The Plant Manager was terminated and
of course, all the employees noticed.
In fact, the Operations leaders who
made the final decision enhanced their
personal reputation for supporting
and reinforcing the safety value of the
The Right Questions
Here are some critical questions to ask
when suspicions emerge:
Who is accountable for solving the
problem? Once they are identified,
bring them into the discussion
and keep them advised. It may be
appropriate to hand the responsibility
for the investigation to them.
What if the allegations are true?
What if they are false? Ignoring
allegations that turn out to be true
can have harmful results and might
create a bigger mess that needs to
be rectified. The consequences of
ignoring an allegation could be serious
and potentially make you complicit in
the conduct. Treat allegations as just
that and not as facts. Putting too much
credence on allegations could bias an
investigation or destroy a reputation,
even if the excused is exonerated.
Are the accusations reliable?
Did the accusation come from a
trustworthy source? Does the accuser
stand to gain from their claims? Even
reliable accusations may be explainable
or excusable. Most investigations will
reveal three or four sides to a story.
Keep an open mind to the facts and
the reasons for the conduct.
Be careful of the following traps:
• Acting Hastily. Acting too
quickly is a common mistake.
Gather the facts quickly, then
• Delaying Action. Don’t delay
the investigation nor the action.
Delaying or not acting is acting.
It will cause confusion in the
organization or will be seen as
condoning the behavior.
• Avoid Bias. Bias and the
appearance of bias must be
avoided as much as practicable.
Be careful to be objective in
describing the problem, in
charging the investigator and
in reviewing the information.
Be as factual as possible in the
• Not Gathering Sufficient
Evidence. To maintain
credibility, be thorough. Try
to corroborate the truth. Be
thoughtful and deliberate in
every step of the process.
• Report Results Appropriately.
Report results to the leaders
who need to know the
information. Know that there
may be legal or policy reporting
requirements. If the accused
is exonerated, try to keep the
accusation and investigating
It’s important to ask if your organization
has clear rules for handling complaints.
Does your organization have a culture
of fairness? Should you anticipate that
allegations will occur?
Allegations are unavoidable. Have
policies and rules on who will investigate
various types of allegations, who will
review results and who will be made
aware. Some organizations have a
Compliance Department that handles
these matters, while others use their
auditors, lawyers or human resource
professionals depending on the type of
allegation. What is important is that there
is a process and procedure in place.
Misunderstandings will occur in
organizations. The best way to address
them is by having an open, honest, fair
culture where employees are encouraged
to speak-up when they have questions
and where leaders listen and respond to
Brad Yarbrough is the Owner and CEO of Pilgrim
Land Services, a right of way services company in
Oklahoma City. With over 35 years experience in oil
and gas, he has clients nationwide and an extensive
network of landmen and agents.
Allegations are unavoidable. Have policies and
rules on who will investigate various types of
allegations, who will review results and who
will be made aware.