The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of the world into isolation, as public health officials in nations around the world work to limit the spread of the disease. This has created a variety of stresses as people are forced into close quarters and unfamiliar social dynamics emerge. This can be particularly stressful to the families and friends of internal auditors.
While I have worked for many years to disprove stereotypes about internal audit practitioners being boring or obsessive, one has to admit that living in close quarters with a driven personality for an extended period might become challenging.
As I've written before, internal auditors are a serious bunch. The work we do is steeped in integrity, honesty, and independence. We are not always the most flexible people either. It is not surprising then that internal audit practitioners can come across as solemn, grave, and even dour. I like to joke that internal auditors believe that behind every silver lining is a dark cloud.
This week I was imagining what it would be like to hear from people trapped in isolation with an internal auditor. Maybe a make-believe advice column for those who find themselves in this situation might help alleviate the stress. To wit:
Advice for the Overly Assured or Well Advised
Dear Mr. Chambers,
My husband is driving me crazy. Since he began working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic he's become increasingly obsessed with auditing our family. It's getting out of hand. First he insisted on creating a spreadsheet for consumables even though I have a grocery app. Then he posted a schedule for our dogs to "take care of business." Now, he's insisting we base our dinners on the "best-if-used-by" dates for everything in the pantry. We've had nothing but old creamed corn and Ramen noodles for a week. Help!
Desperate in Des Moines
I suggest you remind your husband that IIA Standard 2210.A1 mandates that internal auditors conduct a preliminary assessment of the risks relevant to the activity under review. He should also be cognizant of the risks from the unhealthy diets he is recommending. I recommend that you nonconcur with his recommendations.
I know others are struggling with fallout from the pandemic, so I don't want to sound like a complainer, but I'm worried about my wife. She is an internal auditor who has been working from home since March, and I think the stress is getting to her. Last night she accused our youngest child of allowance fraud. What can I do?
Worried in Washington
Fraud is a serious issue in any organization — including a household. With the pressure created by social isolation and the distractions to parenting creating opportunity, you already have two of the three parts of the Fraud Triangle in place. I suggest that the youngest child be brought in for an interview before deciding to proceed with a formal investigation.
How can someone be so obsessed with recycling? My husband and I got into a screaming match last night over separating our household paper and plastic in the bin. I know he's under a lot of stress having to audit from our home for the past two months, but I don't believe applying a Six Sigma process to the recyclables should be so divisive!
Broken in Hoboken
Using proven methodologies to improve efficiencies in critical processes shouldn't be dismissed so easily. I suggest that you inquire whether your husband is providing assurance or advice with regard to recycling. If he is merely providing advice, thank him for his assistance, and do as you please.
I've got a little problem that I fear will grow into a big one . . . soon! My roommate is getting a bit obsessed with usage of . . . well . . . shall we say essential paper products. You may be aware there has been a shortage of certain toiletries, and my roommate is taking his professional role as an internal auditor a bit too seriously. I mean, I know we should be conserving what we have, but isn't numbering each tiny sheet, noting daily usage, and keeping a related spreadsheet going a bit too far?
Stressed in Seattle
Clearly your roommate is showing foresight in identifying an emerging risk in your household. You should value his efforts instead of grumbling. However, you should ensure that he is following his own recommendations before applying them to you.
Please help us! Our parents are both internal auditors who are working from home. Me and my brother and sister aren't allowed to do ANYTHING or go ANYWHERE. I HATE this! I'm seriously going to DIE! The last straw was when dad went into all our TikTok and Instagram accounts to check the safety settings. I'm so embarrassed, I'm seriously going to DIE! Please, please, please help us before we DIE!
Dying in Dallas
Make sure your passwords are secure, and by all means do not provide your dad access. I have TikTok and Instagram accounts as well. You are bound to get written up if he gains access.
I hope this public service will help the families and friends of all my internal audit peers and colleagues not just survive our current social distancing but also help build better relationships with their internal audit loved ones.
As always, I look forward to your comments.