Manager’s guide to unraveling a ‘he said-she said’

Soft SkillsIt’s something every manager runs into at some point or another, the exasperating ‘he said-she said.’

It often crops up when there’s been some transgression of the rules.

Employee A says one thing happened.

Employee B says another thing – and often something very different – happened.

Whom do you believe – especially during sensitive workplace investigations where your decisions may have an effect on an employee’s standing with your organization?

It’s great when there is hard evidence, or a third witness.

But life doesn’t always come in neat packages.

So, how best to get to the bottom of things? One key is to determine the credibility of the people involved.

You're Fired!
That advice comes courtesy of attorney Lorene Schaefer on the Win-Win HR blog.

Who’s telling the truth?

To get to the heart of who’s telling the truth and when, Schaefer suggests that you model your questions on the courtroom instructions judges often give to juries when it comes to weighing witness credibility.

Doing so will give you a better chance at getting as close as possible to the truth of what actually happened – and choose an honest, nondiscriminatory reason for taking a specific action.

Here are the typical guides you can use to decide whether there’s a foundation for believing what an employee is telling you.

Ask yourself initially if the person:

  1. instinctively impressed you as one who was telling the truth
  2. had any particular reason not to tell the truth
  3. had a personal interest in the outcome of the case that might cause a deviation from the truth
  4. seemed to have a good memory of events
  5. had the opportunity and ability to accurately observe the things he or she is telling you about, or
  6. appeared to understand the questions clearly and answer them directly.

The approach is not foolproof, and much depends on our own good (and at times not-so-good) judgment.

But in many instances, this approach can eliminate a lot of less-than-believable “information.”

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