure your company and the investigator are doing everything by the books. And to learn what you can do to maximize your chances of a positive outcome.
2 – Cooperate as much as possible
While there is a lot that can go wrong with a workplace investigation, it’s important not to let that encourage you to make things difficult. As a general rule, the sooner the investigation is over, the better it’ll be for everyone involved.
Do your best to be cooperative and honest. Attend all the meetings you’re required to attend, and produce all the documents you’re asked to produce. The only time you shouldn’t cooperate is when the investigation tries to dig into your personal life or when the demands of the investigation make it difficult for you to do your job. That’s when you should respectfully refuse to comply until you’ve had time to consult an attorney.
3 – Protect your credibility
The moment the investigation has proved that you’re a liar, all the answers you’ve provided are called into question. And when an accusation is based primarily on testimony from various witnesses, having your word labeled as untrustworthy can be devastating to your case.
As such, you should do your best to avoid giving any answers that may hurt your reputation later. If you have something you’re trying to hide, it’s best to refuse to answer or let your attorney speak for you. Don’t just lie and hope everything will work out.
4 – Get your story straight
Investigations can take weeks. And when you’re asked the same questions again and again, it’s easy to misremember and get the details or order of events wrong. That can give investigators an excuse to push the narrative that you’re a liar.
The best way to avoid that is to get your story straight. As soon as you hear about the investigation, open a text document, and write down all of the details you can remember. Then expand that document and review its content regularly as the investigation progresses. That will make sure your story is always clear in your mind.