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Serious and complex issues in the workplace such as sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination can be difficult to investigate internally. As you would expect, individuals involved in these types of incidents at work may struggle to discuss and recall aspects of their experience due to psychological and emotional distress.
Due to this, creating a safe psychological space is key to conducting an effective workplace investigation in these instances. It’s essential that investigators take the necessary steps to support complainants in serious and complex workplace investigations in order to ensure a thorough, accurate investigation.
Our Trauma-Informed Interviewing Techniques webinar took place on 1st March 2023 with the aim of helping HR professionals and workplace investigators to feel better equipped and confident in tackling serious workplace investigations.
The session was led by Karen Draco, a TCM investigator with over 30 years’ experience in the investigation of complex cases, serious crime, complaints and misconduct proceedings. Previously working in law enforcement, Karen has specialised in complaint handling, Misconduct and Gross Misconduct investigations.
During the webinar Karen shared a wealth of information and guidance on approaching complex and serious workplace investigations, with the number of attendees who felt adequately equipped to tackle sexual harassment investigations confidently rising from 16% at the start of the session to 77% at the end. Here are some of Karen’s top tips:
The location of the interview is key
Karen says: “Ensure the investigation takes place in a comfortable setting, away from where the alleged incident occurred. With workplace investigations this will likely be a common consideration. It’s important to recognise that the individual may experience further emotional distress if they are made to revisit the environment in which the incident(s) in question occurred.”
Ask if the complainant would like to be accompanied to the interview
Karen says: “Check if the individual would like to be accompanied at the interview. As an investigator it’s important to be aware of the procedures and policies within the organisation in which the investigation is taking place. Ensure that the individual is given the support that they are allowed.”
Don’t have time constraints on the interview
Karen says: “In tackling topics that are often extremely sensitive and traumatic, it’s unadvisable to put a time constraint on how long an interview will take. It can often be difficult for people to open up about incidents that have had an emotional impact on them. As an investigator, part of your role is to ensure the individual feels comfortable to reveal all the necessary information you will need to conduct the investigation. If an individual feels you are rushed or distracted this may diminish your ability to gather all the facts from them.”
Watch the full webinar recording below to explore all of Karen’s tips and advice. If you would like to find out more about how TCM could support you and your organisation with serious and complex workplace investigations, please contact our Investigations Coordinator Chloe Pye.