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Interviewing for Integrity
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 04/06/2015

Integrity As a boss, manager or supervisor, have you ever been charged with the responsibility to conduct a workplace investigation? Prior to such an assignment, how much training did you received to conduct these difficult types of inquiries and often received or gathered conflicting responses that undermines the credibility of the entire process or those who you interviewed?

The point made to asking these kind of questions is the quality or determinability [bottom] line of your process. Did it give you a clear picture of what happened and is it filled with conflicting statements or comments that puts your ability as an investigator to the test? During such a procedure, an interview can affect the investigator’s ability to determine credibility. Credibility of the process, witnesses, complainant, accused or even the investigator who is in charge of this practice.

One has to learn to glean enough from the complaint whether verbal or written and determine the who, what, where, when, why and how’s of the incident to narrow it down to avoid a “witching” process or endless trail to an unsubstantiated finding or a definite finding confirming the allegations made.

The balance to interview too few (a [s]he said, [s]he said situation) pits one person’s word against the other and is seldom resolved with a definite determination or finding. On the other hand, too many witnesses, may produce biased and conflicting stories and further steer the investigation to a more determined direction or it could actually prevent the investigator discovering or gleaning what really happened.

To determine integrity of the process one must put together a list of factors that could determine the applicable and credibility of statements and responses during such an event. This format to seek balance sought should take into consideration “all things relevant” and not become a “be all, end all” process. It takes due diligence and sharp focus to stay on track and seek only the facts related to the matter assigned.

Since integrity seeks the finding of the truth, the first important factor in the process should be the questions themselves. Questions should not be ambiguous and asked to induce a false response. Perform your ethical duty as the assigned investigator to ensure all questions are clear, concise, fair and unbiased in nature and that the answer to such an inquiry would provide you a factual statement.

Prior to asking the questions, prepare the person being interviewed with some solid guidelines for producing a truthful statement. Preparation suggestions should include:
  • Always tell the truth: Failure to tell the truth in an interview or investigation constitutes misconduct, which is subject to administrative disciplinary action.
  • Listen to the question: Do not answer any question unless you hear it clearly and completely. You may ask to repeat a question.
  • Understand the question before answering: Do not answer any question unless you understand it fully. Pause after each question: This gives you an opportunity to think about the question and give an appropriate response.
  • Don't guess: If you do not know the answer to a question, you should say that you do not know.
Other factors include:

A. Inherent Plausibility:
  • Is this person a witness, participant, or not present and acting on hearsay? Are they facts or rumors being repeated by the culture of the workplace?
  • Is the testimony believable at face value?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Can you match any statements, observations or key facts with any other materials or devices e.g. close circuit television, transcripts, radio transmissions etc. facts that can back up the story and puts it in the proper perspective, timeline or chain of events.
B. Demeanor:
  • Did the person interviewed seem to be telling the truth, lying or just being evasive or deliberately dodging the question to provide you with an answer?
  • Did the person seem to be telling the truth or lying?
C. Motive to Falsify:
  • Did the person have a reason to lie?
  • Does the person feel threatened for any reason? Bias and opinion can sometimes get in the way of telling the truth.
  • Consider any connections that people have to the incident or to the complainant and the subject.
  • Could these connections cause them to lie because they know their friend will get hurt?
  • Do they fear retaliation from others for being involved in the interview?
D. Corroboration:
  • Watch for commonalities or discrepancies in witness stories and the claims made by the complainant and the subject in order to get a better picture of what took place during the incident.
  • Is there a witness (such as an eye-witnesses, people who saw the person soon after the alleged incidents?
  • If the witnesses have any bias towards either individual involved in the incident, chances are their story will reflect it. Watch for commonalities or discrepancies in witness stories and the claims made by the complainant and the subject in order to get a better picture of what took place during the incident.
E. Past Record:
  • Did the alleged subject have a history of similar behavior in the past?
  • Many times, past behavior is predictive of future behavior, but is not always the case.
Note: It is beneficial to be aware of repeat offenders in the workplace and what conclusions and actions were taken in their previous cases. As the interviewer, let them know if you have prior information this subject has committed other incidents in the workplace, and that you have the means to review such case records and evidence in past cases as it is readily available to you to consult should you need to.

Following these suggestions or recommendation can be instrumental to your efforts to find the truth. Patience and professionalism in the process will give you a high quality product that should stand on its own merits and give the organizational credibility in their ability to treat employees fairly while providing a fact-finding method that is reliable and dependable to determine the cause or facts of cases recorded in the workplace.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:



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