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Getting HR to investigate is the easy part

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
The Director said I’m going with HR’s advice. My facial expression must have shown my concern because he followed up with,” Well there wasn’t much point in asking them to investigate if I ignore their recommendation”.
This seemed at the time the wrong rational. Of course he may have been using short hand but I would have expected him to refer to some thing in the report , a statement by one of those interviewed or entries in the log book that convinced him rather than simply going along with the conclusion. It seemed a little lazy as if he had just skimmed the report and gone straight to the recommendation.
I have no reason to think this was not a thorough  investigation by two competent people. Well actually I was  a little concerned that the individuals concerned might have been a little too  keen to find evidence and place an unfavourable interpretation on an action that was open to interpretation.
It would have been controversial had the Director decided not to act on the recommendation and would certainly have warranted explaining that decision. Which could only be done following a careful study of the report. But conclusions and recommendations don’t always match the body of material in a report. Someone else reading the same report might come to a different conclusion and therefore make a different recommendation.
 To suspend a manager pending a formal disciplinary hearing requires the organisation to judge that the evidence is strong enough to make a robust case. It is damaging to take any individual to a formal disciplinary and find in the formal hearing that the case is flimsy. One it may allow a bad manager to get away with it where delaying to gather more robust information may have provided a stronger case. Secondly putting any one through a formal disciplinary process with out proper cause will have a negative impact on the individual and the organisation all the more so if the individual suspects that their actions were interpreted adversely because of their race or sexuality.
I suppose  what was bothering me in this case was would the behaviour and language being described as  ,”aggressive” have been seen as being,”assertive” if it was some one else? That the complaint of bullying rested on an individual feeling bullied but were the actions of the manager simply a case of challenging missed deadlines and poor quality work? In which case was the closer monitoring of this individuals work and the critical feedback evidence of bullying or of a manager setting standards and making clear their expectations. An experience that the complainant(s)didn’t like.
There is plenty of data showing that black and ethnic minority employees are disproportionately the subject of disciplinary action. This is normally assumed to be a white manager taking this action because the majority of managers are white males. There is however evidence that black men are more likely to be labelled aggressive when the same behaviour and language in a white personality is seen as ,”assertive”.
All I am saying is that the gender, race and sexuality of an individual may result in their behaviour being viewed negatively when the same behaviour in a white ,heterosexual male is seen positively or at least as acceptable.
Those commissioning an investigation report should ensure that stereotyping has not  led to assumptions and unjustified interpretations. This is not an attempt to defend bulling or any form bad behaviour but simply an experienced chair of disciplinary hearing cautioning against taking report recommendations at face value.

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