Soft Skills: Managing Conflict

  • Be Prepared: While some conflict seemingly comes out of nowhere, you can often identify situations where conflict may or is likely to occur. This could include informing a business unit of a negative finding or observation, or an exit meeting where the business unit has already expressed their discontent with one or more findings or observations. Be prepared. The Standards mandate communications be “accurate, objective, clear, concise, constructive, complete, and timely.” Does your communication meet these standards?
  • Be Cordial: Personally, I find being friendly helps strengthen relationships and ease conflict when it does arise. Don’t dive right in to the contentious issue at hand (unless the other party does). Ask how their day has been, talk about how abnormal the weather has been (extremely hot at the time of this article!), or mention you’re glad it’s Friday. Find some common ground — common ground outside of the audit.
  • Be Calm: One emotionally charged party in a room is enough. Keep your reactions and emotions in check. If you fly off the handle, you will lose credibility with the other party, and it will be hard to get it back. You will no longer be seen as the internal audit professional, but rather as the aggressive internal auditor. Keep calm and audit on.
  • Be Open: Auditors are human. I know, I know. Who knew? But we do (sometimes) make mistakes. Perhaps we misunderstood a process, overlooked a document, or any number of other possibilities. Be open. Listen to the other party. If a change is warranted, make it. If not, at least understand the concerns and point of view of the other party. A little empathy goes a long way.
  • Be Resolute: While we should remain open, we cannot compromise our independence or objectivity. If your finding or observation meets the criteria in The Standards, it is wise to listen to the other party, but cannot change the substance of a finding or observation if it is not truly warranted.




Catholic. Dog Dad. Internal Auditor. Views expressed are my own.

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Chase Hawkins

Chase Hawkins

Catholic. Dog Dad. Internal Auditor. Views expressed are my own.

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