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,


Witness Reluctance

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If you conduct investigations or even if you are seeking information in the workplace, you will undoubtedly run into a scenario where the people you are talking to have information but are reluctant to share it with you. Let me share one tool I use to help in this situation.

Some background: I have conducted thousands of interviews over the past 25ish years. I have never met the people involved until we sit down to speak. Most folks do not really want to share what they know – for a variety of reasons.

The technique: As we get into a topic, I will conduct a free-flowing conversation with the person, and avoid any direct, specific questions, especially if I am feeling a reluctance and overall discomfort. I will attempt to get into a pattern of communication where they are speaking, and I am speaking, and there is a flow to the conversation. The details of the conversation will vary, but the feeling is what I am after. Is this what a normal everyday conversation feels like? Perfect.

The next step: As I broach a specific area of interest and they begin to relate some basics, I follow the conversation, rather than starting with a direct or abrupt: “Who said that”. I will ask followup questions to what they have already told me, building the detail as we go, as a natural extension of the conversation. Only when that is done will I circle back and ask for names.

The benefits: Worst case scenario, we get the details of what happened and maybe not the names or other more specific information. We have something to go on. Also, we do not completely stall the conversation by being too direct at first, and creating a more uncomfortable conversation with the person.

Let’s face it, many employees want nothing to do with an investigation and an interview. Our job, when done well, is creating a more comfortable space for people, and you get a long way down that road by paying attention to how people like to talk and when they feel comfortable.

Join me for a training event, or drop me a line, I’m always open to discussion!

  • Dylan

Unresolved Conflict

Conflicts will continue to occur in our working lives. Let’s arm employees with the tools to resolve them before they fester into an investigation.

When unresolved conflicts continue to fester and grow, they fill the ones in dispute with hard feelings of hopelessness, anger, resentment or outrage, these conflicts then take on new dimensions. These are the types of situations that often get tossed into the employer’s Respectful Workplace Policy. Generally words like, harassment, bullying, discrimination form part of the complaint. Often at the root of the conflict is a workplace miscommunication or work issue and almost always there is some form of power imbalance between the parties. 

Once the complaint is filed, employers usually are compelled to investigate the matter, either themselves or hiring outside expertise. At the end of an investigation there is a conclusion, as to whether there has been a breach to policy or not. This conclusion may resolve the issue as far as the employer is concerned, as a conclusion allows some form of employer driven action to occur, i.e. discipline, corrective action. 

What is left? The feelings behind the complaint and the conflict. An investigation does not generally resolve those feelings. Frankly, an investigation shouldn’t be trying to resolve the feelings, but looking instead at the evidence of the complaint. How can those feelings behind the conflict be dealt with in the workplace? Should they be dealt with? Whose responsibility is it to deal with these feelings?

We need to back-up and relook at how unresolved conflict is addressed in the workplace. We need to support and train supervisors and managers to recognize conflicts early, and to take remedial steps towards solving the initial issue so that conflict does not stay unresolved. We need to offer employees ongoing training in how to resolve differences, workplace conflicts, to give them tools in confronting and collaborating with others to resolve conflicts before they fester. We need to offer a service to disputants of moving forward in a way that will allow them to work together day-to-day while supporting them individually to look inward and learn their part in the conflict. Conflict takes two. It may be how the other person reacts versus initiates actions, but it still takes two for conflict to occur. 

It’s time to broaden our understanding of conflict, and to start looking at ways to assist those in conflicts so they learn a new skill, one that they can take forward in their working lives so they don’t fear conflict, but approach it with a more confident, collaborative manner.

Conflicts will continue to occur in our working lives. Let’s arm employees with the tools to resolve them before they fester into a formal investigation.