If an incident has occurred that already has a workplace buzzing and a rumor mill running at full steam, an employer should take measures to keep everyone calm so that an investigation can proceed without complications.
It can be hard to keep the fact that an investigation is taking place entirely confidential. However, it helps if everyone knows that there is a comprehensive workplace investigations policy in place which requires investigations in various circumstances. In that case, an investigation will not seem to be so “scandalous” or suggest wrongdoing. Employees should know as a rule that any allegations or incidents will be investigated thoroughly, and that decisions will be made following the conclusion and outcome of any investigation. This ensures that an investigation can be expected following the report of an incident, and that employees on both sides have a sense of how any allegations will be handled.
The added benefit to retaining an external investigator is that they are highly skilled at staying discrete. They will only involve the parties necessary – namely the complainant, the accused, and any relevant witnesses. Their goal is to ensure that the investigation does not become a spectacle, and their arm’s-length detachment ensures that they do not become involved with any other side issues.