Time of crises

How does an investigator walk the tightrope of neutrality at a time of crises?

How does an investigator walk the tightrope of neutrality at a time of crises?

Everything is changing but life still goes on. If you are involved in conducting investigations at the moment now is the time to show a supersized amount of empathy and compassion.

Raising complaints and being investigated are up there with the more stressful things in life, doing it at this unprecedented time of crisis makes everyone even more on edge.

Whilst participants will be expecting delays, they may also be at the end of a long and wearying process and will be keen to have their say or make their case to get things finalised. They will not expect a diminished process due to social distancing, rather a fair and efficient process will need to be maintained.

Walking the line of neutrality is difficult at the best of times. How do you walk the tightrope of neutrality and attention to detail without falling into aggressive questioning or being too ‘understanding’ and giving the impression of bias?

When parties to an investigation are experiencing distress it is time for investigators to show a supersized amount of empathy and compassion. This is about the manner and tone of interactions not about the evidence gathered, it is all about rapport.

To effectively build rapport you need to demonstrate and create three things:

  • Understanding
  • Confidence
  • Trust

These three elements are interlinked in a complex web of human interaction between the investigator, the subjects and the agencies involved. The work of the investigator in this respect does not stand alone. If the subject has had a workers compensation claim rejected and the matter has dragged on for years by the employer, no matter how great your investigation process – you will have an uphill battle in terms of building trust with subjects.

If the claim is made under extraordinary and tragic circumstances – use your understanding card to get over this hurdle. Demonstrate that you understand the difficulties facing people and that you can see things from their perspective. Be flexible, make nothing too much trouble. If you have personal experiences that are helpful, share them, this will provide evidence that you understand. Do not take sides or criticise a person’s experience. It is their experience, their feelings around it will not change and to a large degree are not relevant to most investigations.

Acknowledge the difficulties they are experiencing and combat them with information. Give information about what you are going to do, how your role fits in, what experience you have had, your skills and the tasks you will complete and when. Be clear about the information you do not have and cannot provide. Information and time-lines that are adhered to, build confidence and trust. Fail to send an email or stick to a commitment without explanation and you lose points in the trust rating.

Critically, there is nothing that builds rapport better than an investigator who knows what they are doing – this sense of competence and confidence should ooze out of an investigator and when it does, it instills feelings of security and trust in subjects.

If you are applying rapport building to remote communications, your emails, letters and conversations should all demonstrate your capacity to be empathetic, demonstrate your competence and be consistent and timely. With technology it’s OK for the equipment to fail but not because of operator error!  Don’t let it unsettle you. When it comes to demonstrating confidence, ‘fake it until you make it’!

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