Corporate Investigations Move to Telecommunications During COVID-19 Outbreak
COVID-19, or “the corona virus” has already had an unprecedented effect on the world’s economy in the 21st century. Millions across the globe are currently practicing self-quarantine or “social-distancing”, while many workplaces are shutting down in order to prevent the spread of the virus. While many struggle during this time of social isolation, internal investigations in corporations and organizations are experiencing major disruption as well. Corporate investigators can continue to expect unique challenges with internal investigations, and will have to rely on telecommunications in order to continue their due-diligence.
Any seasoned investigator will tell you that one of the greatest challenges with internal investigations is developing rapport with the human sources in the case. This is usually achieved by face-to-face interaction, bringing down the witness’ guard, and evaluating everything from their facial expressions to their body language. With everyone working from home (or not at all), internal investigators have lost access to face-to-face contact with those human sources and witnesses. Investigators have transitioned to conducting crucial interviews over the phone, which may not have as many drawbacks as you think.
Internal investigations can already by tricky without the benefit of seeing the other person’s face or actions. We’re often told that a person’s actions—not their words—are a good indicator of honest or dishonest accounts of any type of incident. Are they blinking too much, or not enough? Are they touching their face? Are they inexplicably breaking out in sweat or becoming flushed? These are all clues private investigators and corporate investigators consider when determining the veracity of a witness’ story. But can you find the truth from only hearing a person’s voice?
Studies indicate that human beings actually can tell a lot more from a person’s voice than their body language when it comes to gauging their level of honesty. Michael Johnson, a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney and CEO of Clear Law Institute, stated “While there are some non-verbal cues to lying, most people don’t know what those are, and sometimes they are the opposite of what you think.” Conducting corporate investigations over the phone doesn’t mean investigators still can’t garner helpful information. Without the distraction of visual stimuli, investigators are able to take detailed notes about a person’s story—the timeline, the verbiage, the tone. Investigators are able to detect inconsistencies in the witness’ story and ask follow-up questions for further context that can benefit the investigation. An interview over the phone also removes any personal biases that an investigator can potentially develop from seeing someone in person with regards to their physical appearance, such as sex, race, and class. The investigator is forced to rely on the information, and is less vulnerable to deception on the part of the witness.
In uncertain times, it feels as though COVID-19 has brought the entire world to a halt. That’s why investigators must lean into one of their greatest skills, which is flexibility. Quarantine doesn’t mean that investigators have to stop their investigations, but they must instead adapt their existing skillset to ensure that the wheels of progress will continue to turn—even in crisis.