Effective employee complaint interviewing techniques
Specific types of witnesses; the alleged victim of harassment for example, is a frequent witness during employee complaint investigations. The goal is make sure that that person at the end of the interview feels as good as they can about how the company is treating the employee complaint and surrounding issues. It means making them feel listened to.
Set aside plenty of time
One of the biggest mistakes is a company not setting enough time aside. If you allocate 15 minutes for the interview of a victim of harassment, that is not enough time. You’ll need time to let them get comfortable and open up. So, if anything, set aside more time rather than less time particularly for the key witnesses in an employee complaint investigation.
Manage image and convey empathy
What’s really important is what that person is going to say when they go back to their desk and what do they say to their coworkers. If they come back with a look of relief on their face, that is a huge plus to your company. If they come back in tears, not so good and your employee complaint investigation may be counterproductive.
You want to convey empathy – that is that you’re listening but you also want to convey objectivity and neutrality.
You should absolutely, particularly with the victim, mention the prohibition on retaliation and the importance of immediately reporting of the company any perceived retaliation. Again, allow enough time.
Stress confidentiality during an employee complaint investigation. So for example, it is sometimes the case that people will go back to their desk and start talking to everybody who comes near them about the investigation, which is not a good thing. You’re trying to minimize disruption to the workforce most likely by doing the investigation. And you need to emphasize that to the individuals.
Never forget to ask about other witnesses and never forget to ask about documents. There can be documents that people just don’t think about until they’re asked. That can be critical to the case.
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