A particular mindset is required when investigating witnesses involved in sexual harassment cases. First and foremost the investigator must be willing to listen without taking sides or wanting to fix the problem. Therapists are trained to listen and sort information without becoming personally involved or overwhelmed. Most investigators and HR personnel within the infrastructure of the company/organization are not trained in this capacity. Company personnel will often find themselves preserving biased judgments as well as taking on the judgments of friends and colleagues. They may also find themselves in a situation of fear if they were to make a decision unfavorable to the company/organization they work for. Therefore, it is a good idea to hire professional investigators when the situation is intense.
Because sexual harassment cases are challenging and time-consuming knowledge is power for a complainant. Therefore, I am sharing with you what investigators are told to consider before beginning an investigation.
- Assess your time available time energy
- Know that you will be dealing with intimate employee issues that are: difficult, embarrassing, uncomfortable and or awkward.
- Familiarize yourself with the people, language, and settings in the workplace.
- Listening without bias, so to be perceived as unbiased.
- Think objectively and try not to put your own beliefs or perceptions into the investigation.
- Just because you (investigator) thinks the incident (s) is not offensive, or innocent or harmless does not mean the complaint is wrong for feeling or perceiving it differently.
- Learn the art of body language. ( Our gestures tell stories.)
- Realize interviewing entails varying levels of employees. ( Some positions may outrank the investigator.)
- Be prepared to listen to and repeat offensive acts and language
- Make deadlines
- Analytic thinking and critical thinking and listening skills so to have the ability to evaluate conflicting and ambiguous witness accounts of the incident.
In closing be prepared for distasteful gossip, criticisms, false allegations and the challenge. The more you know, the better off you are.