What do I do to maintain confidentiality between interviews?

 

Why do I insist on confidentiality between interviews? Because it can be really destructive to the culture of an organization if there is complete transparency about everything that happens in an investigation to all people. Let me break that down a little bit. Obviously, when I'm doing a workplace investigation, I am transparent with my client, who is usually employment counsel or somebody out of either the legal department or the HR department. It could be a project manager, it could be a local person, but generally, I am, of course, completely transparent with that person.

But as between people that I'm interviewing, I make the pledge that I will never tell anybody in another interview “what you and I talked about today.” And I can do that because I am thoughtful about the way I asked my questions. And so people are smart enough to figure out that there were only two of us in the room and if she knows that story, then obviously she's spoken to the other person that was in the room, but that information won't come from me. And so people start to trust that they can tell me things, and there will be a veil of transparency. There'll be some block in what comes out of my mouth in the next interview and so it is safer to talk to me because I'm not going to encourage gossip. There can be other issues in government investigations because folks can do an open records request and get information. Still, the information will not come from my mouth with another interviewee.

Likewise, I can't ask people not to engage in gossip if I'm going to do it myself. And since I know that gossip is the biggest enemy of a quality workplace investigation, I have to protect gossip within my investigation, as well as what happens when people leave my room. And so I know that other people will go and say, "Oh, I already talked to Bob." Or somebody will say, "Oh, you should talk to Bob." And in the interview, I could say, "Oh, I already did." But that will never happen from me because, as an organization, my law firm is very focused on improving the quality of the workplace. That's why we do investigations. That's why we think it's important, and I can't bring up the culture and the environment of a workplace if I'm also tearing it down during the interview by encouraging gossip about something that's so sensitive, there's an investigation going on.


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