HR professionals have a wide range of responsibilities in keeping the workplace running smoothly and efficiently and are often the first people employees turn to when there is perceived discrimination. Employee discrimination claims have been on the rise in recent years, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. With the #MeToo movement dominating headlines, there is increased awareness of sexual harassment, as well as other illegal and immoral behaviors such as bullying and ethics violations. Because of the seriousness of these types of allegations, it is imperative that you learn how to investigate claims fairly and impartially and learn to suspect when employees may be lying or exaggerating for personal or professional gain.
Don’t Rely on Intuition
Many of us pride ourselves on our intuition, but when it comes to “trusting your gut,” it’s better not to. The stakes are too high to put your faith in subtle cues such as body language and demeanor. While we associate certain behaviors with deception – avoiding eye contact and fidgeting uncomfortably, for instance – research shows that these nonverbal signs are not a reliable indicator of an individual’s truthfulness or lack thereof.
Instead of looking for stereotypical signs of deception, you’re better off listening. Get the person making the claim to start talking and focus carefully on the answers they give when discussing their version of events.
How to Conduct an Investigative Interview
How you approach the interview is extremely important. Don’t come across aggressively; the office is not a courtroom, and this tactic could backfire and put the employee on the defensive. Instead, aim for a more casual approach in order to put the interviewee at ease. A relaxed, conversational discussion encourages the employee to share as much information as possible.
Conducting a cognitive interview is a proven method of uncovering the truth. Doing so involves the following steps:
- Introduce yourself and establish a comfortable rapport
- Have the employee provide a narrative of events
- Avoid interruptions and make note of any inconsistencies in the story
- Hold your questions until the employee has finished their narrative
- Ask open-ended questions to help evaluate the truthfulness of the situation
- Use unexpected questions to discourage recitation of “talking points,” especially if you feel the employee is relying on a memorized script
Following the interview, research the employee’s social media accounts to see if they might back up or disprove any claims. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are fair game when it comes to uncovering the truth.
Without a doubt, discrimination claims are one of the least pleasant HR tasks. Taking the proper approach can help make the process a lot smoother.