What Happens after I Finish My Polygraph Exam?


Are you ready for your polygraph exam tomorrow? Don’t worry if you feel nervous; that’s normal. The exam isn’t as nerve-racking as you imagine, and the day will come and go before you know it. You might be wondering about the exam process and what it entails, and that’s understandable.

We can assure you that the polygraph examiner will stick to the case at hand, and they won’t infringe on your personal life. Whatever the purpose of the exam, you can expect everything to be above board, and provided you have nothing to hide, nothing will go wrong.

So, what happens after you finish the polygraph exam? What can you expect from your employer, when do you get your results, and what happens in the afternoon after the exam? This post unpacks what to expect on exam day and what happens after you finish your lie detector test.


Understanding the Polygraph Exam Process

You’re probably feeling somewhat nervous about walking into the exam room and facing the examiner. Maybe you watched a movie or a TV show a while ago and saw what goes on during a polygraph. Don’t worry about it. The media make the polygraph process out to be a bigger deal than it is.

The polygraph exam process isn’t designed to catch you out with events in your personal life; it sticks to the matter at hand. For instance, the examiner doesn’t want to know the details about you drinking a bottle of wine on Sunday afternoon, and they don’t want to know how you complain about your boss to your friends on the phone.

When you arrive at the test venue, the examiner greets you and initiates you into the polygraph exam process. They’ll answer all your questions about the lie detector and what you can expect from the test. You can ask them anything you want about it, and they have a duty to ensure you’re confident with the answers they give you.

When you’re ready to take the test, the examiner starts by connecting the instrumentation to your body. They’ll wire you up and connect those instruments to a control box feeding data to a software program on their laptop.

After you’re connected, they’re ready to start the exam.


The Role of the Polygraph Examiner

The examiner’s role in the lie detector test is to ask you questions and analyze the feedback they receive from the software on their screen. They’re looking to see if the physiological input from your body concerning their questions indicates “deception.”

They’ll repeat the question if they suspect you’re lying about something. Moist polygraph exams only ask you five questions, such as “have you ever lied to your boss or manager?” or “Have you ever stolen from the company?” The questions they ask depend on the circumstances in which the test occurs.

If they detect deception, they’ll indicate which question gives them a reading showing you’re potentially lying. Let’s assume you’re being tested for inventory theft in your department. You’re not responsible for the theft, but as the inventory manager, you feel like it’s your duty to safeguard the supplies.

The examiner tells you they’re getting an indication of deception regarding the question, “did you steal the inventory?” They ask you why that might occur. You respond by saying, as the department manager, you feel it’s your duty to safeguard the inventory.

The examiner replies, “now that we have that out of the way and you’re confident you weren’t responsible for the theft, did you steal from the company?” Most likely, the reading will come back with no sin of deception now you’ve overcome that sticking point.

The primary role of the examiner during the lie detector test is to make you feel comfortable and relaxed. They deal with anxious people in the exam room all the time. Anxiety about the test is natural, and you get better results from the exam by keeping yourself calm.

The examiner is not an authority figure, and they have no control over you. If you feel a panic attack coming on, you have the right to stop the process at any time and leave the exam room. The examiner may not stop you from doing so.


The Employee – Do I Get to Go Home After Finishing the Polygraph Exam?

After you finish your polygraph, the examiner will thank you for your time, and that’s the last you hear from them. They will not call you with your results and won’t divulge their findings to you. So, don’t ask them if you passed; it’s too early for them to tell at this stage.

You might wonder if your employer will let you go home after the test? After all, you just endured a stressful experience. It’s up to the employer if they want to dismiss you for the day, and it depends on your role in the company and what they expect from you during your work day.

For instance, if you’re the inventory manager and they need you to handle the logistics department, it’s highly unlikely they’ll let you go. Usually, they’ll give you a 30-minute or hour break to collect yourself after the exam and return to your job.

The employer is not obligated to let you go home; they don’t have to do so, as per the labor law. However, if you come out of the exam room and feel panicked or stressed, showing visible signs of distress, the employer might decide to let you take the rest of the day off; it’s up to them.

If you want to go home after the exam, the employer might decide to deduct the hours from your annual leave, and that’s their right. For instance, if they test the entire department, they can’t let you all go home, or who will run that side of the business?


The Examiner – Interpreting Polygraph Exam Results

After the examiner finishes your test and examines the rest of the staff, they aren’t finished with their processes yet. It’s for this reason that they can’t give you an answer if you passed or failed the polygraph at this stage. After conducting the interviews, the examiner returns to their office to review the test results.

