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Assessing Credibility: More than Just a Coin Toss (Part 2)

In “he-said, she-said” situations, who are you to believe when there are no witnesses available or any other sources of evidence?  This is where credibility assessments come in. 

A systematic approach to assessing credibility is based on a detailed analysis of several factors in harassment investigations.  In continuation of Part 1 of this blog, here are 5 additional factors you can apply when making credibility assessments. 



  • Is the person clear, open and direct in sharing their account or were they hesitant, vague or evasive?
  • Is the person forthcoming and co-operative in providing supporting evidence to back up their stories?
  • How does the person react to pointed follow-up questions?

In my experience, those who are being truthful tend to offer more detail and support for their version of events in the face of conflicting evidence which is a telling difference from those who have something to hide. 



  • Is there evidence that the person omitted important information during the investigation?
  • Is the person honest about sharing things that puts them in a negative light?
  • Did the person provide their testimony through recall or was it memorized?
  • Has the person been caught in a lie or admitted to lying about something during the course of the investigation?

If there is evidence that a party has lied to the investigator on one occasion, it would then be reasonable to infer that the person is more likely than not to lie about something else.



  • Is the recollection of events coherent and detailed with verifiable timelines
  • Is the person trying but finding it difficult to recall the events with clarity?

The reliability of information recalled by memory may be impacted by a person’s age and how long ago the event took place as memories are subject to fade and distortion over time.  This factor may also be impacted if and when a person experiences trauma which may make it difficult for the person to recall with clarity and in sequence. 



  • Is there a reason for the person to lie or falsify information?
  • Are there self-interests for financial gain or employment opportunity?
  • Does the person have an “axe to grind” or harbour any animosity?

Examine reasons for self-protection, fear of reprisal or fear of termination as they also present strong motivations for a person to alter the truth.



  • Are there potential biases and self-interest that may blur a person’s objectivity?
  • Is there a vested interest in the outcome of the investigation?
  • Are there kinships and close relationships that can bias a person’s testimony?
  • Are there cultural biases at play that can influence a person’s perception?

Bias can also be apparent by a person’s choice of words.  A telling sign is a person’s tendency to embellish or exaggerate the story with the frequent use of strong adjectives.


To summarize, the 10 common factors I’ve highlighted in this blog series include:

  1. Consistency
  2. Corroboration
  3. Congruence
  4. Opportunity
  5. Plausibility
  6. Demeanor
  7. Honesty
  8. Memory
  9. Motive
  10. Objectivity

When there are no witnesses available, a good investigator will always look to alternative sources of evidence (such as documents, emails, calendar schedules, video footages, circumstantial evidence, etc.) as a first step.  When other sources of evidence are not available, then this is where credibility assessments are necessary. 

Not all factors apply to each assessment and some may overlap.  Typically, I would consider multiple factors to make a determination as no one factor alone should be relied upon in evaluating credibility. 

It is a critical part of every investigation to ensure there is rational basis for making a finding based on a balance of probabilities. 


If you are an employer or HR leader looking for assistance in conducting an objective, thorough and trauma-informed workplace investigation, we can help.  Contact Strategywise HR at 905-879-9994 for a free consultation.