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What’s the difference?

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I was out to dinner with a lovely group of friends who have attended my training, both years ago and as recently as this week and I was asked, “What’s the difference between level 1, 2, and 3?”

The person who asked had not attended any of the training and the rest of the table had various levels completed. I have been asked this question before and usually provide some details that I think people will find relevant as an easy way to differentiate. I have also thought about the question and how to answer it better for people. Here is my attempt today.

Level One of our Harassment Investigation course begins an introduction into a methodology and a mindset. I have structured the class (and all the other levels) to begin with a base of theory. We then transition into the practice of doing, something I feel provides the strongest insights and learnings. In our classes, you will be greeted (confronted?) by a variety of professional actors, playing various types of personalities common in investigation work. The cases we train on are the cases we have worked on, no make believe here. Once we have “done”, we analyze, discuss and learn best practices. Templates and ideas abound as I draw the three-day level one to a close.

Level Two comes only for those who have attended Level One. My workshops are fast-paced, and this two-day program does not have time to introduce the methodology and mindset. We jump into another true case, this time in the middle. We prepare tools we introduced in Level One, including an essence paragraph (my personal fave), and a detailed list of “Things we want to know”. Note this is not a list of verbatim questions. I challenge the group to interview professional actors with a conversational approach, with an eye to the subtleties of witness reactions, and discussion on how to develop multiple interview strategies. Yes, there’s homework, you’re welcome! Day two of this class brings us to the business of a re-direct interview. You will see the complainant and respondent at the end of the case, and we expand on the principles and strategies for the end of the investigation.

Level Three is our latest offering, and we have yet another case – this time reflecting some of the current trends we see emerging. Again, you are asked to prepare for interviews. This time, I have also prepared and we will compare lists and talk about refining preparation. Like Sarge always said: “Proper Preparation and Planning Prevent Poor Performance”. We interview multiple parties and have access to evidence. The final day is spent preparing a final report, and defending your reasoning and decision-making to yet another professional actor, this time playing your supervisor.

That’s the bones of it. As I was formulating my answer last night it struck me that we move down levels of complexity, and subtlety both with ourselves and the people we interview. In my opinion, almost anyone can interview someone they understand and “vibe” with, it is entirely another level to interview someone who does not share your sensibilities, successfully, so that they feel heard and know that the process was a fair one. This is what I’m trying to get at.

Hope to see you around the way,

Dylan

The Importance of a Thorough Investigation

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An incomplete investigation can cause havoc to a corporation not to mention the primary parties involved in the dispute.

Let’s consider a few facts that can colour your investigation work:

  • You don’t have enough time in your day to do all the work in front of you now – to do what’s expected of you.

  • Your boss doesn’t understand the time demands of a thorough investigation and so expects on-going job responsibilities be met, while you’re attempting to investigate.

  • You wish someone else could handle this investigation work, for it makes you uncomfortable.

  • You don’t know if the complaint of harassment fits under your corporate policy definition.

  • There’s a complaint – that represents a problem that has to be dealt with right now before things get worse so let’s get in there and get the job done now.

Do any of these statements resonate with you? So often a corporation will rush through an investigation for a variety of reasons, reasons they believe are valid, reasons that compete with conducting a thorough investigation.

Time after time we see investigation work that is incomplete, rushed or simply incomplete because the investigator has not followed through on a line of questioning; has not interviewed all the pertinent witnesses or has not traced all the evidentiary material.

An incomplete investigation can cause havoc to a corporation not to mention the primary parties involved in the dispute. Let’s take a look at what can happen as a result:

  • one or both of the primary parties resigns from the corporation – thereby losing a trained, valuable resource, one that requires replacing and retraining

  • the conclusions of the investigation are erroneous – and one of the parties moves the complaint outward into another jurisdiction and the organization loses control of the process.

  • the investigation is non-conclusive – leaving both primary parties unhappy, stressed and angry – usually directed at the investigator and the organization.

  • the wrong party is found to be at fault – opening the door for legal action or again, action taken outside the organization’s jurisdiction

There are many negative outcomes to pursuing an investigation and then not thoroughly completing it, dotting all those i’s – crossing all those t’s. People’s lives can be impacted in a major way. In conducting training across the country we have learned that preparation for interviews and gathering evidence is an area where most harassment investigations need work. If the evidence is presented in an incomplete way in the final report that can lead to being unable to reach analyzed, considered conclusions based on evidence.

Witness Statements: The foundation of a thorough harassment investigation

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One of the most important factors to a complete and thorough harassment investigation is the statement.  We refer to the statements as the foundation of the report because that is the first place (besides your notes) that you have recorded and presented the evidence of the case.  

A properly written statement can do many things for an investigation.  They provide a framework for the case in that statements are the raw material of the case.  Statements give you a structure on which to base your questions for witnesses and they can also point out questions or gaps of information that the investigator needs to fill before the end of the interview or investigation.  Statements are what are left at the end of the interview process that you have the witness sign and take a copy of.  They are what you base your conclusions on.

You would have a difficult time indeed bringing in a conclusion to a case of harassment without the evidence presented in the statements and the final report.  There have been countless times that we have seen reports that attempt to make a conclusion based on a lack of evidence in the statements and the report.  These conclusions are unfortunately the ones that are vulnerable to challenge.

In conducting training across the Country, we have learned that statement writing is an area where most harassment investigations need support. People often struggle with taking information they have gathered and presenting it (in the statement and the report) in a clear and complete manner.  Unfortunately, incomplete statements lead to incomplete reports.  If the evidence is presented in an incomplete way in the final report that can lead to being unable to reach a conclusion based on evidence even though the investigator asked all the ‘right’ questions, and maybe even took ‘perfect notes’.  The evidence is just simply not there unless it is presented in a clear manner.  

Are you able to read the final report and have all your questions answered and your conclusions make sense to your boss?  Have you been asked to re-do witness interviews and/or entire investigations?  Does the witness ask for excessive changes?  These are all signs that can help you asses your statement taking process.

At Hill Advisory we follow the same pattern to format statements.  We do this because we believe that it keeps our process safe.