The Fraud Examiner

The 3 Types of Empathy Crucial to Investigations

By Hallie Ayres
ACFE Contributor

In her session at the 31st Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, titled “Listen With Real Understanding: Practicing Empathy in Workplace Investigations,” Nicole Babnick, CFE, expanded on the traditional definition of a workplace investigation. She emphasized that an effective and meaningful investigation is more than just asking “who, what, when, where and why.” 

To truly investigate, fraud examiners should focus on listening with the intent to understand the person they’re investigating or interviewing. Babnick, an investigations specialist for Daimler, kicked off the session, saying, “Today we’re going to take a look at how we can use empathy in workplace environments to elicit better responses and also obtain more information throughout the investigation.”

What does it mean to practice empathy? Babnick first reminded attendees that they shouldn ’t enter investigations assuming they know the whole story. You may know that there was some sort of fraud or wrongdoing committed, but always allow the employee to explain the whole story. By doing so, you may have a greater chance at identifying the reason or motivation behind the fraud, and you’re allowing the employee a chance to tell their perspective. 

Three types of empathy needed for investigations

Babnick outlined three different types of empathy needed for an investigation: cognitive, emotional and compassionate. Each of these types of empathy grants an investigator different advantages throughout the process.

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