Investigations – Consequences Equal Anxiety
When our mind is saying something our body doesn’t agree with there is always going to be conflict within. It’s the classic literary man versus self and when put in a situation that illustrates this, the result is as good as any battle we would have witnessed in the coliseum. Quite often during an investigation; whether it is in the workplace or otherwise, we will witness this anxiety in the subject as they are being questioned. The simple fact is that anxiety is a fear of the future and the consequences it brings based on what is at stake; predominantly when somebody is being questioned it’s due to a problematic act or behaviour that the subject is well aware of, with the penalty representing the future. In the vast majority of investigations, anything from theft to workplace violence or harassment, we already know the answers before the questions are asked; hence the golden rule in an investigation, never ask something you don’t already know the answer to. The question is how aware are they of the information you hold? Remaining calm and maintaining composure regardless of what the subject says or how the subject reacts is a key component as the interviewer; it’s true what they say, you do indeed get more bees with honey. There will be many instances where the room falls silent but you can bet that the subject can only hear his racing pulse as he/she desperately tries to win the futile battle; very reminiscent of Sir Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart”.
The point is that the principle behind the story is basic psychology and hasn’t altered throughout time; after all Poe wrote it in 1843. The interview is usually the final step in an investigation and remains the most crucial. The gathering of evidence is comparative to the practice, with the interview being the big game where all that was learned throughout is now put on display; but until all the evidence is concrete, we should never point to the fence.
When choosing who to conduct the interview it is always an advantage to have an objective third party who can befriend the subject and begin a fresh relationship. Management in a workplace situation will be seen as the enemy due to the fact that they already know the subject’s history and therefore will support a subjective view as a result. A stranger who has no idea of the subject’s past (or at least that is how they will perceive it) is going to garner the most effective results. The subject will see this as a chance for a fresh start with somebody new who will clearly have an influence on the outcome. After all in an anxious situation, who wouldn’t want a fresh start?