When investigating complaints of employee wrongdoing, you may find a potential witness who’s not interested in helping. There’s no magic solution to getting people to talk, but here are three approaches you may find helpful:
- Get tough: Workers may figure they have nothing to gain by talking. Write into your policy manual a provision requiring cooperation with employee investigations, with penalties up to and including termination. Remind workers of this if they seem uncooperative.
- Be protective: Workers may fear that other employees will retaliate against them if they talk. Stress to employees the anti-retaliation policies you have for anyone who reports or cooperates.
- Focus on the victim: Often employees don’t cooperate because they’re trying to protect a potential wrongdoer — perhaps out of a sense that they may one day be accused of doing something wrong themselves. What they often overlook is that there usually are one or more victims as well. For example, if the company gets hit with a big fine for a safety violation, that could mean someone has to get laid off, or there’s no company match this year for the 401(k). Try to get the witness to identify with the victim(s).
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