When investigating a complaint, it is important to take notes. Don’t hesitate to interrupt a relevant interview with a grievant or a supervisor in order to fetch a pen and notebook. This is especially true if discipline may be involved. A detailed written record that can be made available to higher levels of the grievance procedure could mean the difference between a successful defense based on facts, and a failed defense based on faulty memory of disputed events and conversations.
Stewards, like reporters, should organize their interviews around the Five W’s”:
- Who are the affected parties? These include workers, supervisors, and others who were witnesses or have knowledge of the situation.
- What happened? What did the member do? What did management do? What has happened in the past that is relevant?
- When did it happen? Note the time and date of relevant conversations and activities.
- Where did it happen? Location may be a relevant factor.
- Why did the incident happen? Sometimes an individual’s motive is crucial to understanding why certain behavior took place.