When your company faces allegations of fraud, misconduct or any number of damaging public allegations, what you do next can make all the difference. Many companies attempt to ignore the problem, but that may not be a successful long-term solution. Other companies take an active approach and invest in a complete, rigorous investigation, but that option comes with a significant challenge.
An internal investigation may need to withstand public scrutiny
Many people disregard a company’s internal investigations because of a few crucial perceptions:
- Bias: People outside the organization may consider your investigators biased and likely to view actions in the most favorable light.
- Secrecy: Many believe that the results and processes of an internal investigation will never come to light.
- Ineffectiveness: It is often a criticism that an internal investigation is unlikely to lead to action from the company.
Whether those perceptions are accurate or not doesn’t matter; when your company faces any sort of misconduct – in the public court of opinion –perception outweighs evidence.
How do you fight perception?
Fighting the perception that you are not taking action against internal misconduct is difficult but not impossible. It does demand that your internal investigation meets specific standards:
- Trusted investigators
- Accurate conclusions
- Clear recommendations
However, in the interest of protecting your company, you also want to ensure a certain amount of confidentiality.
The balance of transparency and confidentiality can make or break the public confidence in your internal investigation. To best walk this line, it may serve to consider bringing in outside counsel to conduct the research.
Take it or leave it
When the investigation concludes, you may have one final choice: whether or not to act on the investigator’s recommendations. If the investigation implicates a high-level employee or board member, you may have to consider very uncomfortable futures. However, your choice at this juncture may be what balances out the perception of your investigation and the reality of it.