Introduction to Workplace Investigation Interviewing Techniques
Part III — Admonitions: Getting It All Out There in the Most Effective Way
As investigators, there are a number of advisories that we are required to communicate before we begin our interviews. For example, we need to clarify our role as an investigator and fact finder; communicate that the investigation is a sensitive personnel matter; set expectations for future discussions, if any; review policies that prohibit retaliation; and if compliant with NLRB v. Banner Health Systems, outline confidentiality admonitions. The interviewee, who may be apprehensive or nervous, can grow more uncomfortable as we lay out our role and the purpose of the meeting.
Our delivery of these admonitions is as important as the content of what we are communicating. Our initial communication with the witness begins with our admonitions. As such, it is critical that we utilize this time to begin building rapport with the witness. This will allow us to more easily segue into more difficult lines of questioning.
- Memorize Your Lines: The ability to deliver your admonitions from memory will enable to maintain eye contact with the witness as you introduce yourself and describe your role and the investigative process. Developing a standard set of instructions will facilitate memorization, and allow for greater ease in delivery to the witness. Maintaining eye contact encourages the witness to perceive you as experienced and comfortable in your role. By appearing comfortable and at ease, your demeanor will encourage the witness to become less apprehensive about the process.
- Keep it Concise: Touch upon each of the required elements in a clear and concise manner and ensure comprehension by checking in with the witness. Explain that you have a few areas you want to cover with the witness before you get started with the interview. This provides the witness with a sense of the structure of the interview, which can lessen anxiety or apprehension about the process.
- Be Respectful: Before proceeding with the interview, ask the witness about any time constraints they might have. Advise the witness that they are free to leave at any point during the interview. Finally, remind the witness that they may tend to their needs, such as answering a phone call or using the restroom, at any time.
- Facilitate a Friendly Dialogue: The interview should feel more like a conversation than a deposition, and especially an interrogation. Remind the witness during the admonitions that you are seeking their best recollections and perceptions, including information the witness may have learned from someone else. Encourage him or her to let you know if a question is confusing.
- Anticipate Frequently Asked Questions. The parties and witnesses will often have questions for you, the investigator. Be prepared to answer common questions. For example, witnesses may ask if what they share with you will be kept confidential; witnesses may want to know who will get to see your investigative report; or whether they are required to participate in the investigative process. A respondent may want to know whether they should retain the services of an attorney or whether they are permitted to record the interview. When preparing for your interview, anticipate these, and other, frequently asked questions and be ready to engage in a discussion.
For more information regarding essential admonitions, view our Frequently Asked Questions. Be sure to read the other articles in this series:
- Part I — Physical Setting: The Importance of “Setting the Scene”
- Part II — First Impressions Matter
- Part III — Admonitions: Getting It All Out There in the Most Effective Way
- Part IV — The Most Effective Question Types
- Part V — It’s All in the Details
- Part VI — Do Not Forget Your Closing Questions
Lindsay Ingham is an Associate Attorney with Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation. Her practice focuses on conducting workplace and Title IX campus investigations.
The foregoing is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor should be construed as such.