Questions, questions, questions!

Questioning and listening skills go hand in hand. When we question, we want to find something out and get to know some information. To understand another person’s point of view we must truly listen. As managers we are using these skills on a daily basis: interactions with our clients, casual conversations with our colleagues, feedback sessions and appraisals with our staff, and investigating grievances and issues within the workplace.  In ‘The SPIN Selling Fieldbook’ (1996), Neil Rackham comments that;

‘Multiple research studies have overwhelmingly shown that more questions are asked in successful negotiations, management interactions, performance reviews, groups discussions, and other interactions than in unsuccessful ones.’

Daniel Barnett, in his book ‘Employee Investigations’ (2017) states that ‘some of the biggest pitfalls are around questioning.’ He suggests that investigating managers should be given help and support to know what questions to ask to get the most out of the investigation. There are a host of questions and communication techniques that can be useful to gathering the information you need to make a decision.

Open questions

These questions are useful to get the individual to describe what happened and to talk freely as they require longer, more descriptive answers.

“So, what exactly happened.”

“How did John react?”

Closed questions

When you want to confirm facts then used closed questions. These can often be answered with just a “yes” or “no”.

“Was it John or Helen who was there?”

“Did you actually see it?”

Probing questions

Probing questions allow you to delve deeper into an answer.

“So, you said Helen did X, what happened next?”

“Tell me more about what was happening before it took place.”

Body language

Don’t underestimate the importance of body language. Our actions can often say far more than our words. Make eye contact, lean in, face forward towards the other person, don’t fold your arms in a closed position, consider positive facial gestures such as nodding and affirming noises.


Listening and questioning are a team, however often people get so focused on their list of pre prepared questions that they fail to actually listen to the answers. Use your body language to confirm you are listening and remember to stop and shut up to allow the other person to speak.

Our Effective Investigations course will help develop some of these questioning techniques and leave you feeling confident for when the time comes to undertake a comprehensive, legal and fair investigation.

By the end of our course you will be able to:

  • Recognise when an investigation is necessary
  • List the steps needed to conduct an effective investigation and stay within the law
  • Use questioning and listening skills to get the information you need
  • Handle difficult meetings and people
  • Produce an investigation report
  • Recognise the instances where suspension is required and how to do it
  • Make and maintain records that are appropriate in the event of an employment tribunal

To make your life that little bit easier we will provide you with our bang-up-to-date template pack. It contains: an investigation report template, a witness statement template, an agenda for conducting an investigation meeting, and an invitation to a disciplinary hearing following an investigation template. It is prepared by our experts from Loates HR Consultancy, and the Word documents are fully editable saving you hours of research and typing pain.

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