Take Time to Plan Out Your Workplace Investigation Interviews.
A workplace investigation interview is a very serious situation. For one employee, it may feel like an interrogation. For another employee, it may feel like trick questions designed to trap them into saying something that can be used against them later.
Whether you’re the investigator or the person being interviewed, it’s important to remember that this is not just any conversation – it’s a workplace investigation interview. The stakes are high and the consequences of getting things wrong could be dire for everyone involved. That’s why you need to take time before your next workplace investigation interview to plan out your approach.
You want to come across as non-threatening and trustworthy as possible while still gathering all the information you need to make an informed decision about what happened. Follow these tips on how to plan out your next workplace investigation interview so you can have the best chance of getting all the information you need in the shortest amount of time possible.
Know the Law Before You Walk in the Room
One of the most important things you can do before walking into an interview is to make sure you’re well-versed in the laws of your state that govern workplace investigations. You’re probably going to be asking people questions about their actions and the decisions they made.
If you don’t know the rules that govern workplace investigations in your state, you might unknowingly be asking questions that are illegal. For example, in Victoria, when conducting an investigation, you must inform the person being interviewed that they have the right to have a representative present during the interview. You must also inform the person being interviewed that they have the right to refuse to answer any questions.
Brief All Involved People on What’s Going to Happen Beforehand
Regardless of how well you know everyone involved in your workplace investigation interview, you should always brief them on what’s going to happen during the interview. You want to give everyone being interviewed enough information to feel comfortable participating and know what to expect.
You also want to make sure you and everyone else involved in the interview understands the parameters of the interview, such as where and when it’s taking place, and what actions will happen after the interview.
A simple way to brief everyone involved is to create an interview protocol that everyone receives and signs off on before the interview. Your protocol should include clear expectations for the interview, such as how long it will take and how many people will be in the room. You should also include information about the process of the investigation and information they can provide to help you make a decision.
Start with Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions are questions that don’t have a correct or incorrect answer. Instead, they are designed to elicit information from the person being interviewed. For example, instead of asking someone, “Did you steal money from your workplace?” you’d ask, “How did you come to know there was money missing in the workplace?”
All workplace investigation interviews should begin with open-ended questions related to the incident in question. These are the questions that will help you understand the full situation without putting undue pressure on the person being interviewed to defend their actions. For example, ask the person being interviewed, “How did you come to the decision to do X?” or “What factors led to you making the decision to do X?”
Ask Neutral Questions That Don’t Presume Guilt or Innocence
You’re going to want to ask questions that help you understand the person’s point of view, their decision-making process, and their feelings about the incident in question. However, it’s very easy to slip into questioning that unfairly presumes guilt or innocence.
To avoid this, you want to avoid asking questions that start with the words “were you,” “did you,” “did you not,” or “why did you.” For example, you wouldn’t ask, “Were you the one who stole money from the workplace?” Instead, you’d ask, “Can you tell me what happened?”
Summarize and Confirm What You Just Learned
As you’re conducting the interview, you should periodically summarize what you’ve learned so far. This will help you remember important things to ask about next, as well as make sure you’re understanding everything correctly.
When you’re summarizing, you want to make sure to summarize what the person being interviewed has said, not what you think they’ve said. For example, you might say, “So, you were at work when you realized your peer had left a $25,000 error in the ledger, and you needed to correct the mistake before anyone noticed. Is that correct?”
Conclude With an Offer for Resolving Conflict Together
At the end of every workplace investigation interview, you should always offer the person being interviewed a chance to come to an agreement with the other party and/or the company about the situation in question.
While you can’t force anyone to reach a resolution, offering your help in resolving the conflict communicates that you’re open to a resolution and want to find a path forward. It also sends a powerful message that you care about resolving the conflict and not just finding out what happened so you can mete out punishment.
Investigations may have serious consequences for those involved, but they don’t have to be confrontational. If you follow these tips, you can make sure your next investigation is as non-threatening as possible. That’s the best way for everyone to learn what happened and to have the opportunity to move forward in a healthy way.
The truth will come out
The truth always comes out eventually. If it doesn’t in the workplace investigation, it’s only because the wrong person was let off the hook due to inadequate investigation on the part of the employer, or because the person being investigated has lawyered up and is refusing to cooperate. It’s important to keep in mind that an investigation is not a trial and doesn’t have the same standard of proof. In an investigation, all you need to do is find enough evidence to support your conclusion.
Contact Jolasers if you need any help interviewing employees for an investigation.