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How to question a witness about a workplace incident

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Robert Lentz

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Whether you're an HR pro digging to the bottom of a legally dangerous workplace conflict, or simply a manager calling someone in to ask the details of a minor incident, the same psychological principles apply when seats are taken and notepads are pulled out. Ann Kotlarski, a partner in the labor and employment department of Payne and Fears in Los Angeles, offers tips on questioning witnesses:

1. Avoid judgmental terms. This includes the terms harassment, discrimination, safety violation, victim or perpetrator. These slipups convey bias and corrupt both the interviewee's statements and your analysis of the situation.

2. Temper your reactions. So much of our attitude is conveyed through body language and tone of voice; keep a poker face on and keep your gestures to a minimum. And statements like "You're kidding me!" or "Well, if that happened, we'll have to terminate him!" destroy your neutrality and legal footing. 

3. Avoid lea...(register to read more)

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