What Do I Do to Admonish an Accused During a Workplace Investigation?
What do I do with an accused individual? What do I tell them?
The accused is always the last interview I do, unless there's some weird logistical thing going on. But I tell them that they are the accused individual. And generally, they've been notified somewhere along the way that this is happening, and that they're the one being accused, so it's rarely a shock.
But it's also important that I do what I can to take the sting or the shock away, so that I can have a quality and robust engagement in an interview with that person. And so to do that, I go through the same admonishments that I go through with everybody.
But I also include the fact that, “Hey, you have been accused of some wrongdoing in the workplace.” Usually, that terminology works for what we're doing. “And I want to make sure that you understand that there are some really fundamental questions I need to talk to you about. We are going to get to the crux of what you've been accused of doing, and I need you to know that I only know part of the story, and I'm really hoping you can help me fill it in, but really also, at the end of the day, if you did the thing, I need to understand why you did it. Or I would like to be able to take back an apology to the employer.”
The other thing with an accused is, a lot of times, even if I haven't in other interviews, I will get something along the lines of a witness statement. And so I usually get it in their hand, but it'll say, “My name is Bob. It's Tuesday. I'm interviewing with Natalie. She asked me to write this down. And the thing she asked me to write down is that on Tuesday, May 5th, I stole the car, and whatever other pertinent details there are.”
I try to keep it as short as possible, but still get that admission out and then get them to sign it. But again, with accused individuals – and I really am doing it – I want to know why they did what they did. Because a lot of times when you find that out, it's not such a bad thing after all. But also, I mean, if they did do a bad thing, good people make bad decisions all the time. And this is their opportunity, and first line of apology, if they intend to and want to apologize to their employer through the investigative process.