Fostering collaboration


Navigating power dynamics between internal auditors and management

In my years as an internal auditor, I’ve experienced the dynamics of the relationship between internal auditors and management first-hand. This relationship is delicate, complex and fraught with power dynamics that can be challenging to navigate. A healthy partnership between internal auditors and management is a cornerstone for organisational success, fostering an environment of transparency, mutual respect and growth. This article seeks to unpack the intricacies of this relationship and offer insights on effectively navigating power dynamics.

Understanding the power dynamics

The relationship between internal auditors and management is marked by a delicate balance of power. Internal auditors, while being a part of the organisation, must maintain an objective stance to effectively evaluate management activities. This position can often be misconstrued as a threat by management, leading to an inherent tension in the relationship.

At the same time, internal auditors rely on management’s cooperation to access information, understand processes, and implement recommendations. This mutual interdependence, coupled with the potential for perceived threat, forms the crux of the power dynamics between internal auditors and management.

Managing power dynamics: Key strategies

In my experience, managing these power dynamics requires a blend of strategic thinking, tactful communication, and building rapport. Here are four key strategies I’ve found effective in navigating this complex relationship:

  1. Establishing open communication: Open and honest communication is a vital first step. This involves clear articulation of the audit objectives, methodologies and findings, and also invites management’s input, concerns and feedback. This approach underscores respect for management’s expertise and fosters a sense of collaboration rather than confrontation.
  2. Building trust: Trust is the bedrock of any successful relationship. For internal auditors, this means demonstrating consistent professionalism, competence and integrity. It also entails delivering on promises, respecting confidentiality, and providing reliable and timely feedback. Over time, these actions will foster trust and mutual respect, easing power tensions.
  3. Demonstrating value: As internal auditors, we need to continually demonstrate the value we bring to the organisation. This includes not only identifying risks and compliance issues, but also offering actionable recommendations for improvement. By positioning ourselves as a resource for enhancing efficiency, reducing risk and improving performance, we can shift the perception from auditors as ‘policemen’ to partners in progress.
  4. Navigating conflicts: Conflict is an inherent part of the internal auditors-management relationship. Successful navigation requires a fair, transparent and sensitive approach. By empathising with management’s perspectives, diplomatically expressing our viewpoints, and working together toward a resolution, we can turn conflicts into opportunities for improvement and learning.

The role of the Chief Audit Executive (CAE)

The CAE plays a crucial role in managing the relationship with management. The CAE must build strong relationships with senior management and the board, ensure effective communication of audit findings, and advocate for the implementation of recommendations. By embodying the values of professionalism, objectivity and collaboration, the CAE can lead the way in fostering a positive relationship with management.

The role of management

Undoubtedly, management also has a significant part to play in ensuring that there exists a collaborative relationship between management and the CAE. Management will have to undergo a paradigm shift in thinking about the role of the CAE and the team. The internal audit function is there to support the management team and this must be understood and made clear from the very beginning of this delicate relationship.

Conclusion: a dance of diplomacy

The relationship between internal auditors and management is, in essence, a dance of diplomacy. It requires maintaining a delicate balance of power while fostering an environment of trust, mutual respect and collaboration.

Managing this relationship effectively is not just about conducting successful audits; it’s about contributing to the organisation’s overall success. As internal auditors, we have the unique opportunity to serve as catalysts for improvement, guiding the organisation toward its strategic objectives.

It is a dance worth learning, a journey worth embarking upon. And as we navigate through the nuanced power dynamics, let’s remember that our ultimate goal is not to assert dominance or evade subjugation, but to collaboratively propel our organisations toward greater heights of excellence.


The writer is an independent Internal Audit Advisor, Enterprise Risk Management Consultant, and professional trainer. He is the founder and Chief Operating Officer of Redric Consulting, your trusted partner for comprehensive training and consulting services in the fields of Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). With a proven track record in Internal Audit, Internal Control, Compliance, Fraud Risk Management, and Cyber-security, Redric Consulting empowers your organisation and ensures its success.

You may reach out to Frederick on [email protected]

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