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Workplace Investigation: What Not to Do in Investigative Interviews?

Sexual harassment is more common than you may think. In fact, 72% of Australians face this trauma at least once in their life. This is why it’s critical to understand the workplace investigation process.

From sexual harassment to bullying, workplace misconduct can take many forms. Many organizations engage reputable workplace investigators to conduct an investigation. This is because these investigators are neutral and reduce any conflict of interest risk.

Victims may not always come forward to report unfair treatment. However, co-workers can report incidents of such treatment as witnesses under various workplace code of conduct policies. Regardless of the approach, interviewing alleged victims and witnesses is a must.

We have compiled expert interview tips. Are you a workplace investigator? Then you will find these tips helpful. Let’s go!
Workplace Investigation: Common Mistakes

Interrupting the Interviewee

Interviewing witnesses and alleged victims is a delicate task. You need to find evidence whilst displaying empathy. Accordingly, you should provide the interviewees with the chance to talk freely without interference, whilst keeping the interview on track. It’s okay to bring them back to the topic in a respectful way.

Make sure you let them share their point of view. Don’t distract them by interrupting them now and then. They will feel comfortable this way and share valuable insights that will ultimately prove critical when conducting a workplace investigation.

Unconscious Bias

Another mistake is to create a negative perception about the interviewees. For example, you may think that the accused is guilty because they look disheveled. Or you may feel the complainant is lying because they are nervous.

This bias makes it difficult to keep an open mind, potentially compromising the integrity of a fair workplace misconduct investigation. Interviewees get defensive if they feel you are judging them. So, be mindful of your words.

Also, your actions or body language shouldn’t be confronting or perceived as offensive. A workplace investigation aims to get honest answers. Don’t let your conscious or unconscious bias get in the way of the truth.

workplace investigator, workplace misconduct interview

Lack of Planning

Are you in charge of an investigation for sexual misconduct in the workplace? Then you may need to interview the complainant, witnesses, and the respondent(s). It’s a big mistake to invite them without planning the entire process.
Where should I conduct the interviews?

What time works best for the parties?

How to gather useful evidence from interviewees?

What is the ideal room set up?

You can find answers to these questions through careful planning.

Recording Interviews Without Consent

Do you work as a workplace investigator? Then you should be aware of state laws. In some Australian states, recording conversations without consent is illegal. You may end up facing legal issues if you record a person. Moreover, it’s an unethical practice. So, why don’t you inform the interviewees before recording the interview?

A workplace investigation may lead to a court case. The recording of interviewing victims and witnesses would come in handy then.

It’s best to use a digital voice recorder to capture high-quality audio. You can also use an app on your smartphone for this purpose.

Intimidating the Interviewee

The key to gaining the trust of interviewees is to make them feel comfortable. After all, you want them to be honest with you. Thus, you should build a rapport with them.

Choose a venue where they feel safe. Greet them in a professional manner. Don’t forget to offer them water. Also, share with them the purpose of the workplace investigation. Once they get settled, you can start interviewing witnesses and victims.

A little effort goes a long way. This behavior gains the trust of interviewees. As a result, they won’t hesitate in sharing the required information.

Asking Wrong Types of Questions

Sexual misconduct in the workplace requires quick action. But Investigative interviews don’t always prove fruitful. This is because some workplace investigators fail to ask the right questions, so they can’t gather enough evidence to deal with the culprit.

The following useful tips should be considered when framing questions to interviewees:

● Ask neutral and open-ended questions
● Avoid asking leading questions
● Don’t bombard them with a series of questions
● Rephrase the statement if you need to repeat a question
● Make sure you stick to the topic at hand
● Refrain from sharing personal opinion
● Don’t offend them with insulting questions

Follow up Is Important

Bringing the interview to an abrupt end can ruin your efforts. So, be patient to make the most of the interview.

You should review the information before the interview ends. Make sure they feel heard. If the information is unclear, you can ask relevant questions again.

After the interview, it’s ideal to go through the evidence. You can follow up with the parties for more information. Also, update them about the progress as required.

Conclusion: Workplace Investigation

Workplace misconduct events can ruin the workplace environment. It can lower the morale of the workforce, leading to staff turnover and lost productivity. Hence, it’s vital to conduct a fair workplace investigation.

Conducting interviews is an important aspect for a workplace investigation consultant. You should plan the entire process. Make sure you help interviewees understand the process. Listen to them and record the interview with their approval. Management should also follow through on any recommendations or actions outlined in the report at the conclusion of the investigation.

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