​​The Stages of Audit Finding Grief

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​The statistics do not lie; 67% of all people have experienced the pain, the loss, the tragedy of…an audit finding. It is an ugly and unforgiving time when our emotions are on edge, our souls are laid bare, and our shortcomings have been reported to the world. It is nothing we would wish on our best friends, our worst enemies, or that guy who introduced us to our ex. But it is as inevitable as taxes and performance reviews. 

However, if we understand what happens as people come to grips with an audit finding, we can help ourselves and others cope with this horrendous experience. Following are "The Nine Stages of Audit Finding Grief."

  1. Denial – "What do you mean controls have broken down. They can't have broken down. I just developed them. They were too young to have broken down."
  2. Anger – "You're an idiot. No, you're not even an idiot. Even an idiot could see that everything is okay here. You're the idiot that idiots call an idiot."
  3. Challenge – "There is no way you are correct. There has to be a mistake. This has to be someone else's problem. You've gotten it all wrong."
  4. Guilt – "If I had only provided more training. Then the staff would have known how important the controls were. It's all my fault. I'm the one to blame."
  5. Anger – "Why do you keep blaming me? It's all your fault. If you hadn't come here to conduct this audit, everything would be fine!"
  6. Bargaining – "Let me make you a deal. Hold off on your report. Don't tell anyone the findings. Come back in two weeks and I swear – I swear – everything will be better...all cleaned up, no problems.
  7. Anger – "What do you mean by trying to cut a deal with me? You're beneath contempt. I'm going to report you to the ethics committee."
  8. Depression – "Of course this would happen to me. My life has been a country-western song. My dog died, my wife left me, my truck won't start, and now I've got an audit finding."
  9. Anger – "Get out. Get out! I'll take this to the highest levels of the company. You're going to be fired! I've never seen such an incompetent in my life!

​Unfortunately, research shows that few, if any, auditees ever reach the stage known as "Acceptance".

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