The Answer is Always “Yes!”

Question: Kelly, do I have to investigate every employee complaint?

Answer: Yes!

I am always a little surprised when I am asked by business owners and HR professionals if they should always investigate when an employee complains or they learn of some issue in the workplace. My answer is always “YES!”

If you receive a complaint from an employee or become aware of an issue, no matter how trivial it seems or how frivolous you believe it to be, you must investigate.

I know that sometimes employees will say:

  • I don’t want you to investigate or tell anyone about this.
  • I just want to vent.
  • I just needed to get this off my chest.

Beware of the trap!

Intentionally or unintentionally, this is a trap. You must always investigate. Employees will say that everything is fine until something negative, such as a termination, demotion, or suspension happens, or a friend, family member or employee gets in their ear. Then suddenly you hear “I told you there was a problem and you didn’t investigate or do anything about it.” There can be significant consequences for failing to timely investigate a claim or for ineffectively investigating a claim.


Every investigation does not have to be a full-blown, you’re on the hot seat inquisition. What a specific investigation entails and how detailed it must be will be directed by the issues raised by the complaint or the particular concern(s) you’ve become aware of.


The facts and circumstances of each complaint and investigation you encounter will be unique and present its own set of challenges. However, your goal is to ask the right questions, uncover the relevant facts, identify areas of opportunity, and help the organization’s bottom line. Equally as important is doing this in a professional, fair and thorough manner that will earn and maintain your employees’ trust.

So the answer is YES! It’s always YES!.

I created a Free Workplace Investigations Cheat Sheet to get you started. Get your copy at

Want more than a checklist? You can purchase my book “ACE Your Workplace Investigations: A Step-by-Step Guide for Avoiding Friction, Covering Your Assets, and Earning Employee Trust” on Amazon.

Have any questions about this? Contact me.

Contact and/or connect with me:

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About the Author

Kelly Charles-Collins is the CEO of HR Legally Speaking, a professional speaking, consulting and training company. As an employment attorney, Kelly defends organizations against employee lawsuits and provides day-to-day preventive counseling. Using her expertise, Kelly guides organizations to nurture trust and respect so they can create diverse, inclusive, and harmonious cultures that deliver results.

As an Unconscious Bias, Bystander Intervention and Workplace Investigations expert, Kelly has spent over 20 years empowering small businesses to Fortune 100 companies to discover and leverage the true value of their workforce, take action, and effectively investigate employee complaints. She also created the bySTANDer free zone based on her TEDx talk about the Bystander Effect where she discusses the impact of indifference and the power of action.