How to Investigate a Workplace Affair

Workplace romances always come with a price.

Workplace romances always come with a price.

Workplace romances always come with a price. Sometimes that price is a formal investigation. When you’re tasked as the investigator, professionalism is essential. Workplace affairs aren’t the repeat subjects of B movies and tabloid headlines for nothing -- they can prove very dramatic for everyone involved. Avoid being caught off guard with the amount of effort that a thorough investigation really requires. Unlike in the movies, you can't complete a real-life workplace investigation in two hours.

Forget everything you’ve seen on television. Acting like a fictional detective is counterproductive. Get familiar with all workplace guidelines involving affair investigations. Review them in a quiet place over several days for maximum absorption. Highlight confusing sections for follow-up. Ask a seasoned colleague for pointers regarding interview techniques. Not understanding procedures or their intent is no excuse for shoddy investigative work.

Devise thorough questions about the nature and timeline of the possible affair. Asking appropriate questions is an essential part of any investigation. Think of questions that aim to confirm or invalidate details of the initial complaint. Incorporate yes-or-no and open-ended questions for the targets and witnesses. Keep questions direct to avoid hearsay and fluff. Revise your list as new details emerge.

Make an interview list and systematically follow it. This keeps your investigation organized and timely. Include the targets of the investigation along with colleagues who have work or personal relationships with them. Add people to the list as their names come up during in-person questionings and in written statements. Conduct follow-up interviews to clarify confusing points. Remember that high rank doesn't make anyone immune from the interview process.

Keep accurate documentation. Record the date, time and parties present when taping witness interviews. Implement a standard system of naming interviews for easier access. Review each written testimony for legibility and a signature before you accept it. Use secure methods when storing evidence.

Stay in character throughout the process. Investigating workplace affairs is stressful. Don’t allow personal relationships to interfere with your detective work. Explain the procedures to the interviewees along with consequences for dishonesty. Maintain positive body language during questionings, no matter what you hear. Avoid signs of impartiality including laughter, sighing or eye-rolling. Realize that your actions could prevent witnesses from being completely honest.

Resist the urge to spill details. Professional credentials won’t make you immune to gossip spreading -- your values will. Remember that offering up tidbits to unauthorized parties could tarnish your reputation and even make you a target for investigation. Don’t ever start or perpetuate jokes about any investigation. Refuse to answer questions from nosy colleagues. Explain that your professional integrity is too important to risk. Stay on guard, as sneaky co-workers will find ways to test your mettle.

Summarize your findings in a formal report. Outline your investigative process to show that your work is fair and thorough. Include a timeline of verified events regarding the possible affair. Avoid filling your report with personal speculation -- let the evidence speak for itself.

Tip

  • Give reasonable deadlines for the completion of written statements.

Warning

  • Never investigate a workplace affair when you're too close to the parties involved.
 

About the Author

Mika Lo has been producing online content since 2005. The majority of her work has been published in areas such as parenting, lifestyle and health. Lo has also assisted with the development of community and hospital-based patient education programs, including creative discharge classes for new mothers and assisting underprivileged patients with medication assistance and information.

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