Basic Investigation Methods
If you witness some improper behavior or if one of your employees or
customers informs you of inappropriate behavior on the part of one of your
employees, you'll need to check it out. While basic fact-finding might seem easy
and obvious enough to do, it's important to know what to ask and how to get
When employees or customers bring improper conduct to your attention:
- Thank them (you want to encourage people to speak up and be open about
these matters with you).
- Ask them, in private, to describe exactly what they witnessed.
- Ask them to give you a written statement, if the situation warrants one.
- Assure them that you will treat the complaint with seriousness and
- Be sure to follow up with them when the situation has been addressed
(don't divulge anything about the disciplinary action with the complainant -
you must protect the confidentiality of the disciplined employee, too).
Use these guidelines to help you get the information you need:
- Ask for specifics. Get details. Do not assume anything.
- Get names of witnesses. Interview all possible witnesses.
- Review every file and document.
- Visit the place where the incident occurred, if necessary.
- Ask open-ended questions that don't require witnesses to confirm or deny
your stated or implicit conclusions.
- Keep confidences and conduct the investigation in private.
- Maintain your objectivity.
- Watch the body language of individuals. For example, some body language
enthusiasts believe that if people fold their arms across their chests,
avoid eye contact, scratch their noses, or turn their body away from you,
they may be lying or not telling the full truth.
- Respect the privacy of those involved.
- Take good notes for documentation
There are other
methods that you can use in conducting an investigation. While some of these
methods are rather involved and drastic, they may be helpful in extreme