Hello and welcome to the first edition of the Complex Human Resources Newsletter.
To be published once monthly on the first of the month, the Complex Human Resources Newsletter will have three objectives; I call them the three E’s: educate, entertain and editorialize. I’ll be focusing on complex and difficult workplace issues employers don’t like to handle such as harassment, violence, bullying, human rights violations, absenteeism, fraud, workers’ comp fraud, organizational and personal conflict, and theft – time and products – to name a few. You could even include disciplining employees and/or termination of employment on this list.
These issues can be unpleasant, time consuming, complicated, often messy, and wrought with various legal issues. They can distract from the main job of running the business, damage your brand, and cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars if not properly handled. Failure to resolve them could even result in bankruptcy.
These matters require skillful handling by a professional with human resources and investigative expertise. As the old saying goes, “I’ve been there, done it and got the t-shirt for it.” As a Human Resources Professional, I draw on my extensive knowledge of employment and human rights legislation and 35+ years of experience in union and union-free private sector businesses across Canada to conceive and deliver value-added outcomes that elevate human resource capital and maximize business results.
My goal is to help you with some time tested tips and techniques to deal with these issues. I hope you find it useful and informative.
I’d appreciate your feedback on the newsletter and welcome suggestions for future topics.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I am currently working on a second book on how to conduct workplace investigations into employee misconduct. Stay tuned for more details. My goal is to publish in the late spring.
This will be my second foray into book writing. My first book, written in 2017, is titled No More Bad Hires: How To Become An Expert Interviewer. It was published in PDF format. My intention is to convert it to soft cover and electronic formats and publish in the spring as well.
Question Faux Pas
There’s an expression in the world of information technology and mathematics called GIGO. It means garbage in, garbage out. The premise is simple. The quality of the output is highly dependent on the quality of the input. For example, if you are creating a data base and populate it with incorrect data, the output and analysis will likely be flawed and inaccurate. Garbage out.
The same applies to investigative interview questions. If you ask poorly constructed and thought out questions, the odds are good that you will be practicing GIGO and receiving “garbage” information in return. In addition, you will waste a lot of time having to rephrase your questions and possibly running the risk of looking amateurish and unprofessional.
Here are ten question faux pas or mistakes to avoid:
- Asking too many questions at one time. I’ve seen this numerous times with journalists and politicians. The interviewer will tell the interviewee they have a two (or sometimes three) part question. What happens is the interviewee only remembers the last question. As a result, the interviewer has to go back and repose the other two questions. Sometimes, they won’t even do that. The other questions will go unanswered.
Be like Judge Judy and ask only one question at a time. Be methodical. Don’t move on to the next question until you have an answer.
- The interviewer wants to demonstrate his or her expansive vocabulary or knowledge of business jargon and acronyms. Keep it simple. Wherever possible, use the interviewee’s language. You don’t get bonus marks for showing off your extensive command of the English language. You are not playing SCRABBLE.
- Lengthy questions. Avoid questions that are overly long and complex. Keep them short and simple; I recommend no more than ten words. The more complex the question, the greater the likelihood the interviewee will not understand it and will probably ask you to either repeat or rephrase it.
- Leading questions. These are questions that insert information, which may or may not be true, into the question. For example: “You like close-detailed work, don’t you?” This question takes on the premise the interviewee is good at detailed work, but with no facts to back it up. Instead ask: “What’s your experience with close-detail work?”
- Too many closed questions. The overuse of closed questions may make the interview sound like an interrogation. Open-ended questions are preferred. They should be used at least 50% of the time.
- Loaded questions. These are trick questions. They contain at least one assumption that the interview can disagree with. An example of a loaded question might be: “Have you stopped mistreating your next door neighbor’s cat?” This question contains a presumption that the interviewee is mistreating the neighbor’s cat. It tries to push the interviewee into a yes or no answer.
- Double-barreled or compound questions. These are questions that touch on more than one issue but only allows for one answer. An example might be: “Is the book interesting and easy to read?” The best way to rephrase this question would be to ask two questions: “Is the book interesting?” and “Is the book easy to read?”
- Avoid emotionally charged and ambiguous words. Some words are vague, open to interpretation and emotionally charged; they could cause the interviewee to draw an incorrect conclusion. Replace these types of words with behaviorally descriptive words in your questions. For example:
Instead of asking: “Were you screaming at Pat?”
Replace it with: “How loudly were you speaking to Pat?”
- Avoid colloquialisms and slang. Use simple vocabulary. Colloquialisms may be confusing to people whose first language is not language. For example, a person who does not have a good grasp of English may not understand the expression “penny pincher”. You may want to use words like frugal, budget conscious or cost conscious instead. Avoid the word “cheap”. Here’s another word that can be misinterpreted.
- Not organizing your questions into groups. For example, if you were interviewing a person about an accident involving a car, group all of your questions about the car together in a block rather than in no logical order. This will help the interviewee recall all of the facts regarding the car.
I highly recommend that you write out as many questions as you can during the preparation phase of your investigation. A well crafted question with a logical flow to them will not only save you time, but it will help you zero in on what is critical to the investigation.
Laughter is the Best Medicine
If a dog works hard investigating and helps catch criminals and listens to a cop, it’s a Police Hound…
but if the dog did the same thing but listened to a Private Investigator it’s a Snoop Dog.