Investigations without Interviews?
The business executive is frantic. Tens of thousands of dollars have been wire transferred from one of the company’s bank accounts to an unknown person. The common outsider attack is ruled out. The intricate knowledge of how to access the bank account numbers and password suggests only a few employees had knowledge of such information. We sit down with the company leadership and discuss the methods we will use, but once we get to the part about interviewing the employees who had specific knowledge, something strange tends to happen…
Executive – “Can you guarantee the person responsible will confess?”
Astinel – “Although we have success in gaining admissions, we can’t make that guarantee.”
Executive – “I’d just hate for anyone to feel accused.”
Astinel – “Another option is we can conduct behavioral interviews and share our thoughts on who is telling the truth vs. those who may be concealing information, it’s not ideal however.”
With great angst, the executive replies, “I just don’t want to upset the culture.” The human resources manager participating in the meeting slightly nods in agreement.
The scenario described happens more often with than one might think. We suspect the emphasis on employee retention, a caring leadership team and an inviting company culture has led to the reticence of attacking misconduct. Other leaders just don’t wish to be confrontational. Newsflash! If you have internal theft, harassment, corruption etc., your culture is already upset. The person(s) responsible are not going to stop because of your reluctance. A failure to take decisive action is akin to discovering spoiled milk in your refrigerator, placing it back in the refrigerator and hoping it will get better.
Now as a business leader you could make the decision of having a preemptive risk assessment performed. This is to detect where your company may be vulnerable but hey, your hiring managers are “a good judge of character” and if nothing has happened, nothing will, so you accept the risk. Maybe you had a hiccup several years ago, but that’s in the past and “lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place.” Or, “everyone here is like family.” Sigh…okay then.
May 2020 be the year your organization gets serious about rooting out bad behavior or at least identifying vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, but necessarily, interviewing employees is a part of the process.