Six Things That Happen to Every Auditor, and How to Handle Them

I’ve been an auditor of some sort since 2006. Several of my closest friends are former colleagues I met on the job, including my business partner John. Even my husband was an auditor at the start of his professional career. It is a great joy and comfort to me that many people in my network know about the challenges and benefits of my job.

Recently, my husband and I were out for dinner, and we started reminiscing about all the similar events that have happened to us. My husband worked for a Big 4 firm, and I worked for two large regional firms. He landed in finance at a global corporation, and I went into Internal Audit at a Credit Union and eventually started my own company, The Audit Library. Though our careers took different paths, some work-life events are just universal.

When you’re having a bad day or dealing with a difficult issue at work, remember that every auditor who came before you, and every auditor who will follow, has been in your shoes. Let’s take a look at some events that will happen in your career, if they haven’t already. While some are good and some are bad, I’ll provide you with some essential tools to handle the ups and downs of being an auditor.

1. You Will Get Someone Fired

This happens to every auditor at some point. Spend enough time looking for fraud, and eventually you’ll find it. Uncovering a fraud is one of the most exciting and stressful events in the life of an auditor. And you aren’t the only person on edge. Behind every fraud is at least one person who made a big mistake, and there will be consequences for them.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of finding the “smoking gun” or getting someone to come clean in a fraud interview. The uncomfortable truth is, you may be happy at first, even thrilled! It’s what we’re trained to do, and every once in a while a hunch or thread of evidence actually leads somewhere. Don’t feel guilty if your first instinct is to celebrate a job well done. Just know that this feeling will be short lived.

We’re all human. You aren’t responsible for a fraudster’s bad decision, but you could be the reason it came to light. It’s very common to feel guilty in the aftermath of getting someone fired. You may even feel anger towards them for putting you in this uncomfortable situation. Being involved in a high-profile fraud can affect your energy level, appetite, and mental health. Do what you need to do to feel physically okay. What little thing can you do for yourself to feel better? Eat your favorite meal, treat yourself to a round of golf, or buy yourself a pair of shoes. Practice some self-care; you deserve it!

If this time in your career feels like a roller coaster, it is. Take heart. I promise you’ll get through it.

2. Someone Will Complain About You… For Doing Your Job

I have worked with a lot of auditors over the years. With the exception here or there, auditors are very hard working, thoughtful, and professional people. We put a lot of time and effort into acting appropriately, helping our auditees through difficult situations, and being sensitive to the needs and perceptions of others.

But every once in a while, our due care simply isn’t enough and an auditee complains about us just for existing. The complainer could be someone lashing out because their career is tanking, someone having a bad day, or just one of those types who can’t be satisfied no matter what you do.

When (not if) it happens, there are some things you should and should not do. This is critical: do not even attempt to cover this up! The complainer(s) will absolutely make sure that their grievance does not go unnoticed. Face the non-constructive feedback head on. Let them rant to your superiors and their superiors. Then, when you are asked, tell your side of the story as a matter of fact without getting defensive.

This is a situation where having a smart and savvy leader really makes a difference. You need your boss to support you, to believe you, and to help smooth this over. An audit leader who doesn’t see that this is a universal auditor experience, and thinks poorly of you as a result of a complaint, has a bad memory! You are certainly being evaluated at work, but you are also evaluating your company. If you do not get support during the bad times, as well as the good, you are in the wrong place. Here is a post with more advice for auditors evaluating whether or not it’s time to move on.

3. You Will Learn Things You Don’t Want to Know

There are many ways to learn awful facts about the people, places, and things around you. Google is a great place to start, as is watching the local news. Joining your neighborhood HOA or the PTO at your child’s school will also go a long way. But if you want to be absolutely unable to avoid learning negative things, you should try a career in audit!

If you audit a company in food production, you will learn that something you eat is absolutely disgusting. I learned how much sugar is in a two-liter bottle of root beer from a peer who performed an inventory observation at a soda distributor. All I will say is I don’t drink root beer anymore! On a more serious note, if you go into financial services you will find out that someone you know or a business you patronize is behind on their loan payments, or is having another financial problem. All auditors learn uncomfortable facts about the employees of their company; from water cooler chat, H/R reviews, whistleblower alerts, etc. It’s just part of the territory.

I’ll confess that I have a nosy side to my personality; it’s one of the things that drew me into this line of work. John even wrote a blog post about using nosiness to your advantage. The other side of this coin is that you absolutely have to be careful here. You know a lot of stuff about a lot of folks, and you can’t say a word about it. Not to your best friend, parents, or even your spouse! When John Doe in your neighborhood buys a new boat that you know he can’t afford, just smile and wave when you see him at Starbucks.

4. Two Colleagues Will Get Married… Or, You’ll Marry a Colleague

Most companies have couples on their payroll, but auditing is particularly prone to matchmaking. My husband and I are an anomaly; we met before I was an auditor. But often people assume we met at work, because it is just so common!

So, why do auditors get married all the time? Most people start auditing straight out of college, the exact age when you are likely to find a partner. You work long hours and form strong bonds with your co-workers. Your first group of auditing peers will likely have similar values, education, and priorities in life. Throw some attractive singles into this mix, and marriages are bound to result!

Now before I go any further, this is not a statement about the #metoo era we are living in. I am referring to consensual and healthy adult relationships. Taken at face value, there is nothing problematic about office romances. The grey areas are when feelings are not mutual, when subordinates are involved, and/or when relationships affect the workplace negatively. Assuming it’s true love, and not an H/R event, enjoy all the weddings you’ll be invited to. Just don’t drink too much, which leads me to…

5. There Will be Alcohol Everywhere

Auditors like to drink. For the most part, this is innocent fun. But sometimes what starts off as cheerful and festive can turn ugly and embarrassing. I’ve seen a brand new auditor get fired on the spot after enjoying the open bar excessively at a work party. That sobered up the room!

That young auditor faced dire consequences because the bosses saw that they could not handle alcohol responsibly, and were a liability to the firm. Not all of your colleagues and clients are drinkers, so use temperance and caution when you imbibe at work events, client dinners, etc. Here is a post I wrote about being more charming at work, with some practical advice for drinking while auditing.

6. You Will Meet People and See Places You Would Never Visit Otherwise

Want to discover the best English pub in Longview, Washington? The best steak in Hamilton, Montana? The best Italian food in Whiteville, North Carolina? I have found these things, and countless other little gems. Lots of jobs open up the world to you; auditing will open up small town America. I’ve also visited cities I probably would never get around to on my own, such as Baltimore, Denver, and Houston, because of auditing. I’ve met people from around the country, and expanded my professional network attending auditing conferences.

Pound for pound, I prefer eating at restaurants where I live, and sleeping in my own bed. That said, there’s a charm in discovering something fun and unexpected because of work. Auditing is a good way to have some of these experiences. The next time you’re on the road, missing your family and your bed, talk to a local. Find the best coffee, diner, or brewery in their area. Go out for a fun evening with your team, and make some memories. Just don’t drink too much… you don’t want to make a bad impression on your future spouse!

Auditors, have you had any of these experiences? Any other universal experiences I missed? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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4 Responses

  1. 1, 2, & 3 Definitely Yes! I’d like to know where the best English Pub in Longview, Washington is. I live across the river from Longview, and I am unaware of such a place.

    1. Oh, I will try to find it for you. I used to audit the Red Cross and we would go to a place near there for lunch. It was almost 15 years ago, so I can’t tell you if it’s still there (or still good if it is!)

  2. Another great read and all are true. Your ‘auditors like to drink’ line may have been the first time I laughed out loud while reading about auditing!

    Keep up the great work!

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