The examiner video records the polygraph session. If they suspect deception from one of the examinees, they’ll compare the video evidence to the test results, watching the examinee for signs of body language indicating deception.

Some people believe they can fool the lie detector, but that’s highly unlikely. Polygraphs have up to a 97% success rate at detecting deception, and they’re very challenging to deceive, even if you have experience taking polygraph exams.

However, couple the software with the examiner’s knowledge of body language, micro-expressions, and voice analysis. There’s very little chance of you passing the exam if you’re trying to deceive the examiner and the polygraph device.

After finishing their analysis, the examiner will create a written report and deliver it to your boss, along with its findings. It could take them 24 to 48 hours to complete this phase of the process, depending on how many exams they conducted on the day.


The Employer – Understanding Privacy and Confidentiality with Polygraph Results

Your boss cannot divulge the outcome of the exam to anyone but you and the relevant people at the company, such as your manager. They may not reveal the test results to other employers or staff members, or they risk violating The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988″ (EPPA).

If the employer or examiner does violate this legislation, you have legal recourse against them through the US Labor Department. The employer could face huge financial liability in the case of a violation, which is why they hire attorneys to assist with guiding them through the process.

The examiner also plays a role in the successful and compliant administration of the lie detector test. They review the company’s polygraph policy and ensure everything is above-board with the test procedures before conducting the exam. They have a duty to the employer to ensure they don’t violate the EPPA.

The examiner may not reveal the test results to anyone but your boss. In some circumstances, they may have to testify to their findings in court. However, these practices are only valid if your case goes to trial and the testing procedures align with the EPPA legislation.


The Employee – What Happens If I Fail the Lie Detector Test?

If you fail the polygraph exam, you won’t learn about it until two to three days after you take the test. As mentioned, it takes time for the examiner to review your session and come to their conclusions. The examiner won’t take the decision to state you’re being deceptive unless they’re certain.

So, if you fail the test, you can be assured the examiner has done everything in their professional capacity correctly, and they’re confident in the result. If you feel you unfairly failed the test and you’re innocent of the accusation of being deceptive, you have the right to challenge the test results.

In some cases, the employer may allow you to retake the exam, but that’s up to them. However, the employer may not hold these test results against you. They can’t fire you based on the results of a failed test, and they don’t have the right to discipline you over it.

Your boss also can’t make your time in the workplace uncomfortable because you failed the test. If you experience any of this behavior, you have the right to seek legal assistance. Your lawyer will analyze your case and its merits and advise you on how to take recourse against the company.

You can’t sue your boss directly if you do have a case. However, your lawyer can open a complaint with the US Labor Department and take the company to court for financial damages. If you fail the test and decide to leave the company, that’s your decision.

If you apply for a new job and the HR department calls your boss, they may not reveal the failed exam results or hold it against you in their reference to your abilities and performance on the job. If they do so, you have legal recourse against them.


The Employer – What Action Do I Take If My Employee Fails the Polygraph?

If your employee fails the polygraph exam, you have little to no legal recourse against them at your disposal. You may not break any of the legislation surrounding the EPPA and the post-exam results.

However, if, for example, you discover that an employee you suspect of theft presents deceptive behavior, you can use this information to notify the authorities and start an investigation.


The Employee – How to Handle the Stress Effects of the Polygraph Exam in the Post-Exam Window

Undergoing a polygraph exam is a stressful experience. While your employer doesn’t have to let you go home, they’ll likely let you take a break to gather yourself before returning to your post for the rest of the day.

If you’re feeling anxious and stressed after the exam, the best course of action to calm yourself is to go outside into the fresh air. Take a minute to breathe deeply and exhale slowly. Drink some water and sit down for a few minutes.

If you’re feeling especially anxious, download a guided meditation session from YouTube; plenty of them are available for free on the site.

If you’re not calming down, take your cell phone and call someone for support, like a friend or your partner. Talk out your feelings and express your emotions. By getting your feelings across to another person, you’ll find you relieve the anxiety in your body and mind.

Take as much time as you need, and if you can’t manage to calm yourself, inform your boss. They’ll arrange for you to take the rest of the day off if you really need it.

Everyone’s reaction to the polygraph exam is different. We’re not all carbon copies of each other, and some people take the effects of the exam on their nervous system worse than others.

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