Auditee Tactics

The reactions of interviewed people may range from full cooperation to rare cases of outright hostility. Negative responses may be due to negative management attitudes and the way the audit was announced. Attitudes are contagious.

It could also be due to a lack of audit experience and the fear of the unknown. The word “audit” does have a negative connotation.

If people believe audits make people look bad, trigger punitive actions, and cause extra work – guess what – they may try to delay your appointed audit rounds to reduce your sample size.

But, be careful. You may misinterpret innocent behavior as a deliberate scheme to interfere with your audit. Remember, they have the right to challenge or appeal your findings. Be open-minded; you may be wrong.

Delaying Tactics

When asked to demonstrate an activity, people may spend what appears to extra time showing off their system. The dog and pony show could be to steal time from the audit, or maybe they’re just unsure of the level of detail needed, or they’re proud of their work.

Sometimes a person will explain the procedures well beyond what was required to answer your question. Maybe they are conducting a filibuster on the audit floor, or maybe they’re nervous and don’t know when to stop.

Another delaying tactic might be to provide a very comprehensive and lengthy plant tour, or to arrange a long lunch that extends beyond the allocated time on the agenda. If you ask to see a hardcopy record, the person may disappear to retrieve it and leave you waiting. Instead, continue auditing in their absence. Or, go along to observe their records management and pick your own sample.

The auditee may want to argue the practical significance of your finding, in other words, try to talk you out of reporting it. And, the auditee may attempt to influence the audit results through their friendship with you, or by their flattery of your work – a subtle form of a bribe.

In some situations, they may try explain away the nonconformity as a special case. Never seen it before; doubt it will ever happen again. Let’s move on. What is your next question?

Another auditee tactic to ensure better audit results is to pre-select a sample of conforming records to examine, or experienced people to interview. You may accept some of their sample to learn the process, but then ask to select your own sample to complete the assessment.

What if you encountered this person?

How am I doing? Not so good. Did you hear my wife left me? Yea, and she got my truck and custody of the dog. It has affected my job performance and the boss put me on an improvement plan. I sure hope this audit goes well, or I might lose my job.

You can be sensitive to this person’s situation, but you still have to carry out the audit in an ethical manner and satisfy the audit objectives.

You might encounter a different type of person, one that claims to know more about the system and the standard than you. They may challenge your knowledge and try to convince you there is no problem. “Trust me, this is not a nonconformity.” Instead, trust yourself, your training, and your experience. But, be open-minded, and listen to the person’s argument.

Another case is when the person you want to interview is unavailable: in a customer meeting, out sick, on a business trip, or on vacation. Ask to speak to someone else that performs the task.

The person being interviewed may erect a language barrier of technical jargon. You may be embarrassed to ask what a term means, or what an acronym stands for – don’t be. You are not expected to be a process expert.

In rare cases, the auditee may try to provoke an argument to disrupt the interview and get you off your game. Stay calm. You are the adult here. If they don’t cooperate, talk to someone else.

Regardless of the tactic, stay focused on the audit objective. Be patient, but firm in handling a difficult situation. Notify the area manager, or the audit program manager, if you need help to resolve an issue.