I'm not here to be the morality police or tell you right from wrong. Since investigations are a part of any HR practice, I'm here to tell you how to get to the truth.
Step 2 - Ask broad, but tough questions. Assume nothing. Go around the horn and probe, then dig in when something breaks.
Case in point. Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino, who was kind of fired for wrecking his motorcycle, then lying about the fact he had a 25-year old woman on the back of the Harley, whom he just happened to be having an affair (or past affair) with. And he's married and 50+ years old. And he just hired that 25 year-old as part of his team in a search that closed very quickly, according to Petrino's boss, the Arkansas AD. You can read all the details of the case here. Interesting read and full of fallen humanity.
But - like I said, I'm not your morality agent. I'm the guy who uses examples from pop culture to help you get better HR outcomes.
So let's go. You just had a director at your company wreck his Harley coming back from his lake house. You get the call. He's beat up but OK. You're relieved. He says he was alone, then someone in your flock sends you the police report two days later that says he had a young, attractive subordinate on the bike with him.
He lied to you about that. Strike one, and regardless of your need not to interfere with someone's private life, you've now got a director lying about having a direct report on the back of a Harley coming back from a lake house. She's a recent hire.
You probably need to look into that, Marge.
So you go into investigation mode. The leverage, should you choose to use it, is that you've been lied to. That creates the reason you're having the conversation. If you choose to use the leverage, the intro into the conversation with the Direct Report on the back of the bike goes something like this:
"So, we've got a situation where someone lied about the presence of another team member in an incident. I'm not sure why anyone would lie about that, but history shows when that occurs, there's usually something going on, and oftentimes that can mean that someone can lose their job. So in the interest of making sure we get all the information we need, I've got to ask you to be 100% truthful with me - it's the best way for everyone involved to have the best shot at keeping their job"
That's the language you use for Step 1. You're trying to get the most truth you can.
Having set the stage with that question, you're on to asking broad, but tough questions of the direct report:
"Were you on the bike with Bobby?"
"What were you doing on the bike with Bobby?"
"How long have you had a relationship with Bobby?"
"Were you in the relationship with Bobby when he hired you?"
Normal questions so far. Work related and fair game since the direct report in question was recently hired by Bobby, then involved in a Harley wreck.
But if you're above average as an investigator, you won't forget some of the broader questions to fish a little bit and determine how much poison you're dealing with. Check it:
"Does Bobby ever discuss the performance or his opinion of others on his team with you?"
"Have you ever discussed your relationship with Bobby with other employees at our company? Anyone?"
And yes, the big probe that delivered a crazy, final blow in the Bobby Petrino saga:
"Has Bobby ever helped you out with money? Provided you a loan of any size to help you with any financial issue you were dealing with or something you wanted and knew you could pay him back?"
Direct report: "Um....yeah.... Bobby gave me a $20,000 loan so I could make a down payment on my condo. But I'm going to pay it back..."
Check please! You now know the outcome for Bobby. Where you go with the direct report is more problematic, but that's a post for another day.