What do I do if the interviewee has no memory of the incident during a workplace investigation?
Oct. 25, 2022
What do you do if an interviewee doesn't remember an important fact or event?
Many of us don't realize something is significant until later. You saw the witness, the accident, this detail, and you never knew that your experience would be the vital thing to report to an investigator. And so it's normal and natural for people to forget some of the incidents, especially if they're transactional and repeated. So maybe you do data entry for a living. Do you remember entering this one line of data three weeks ago? Nobody's ever going to remember that. But you can anchor people's memories, and just by not getting frustrated with them and encouraging them not to get frustrated with their memory, you can do things to help trick them or trick their memory bring back detail.
You can use tricks like telling a witness that "this happening when it is cold outside" because that context will give their mind indexing context. So I don't know if you always wear a coat when it is cold, if you park closer to the building, or if you drive instead of ride your bike.
Or if you ask somebody about something they do remember but struggle to recall when the incident happened, you can ask the reverse. You can say, "Do you remember if it was cold? Do you remember if you were preparing for a holiday?" Other anchors might be about holidays. And so you can say things like, "Did that happen around somebody's birthday?" Or "That happened close to your birthday. Do you remember getting ready for your birthday trip when that was going on? Does that help trigger any memories for you?" And honestly, going on through the rest of your interview with that lapse of memory and touching on all the points in their brain around that memory will help them make the memory more accessible.