Unlock your Business Potential

Carrying out an audit Part 3: Handling conflict situations

Read Part 1 Checklist and Part 2 Communication & People Skills

An audit doesn’t always go according to plan, and sometime during our auditing career we will come across auditees who are reluctant to participate in an audit. They may be nervous, but very rarely will you find someone who is rude about the whole process. If this does happen, it is your job as an auditor to manage conflict situations and to reinforce that you are there to audit the process, not the individual.

“In conflict situations, reinforce that you are there to audit the process, not the individual.”

Image credit: Tim Gouw

Conflict situations can arise from any one of the following:

  • The way an auditor comes across to the auditee e.g. arrogant, not listening, using language an auditee doesn’t understand
  • The actual audit, which is making the auditee nervous or non-communicative because of things they may have been doing ‘wrong’
  • The consequences of the audit: “What happens if I fail?”

Any of the above points, if not handled appropriately by the auditor, has the potential to cause conflict. Here are some tips on how to manage potential conflict:

  • Check with the auditee that the time put aside for the audit is still ok. Check that other work issues, pressures or meetings haven’t suddenly emerged which could impact on what you as the auditor can view (time constraints) and the attention the auditee will give you
  • Talk about something other than the audit, to establish rapport
  • Step out of the emotion and concentrate on the process
  • Take time out, and allow the auditee to do the same

You will work out your own way to handle difficult situations, but remember as auditors we are professional, ethical and we have integrity.

Christine Brown is founder and managing director of Potential Unlocked, a market leader in the design of management systems that meet compliance and business requirements. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (double major in Political Science and Public Sector Management); RABQSA Lead Auditor, DiSC 5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team accreditation; Everything DiSC accreditation, TAE 40110 Cert IV Training & Assessment & TAELLN 411.

Due to her extensive knowledge and experience, Christine is trusted by her clients for her patience, understanding and her ability to interpret compliance requirements in a straightforward, uncomplicated way. She regularly facilitates in-house and public workshops, sharing her knowledge of designing simple processes and systems, communicating effectively as an auditor, building and leading teams, and risk management.

Christine’s clients range from small business and start-ups to large organisations and government departments. Covering a broad range of industries, her clients include Boral, BAE Aerospace, Geobrugg, Tenix, West Australian Police, and the Victorian Ambulance Service.

Christine’s new initiative, The Business Performance Program, assists businesses with all major areas of business that are essential for success

For any further information on contracting in an internal auditor to conduct your audits or auditor training please refer to more Audit Tips.