Understanding Power Dynamics When Dealing with Audit Clients

Power, in its various forms, can be a double-edged sword. While it empowers individuals to make decisions and exercise control, it also has the potential to blind them to alternative perspectives. When individuals hold positions of power, they may feel a sense of pride and confidence in their abilities. However, when confronted with advice that contradicts their knowledge or challenges their authority, they may instinctively reject it.

Drawing on research by Harvard social scientist Francesca Gino, we gain insights into the psychological processes at play in auditor / audit client relationships. Gino’s work highlights how power can distort one’s perception of competence and reduce receptiveness to external input. This distortion occurs due to the desire to maintain a positive self-image as capable decision-makers.

To illustrate this conundrum in action, let’s consider an example involving an audit client named Mr. Johnson, CEO of a multinational corporation. Mr. Johnson has built his career on making strategic decisions that have propelled his company to success. When auditors present findings suggesting improvements or changes in his decision-making process, he may perceive this as a threat to his expertise and authority.

As auditors navigate interactions with clients like Mr. Johnson, understanding this power pride conundrum becomes crucial for effective communication and relationship-building strategies. Recognizing that challenging someone’s authority can trigger defensive reactions allows auditors to approach such situations with empathy and tact.

How to deal with difficult audit clients

One strategy for overcoming resistance caused by the Power Pride Conundrum is by reframing recommendations as opportunities for growth rather than challenges to competence. By emphasizing the potential benefits that come with accepting advice, auditors can appeal to clients’ desire for continued success and improvement.

Furthermore, auditors can enhance their credibility by providing evidence-based recommendations supported by data and industry best practices. This approach allows clients to see the value in considering alternative perspectives and demonstrates the auditor’s expertise.

Audit clients need empathy

Understanding the Power Pride Conundrum helps us to see that our clients are humans with real feeling and insecurities. Understanding this is vital for auditors seeking to navigate client relationships successfully. By recognizing the psychological dynamics at play when challenging someone’s authority, auditors can develop strategies to overcome resistance and promote collaboration. The key lies in reframing recommendations as opportunities for growth and providing credible evidence to support their advice.

Want more reasons audit clients ignore auditor advice?

If you want to know more reasons clients might appear difficult, check out episode 2 of the Audit Bites podcast titled 5 Reasons Clients Ignore Auditor’s Advice. Better yet, check out the course based on the podcast and get CPE for simply listening to a podcast.

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Robert Berry (108)

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

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