Auditors are humble messengers who deliver news to clients. The news is typically an assessment of management’s processes. And let’s be honest, auditors can find something to report in any area, no matter how well controlled the processes. But that does not necessarily mean we should report everything. Realistically, it does not matter what you report, your management team may view it as bad news or negative or, unwanted information. When delivering news to audit clients, it is important to not get caught in the crossfire if management decides to shoot the messenger. The following are three things you can do to prepare to deliver bad news to audit clients.
Delivering bad news can be stressful for all involved in the conversation. Preparation is key to controlling your emotions. Know your material. Be sure you truly understand the issues to be discussed. Think about what you need to say and remain calm. Control yourself.
Now, consider the client’s emotional state. This is personal for them. You may have facts, but initially, their feelings might trump facts. Your client might vent, deflect or even worse blame you. They might have a complete emotional meltdown. Hopefully the will calm down and ask questions. So if you have adequately prepared, your rational response will add more value to the conversation.
Nothing is worse than dropping a proverbial bad news bomb and leaving it hanging without any suggested solutions. Imagine if someone told you that you might die. My first observation would be that they said might, so I’d question how might I live. We owe it to our clients to seek solutions prior to meeting. Of course this will not be the complete one size fits all answer, but it will help minimize the upset. Brainstorming solutions before hand ensures that you are prepared for client discussions and reduces the likelihood of being caught off guard when emotions surge.
If you have made it to the exit meeting without discussing issues and solutions with clients, you are doing something wrong.
Regardless of the situation, your clients deserve respect and dignity. Therefore, you need to display a certain level of compassion and authenticity when delivering bad news. This does not mean you should water down the truth. But honesty does not have to be harsh.
When delivering bad news to audit clients, you cannot control them, but you can control your emotions, delivery and response. Prepare yourself emotionally. Be prepared to deal with an emotional audit client. Seek solutions and be genuine and empathetic to your client’s situation.