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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Thornhill

Steps to take if the Auditee is uncomfortable with audit process.

In this blog we are going to discuss some strategies you can employ if you come across a situation in the audit where you have an auditee who is nervous, threatened or perhaps not co-operative. We are going to discuss how to approach this and what you can do about it.

People don’t often tend to stick up their hand and verbally articulate that they’re not comfortable, a lot of the time, the first indication that someone feels uncomfortable or a bit threatened is their non-verbal communication.

Things tend to stick out whether its their body language, their eye contact, gestures, their spacing – are they prepared to stand close to you? How closed off their body is, things like that can indicate a level of comfort or discomfort with the process.

So the first thing you need to keep in mind is do NOT jump to conclusions.

You should not just look at the first sign, such as someone’s lack of eye-contact and assume they are threatened by the audit process. This is not necessarily the case – You have to be aware of differences between cultures, and even individuals. Some people are more comfortable with eye contact than others.

It will tend to be the other end of the scale where there is a number of different non-verbal communication indicators that really show someone is uncomfortable with the process.

So, what can you do about that? Some steps I have outlined in previous blogs are:

1. You have to think about strategies that reinforce what the audit is about.

This means reiterating the fact that this is not an audit of this individual, its not a job assessment. I actually say to people that I don’t name names in my audit report; this is about an audit of the system or a particular operational process and how effectively the business has planned and managed that process.

2. Come back to the broader objective, scope and criteria of the audit.

Once people understand why you are there, what you’re covering and the fact that you’re not out to name names and blame people, they tend to relax. You can see that reflecting in the amount of information they offer.

You are out there for fact finding not fault finding. You don’t have to point blame to any particular individuals.

If that in any way escalates, even some of our basic conflict resolutions strategies will work:

  • Take a coffee break for 5 minutes, which will take away from the physical immediacy of the situation.

  • Change the way you are asking questions or approaching the auditor.

It is fundamental that you as an auditor not only need the awareness to perceive that the approach you are suing is not working, but then the skills to adapt the auditee.

You also need to think about the role that the auditee is in. Are they in an operational role that is more practical in nature? If so, a good approach to use here is to show them how to do things, rather than ask them to explain how it is done. That is going to be much better suited to them.

Auditees don’t have to adapt to us, we have to adapt to them.


In our next blog we’re going to look at how you can audit an operational task or process when you do not know much about it.


Download the ‘Internal Audit Training – Simple’ Document template from our Resources Page under the training section at the bottom of the page.

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