I recently met with a group of HR ladies and we were chatting about how they conduct investigations and evaluations when a complaint is made of misbehavior. The starting point, they innocently told me was to gather evidence in support of the claim. They thought they were being neutral.
I pointed out that with that goal in mind, they were ignoring evidence that might support a different conclusion – and that might even refute the claim of misbehavior. I shared with them several examples of investigative reports I had read that were clearly one-sided because any evidence that contradicted the alleged victim’s statement was assumed (and written this way) to be either denial or outright lying.
Looking for evidence is hardly the same as conducting a neutral evaluation seeking the truth.
Through the years, I’ve saved several people from being fired after HR had condemned them. In each of these cases someone hirer up in the organization knew and cared enough about the alleged “perp” to want an outside more neutral and unbiased evaluation. I was called in to conduct it and found that there was no real substance to the original claim – but what in each of these cases amounted to a misinterpretation of words and behavior.
Neutrality is apparently hard to achieve.