top of page
  • Writer's pictureShelly McLaughlin

Navigating Workplace Tangles: Occam's Razor as an Investigative Compass

In the intricate realm of workplace investigations, particularly those involving allegations of bullying, harassment, or discrimination, understanding and applying Occam's Razor can be pivotal. This philosophical principle, attributed to the 14th-century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham, posits that when presented with competing hypotheses to solve a problem, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions. In simpler terms, the simplest explanation is usually the right one.


Workplace investigations are inherently complex, with multiple narratives, perspectives, and often, a web of interpersonal relationships. When an allegation of bullying, harassment, or discrimination surfaces, investigators are tasked with unravelling the truth from a mesh of statements, evidence, and, sometimes, conflicting accounts.

Occam's Razor is a useful tool in these scenarios. It encourages investigators to look for the most straightforward explanation of events rather than getting lost in the maze of potential but less likely complex theories. However, it's crucial to understand that 'simplest' does not equate to oversimplification or ignoring vital nuances of the situation.


The application of Occam's Razor in workplace investigations must be cautiously approached. While it advocates for simplicity, this should not be at the expense of thoroughness and fairness. Bullying, harassment, and discrimination are sensitive and potentially damaging issues, requiring a careful balance between seeking a straightforward explanation and ensuring all voices are heard and all evidence is considered.

Investigators should avoid the trap of confirmation bias, where one leans towards the simplest explanation that confirms one's pre-existing beliefs or biases. This can lead to overlooking crucial pieces of evidence that might point to a more complex but accurate understanding of the situation.


In real-world scenarios, particularly in diverse and dynamic workplace environments, what appears as the 'simplest' explanation may not always align with the truth. Human behavior and interactions are complex, and multiple factors like cultural differences, power dynamics, and personal biases can influence the nature of bullying, harassment, or discrimination.

Therefore, while Occam's Razor can guide investigators toward a starting point, it should not be the sole determinant in concluding. The principle should be used as a lens to filter out improbable complexities, not to ignore the layered reality of human interactions.


A robust workplace investigation should integrate Occam's Razor with a comprehensive, evidence-based approach. This means considering the simplest explanations but also being open to the fact that, in some cases, the truth may involve a more complex interplay of factors.

Investigators should use Occam's Razor to streamline their inquiry process, focus on the most probable explanations, and avoid going down unnecessary rabbit holes. However, they must remain vigilant against the oversimplification of issues and ensure that all relevant information is meticulously examined.


In conclusion, Occam's Razor is a valuable tool in guiding workplace investigations into allegations of bullying, harassment, or discrimination. It aids in sifting through complexities to find the most straightforward explanations. However, its application must be balanced with a thorough, unbiased, and empathetic approach to each case. By marrying simplicity with comprehensive investigation techniques, workplace investigators can more effectively navigate the challenging waters of resolving such sensitive issues.

16 views0 comments


bottom of page