How to Ask Better Interview Questions as a Trauma-Informed Workplace Investigator

trauma informed workplace investigator reframes interview questions

Workplace Investigators can Create a Safe and Supportive Interview Environment with This Reframe

As a workplace investigator, one of the most important aspects of your job is interviewing the reporting party and the responding party. These are real people who may have experienced trauma either as part of the incident being reported or in other areas of their lives. Workplace investigators need to be aware of this and do their best not to cause further emotional harm. 

Trauma can manifest in many ways, and it is crucial that you approach these interviews with sensitivity and understanding. One way to do this is by reframing your interview questions to be more trauma-informed.

Trauma-informed interviewing is a method that takes into account the impact of trauma on an individual’s responses and behaviors. By asking questions that are more trauma-informed, you can create a safe and supportive environment for the interviewee, and increase the likelihood of obtaining accurate and meaningful information. 

How to Ask Trauma-Informed Interview Questions

Here are some ways you can reframe your interview questions to be more trauma-informed:

  1. Avoid Why Questions

“Why” questions can be triggering for individuals who have experienced trauma, as they can feel accusatory or judgmental. Instead of asking, “Why did you do that?” or “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”, try rephrasing the question to focus on the individual’s thoughts and feelings. For example, you could ask, “Can you tell me more about what was going through your mind when that happened?” or “What were your concerns about sharing this information with others?”

  1. Use Open-Ended Questions

Closed-ended questions can limit an individual’s response, and may not provide a complete picture of the situation. By using open-ended questions, you can encourage the interviewee to share more details about their experience. Instead of asking, “Did someone hurt you?”, try asking, “Can you tell me more about what happened?” or “How did you feel during the situation?” or “Help me understand…”

  1. Allow Silence

Silence can be uncomfortable, but it can also be a valuable tool in trauma-informed interviewing. Sometimes, an individual may need time to gather their thoughts or emotions before responding to a question. By allowing for moments of silence, you can create a safe space for the interviewee to process their experience and respond in a way that feels comfortable for them.

  1. Validate Emotions

Experiencing trauma can be a deeply emotional experience, and it is important to validate the interviewee’s emotions throughout the interview. Instead of dismissing or minimizing their feelings, be empathetic and try acknowledging and validating them. For example, you could say, “I understand this is a difficult process” or “It’s okay to feel angry about what happened.”

  1. Use Neutral Language

Language can have a powerful impact on an individual’s perception of a situation. Using neutral language can help create a non-judgmental environment that encourages openness and honesty. For example, instead of using words like “victim” or “perpetrator,” which can carry negative connotations, try using neutral terms like “individuals involved” or “people affected by the situation.”

  1. Provide Support

Trauma can be a difficult and isolating experience, and it is important to provide support throughout the interview process. This can include checking in with the interviewee before, during, and after the interview, and offering resources or referrals if needed. Make sure the interviewee knows they can take breaks, have a support person present, and they can stop the interview at any time.

  1. Use a Collaborative Approach

Collaboration can be an effective way to create a safe and supportive environment for the interviewee. By working together, you can build trust and establish a sense of shared responsibility for the outcome of the interview. This can involve asking the interviewee for input on the interview process, and working together to identify the next steps or follow-up actions.

Trauma-informed interviewing is a crucial tool for workplace investigators. By reframing your interview questions to be more trauma-informed, you can create a safe and supportive environment that encourages openness, honesty, and collaboration. Remember to use open-ended questions, avoid closed-ended and “why” questions, allow for silence, validate emotions, use neutral language, provide support, and use a collaborative approach. By doing so, you can create an environment where the interviewee feels safe, heard, and respected.

Interview Question Reframe Benefits All Involved

In summary, as a workplace investigator, it’s important to approach interviews with individuals who have experienced trauma with sensitivity and understanding. Reframing your questions to be more trauma-informed can create a safe and supportive environment that encourages open and honest communication. By following these tips, you can ensure that your workplace investigations are conducted in a manner that respects the dignity and well-being of all parties involved and that we do no further harm.

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