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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

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