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How to Avoid Bias in Interviews during Workplace Investigation

bias in interviews, workplace investigation interview

Workplace investigations are essential in dealing with unfortunate events. From irresponsible behavior to sexual misconduct, a fair investigation helps in creating a peaceful work environment. For this purpose, investigators should steer clear of bias in Interviews.

Investigators may not always realize they are being biased in their opinion. As a result, a biased investigation can compromise the integrity of the investigation and ultimately the outcome for all parties. So, let’s explore the various ways on how you can avoid conscious or unconscious bias in interviews:

Make Sure You Remain Neutral

Investigators shouldn’t have personal interests involved with the trial. It’s important to appoint professionals who don’t have a personal history with the parties.

Being an investigator, you should not be partial towards the complainant or the accused employee. It’s best to put your feelings aside during the interview. But it’s not always possible to stay neutral. In that case, you should consider separating yourself from the process for a fair workplace investigation. You can ask the management to assign the investigative interview to another investigator.

Judging the Interviewees Isn’t Right

When an interviewee enters the room, you may create a perception about them. For instance, a well dressed person may impress you. On the other hand, you may judge an interviewee if their shoes are dirty. This practice can result in a biased investigation.

So, you should avoid judging the interviewees. Regardless of their personality, appearance, and way of talking, you should focus on the topic at hand.

Focus on Evidence

Investigative interviews assist in unveiling the facts. So, keep this in mind and focus on finding the relevant evidence through interviews

The interviewees may go off-track while sharing their side of the story. Or the witnesses may want to share the behavioral history of the person accused of workplace misconduct. At such times, you should ignore irrelevant issues and history and focus on relevant facts.

Create a Comfortable Environment

bias in interviews, workplace investigation interview

Interview planning helps you ensure that the environment is comfortable for interviewees. The room setup shouldn’t be intimidating. Moreover, you should be polite with them at all times. However, make sure no interviewee gets special or preferential treatment.

You may behave differently with top management as compared to other employees. Also, it’s possible you may go out of your way for people you already know.

It’s important to help interviewees adjust to the environment, but be mindful of causing unintentional bias during interviews if you don’t treat everyone the same way.

Avoid Affirming Phrases

During an investigative interview, the witnesses, complainant, and respondent share useful information. You may feel the urge to say “Yes, I agree” or “No, I disagree” at certain points. However, this presents as a type of bias and the court may reject critical evidence due to perceived bias.

It’s important to conduct a fair investigation. Hence you should avoid saying such phrases during the interviews. Keep an open mind and avoid using affirming comments.

Don’t Make Assumptions

In case of a workplace incident, you may need to conduct a number of interviews to collect evidence during an investigation. To complete the investigation on time, you may rush the interviewees to quickly share their information.

When in a rush, investigators tend to make assumptions about what the interviewee wants to say. It’s never a good idea to make assumptions. You should give interviewees time to share their thoughts. But if something is unclear, you should ask them again instead of assuming what they wanted to say. You should also review and confirm evidence with the interviewee before finishing the interview. This way, you can ensure the information is valid.

Furthermore, the parties involved may become nervous if you rush them and may forget to share valuable evidence with you. Therefore, careful pre planning is imperative for an efficient and timely investigation.

Asking Leading Questions Is a Big NO!

Picture this!

You are an investigator in a workplace investigation. An employee accused their manager of sexually harassing them. You ask their colleagues any of the following questions:

  • The manager looks vicious. Don’t you think the accusations against him are true?
  • Don’t you think the employee wrongly accused the manager of harassment?
  • The complainant has a strong case. Don’t you think the manager is guilty?

These questions are referred to as leading questions. It’s another type of bias where you may force the interviewee to provide answers that support your perception. The best way to avoid this bias is to ask neutral questions such as:

  • Tell me what happened between the employee and the manager?
  • Can you describe the words or behavior of the manager?

Fair Evidence Evaluation

Once you collect evidence, the next step is to evaluate it. Don’t let your interviewing efforts go in vain due to bias. You may want to discard evidence that doesn’t support your perception of the case, but this may lead to a biased investigation. Rather, you should be objective when reviewing evidence and make sure your analysis report includes the entire information you collected from the concerned parties.

Types of Bias in Interviews

Let’s take a look at some common types of bias in interviews you should avoid at any cost:

  • Halo Effect – When a good fact about the person overshadows the interview
  • Horn Effect – It’s the opposite of the Halo effect. In this bias, you may let a bad thing overshadow other aspects of the interview
  • Confirmation Bias – When you focus on ‘Good’ facts that support your opinion
  • First Impression Bias – When their appearance impresses or disappoints you and you treat them accordingly
  • Stereotyping – When you assume a person is right or wrong on the basis of their appearance, gender, or race
  • Inconsistent Questioning – You may be polite to some interviewees and harsh to others

Bias in interviews can compromise the integrity of an investigation. So, you should conduct interviews with an open mind to ensure a procedurally fair investigation.

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