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Quote of the Week, w/e 22 May 2015 May 25, 2015

Posted by Audit Monkey in The Joy & Pain of Internal Audit.
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A slightly different quote of the week this time. I’m always interested in how people in everyday life view me. For example, telling the young ladies in the bars of South London and the City that I’m an auditor isn’t going to get the heart racing.

This week someone told me that I was a “straight talking, matter of fact” person. I actually took it as a compliement. Alas, this doesn’t bold well for the world of work, as the majority of managers and audit clients don’t like being told the truth and it has to be couched in roundabout terms. I don’t know where the trend started but frequently veiled language is used to hide the truth.

For example, I never attended an interview once but was subsequently interviewed by the same firm for the same role and by the same interviewers. They knew full well that I couldn’t be bothered to attend on the first occasion and when I asked about my non appearance I just said “I have little or no recollection”. This was short for “I know I didn’t attend, you know I didn’t attend but I’m not going to admit it!”

A famous bit of veiled language from the 1980’s was “negative equity”. This meant the value of your property was worth less than the outstanding mortgage, so if you sold you would take a hit when the mortgage was redeemed. (Seems positively maddening given the current levels of property investment in London.) Then we had/have political correctness; the Founding Fathers became just ‘The Founders’, ‘midgets’ became ‘vertically challenged’, window cleaners became ‘vision technicians’ and so on.

Where does this leave me? Well last week I tried to tone down an audit report by using couched language only to be slapped down by the Partner for not being sufficiently binary; “either it is or it isn’t” I was told. Of course, the irony wasn’t lost on me as I was trying to manage the message and was trying to avoid black and white language telling them it was a disaster.

So what can one conclude? My view is if you can not speak openly about a problem you can not fix it. The use of verbose or indirect language just clouds the truth and prevents debate which prevents issues from being addressed. However, I will, in my current mode of delivery, take ameliorative action as required.

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Comments»

1. cheap accountant - June 4, 2015

I wonder if in part this is simply British culture. We have a habit of using euphemisms in place of talking straight. Whether it’s “kicked the bucket” or “passed away” …. I don’t mean to sound morbid but these common phrases sprung to mind to illustrate the point …. we have a long history of not spelling things out directly. Just look at the spin that our political leaders publish on a weekly basis.

I don’t see this in other countries and I do wonder if it’s partly due to our Britishness. What do you think?

2. Audit Monkey - June 4, 2015

It is a British thing, probably called being polite. The examples you provide above are slang rather than business euphemisms. As an aside I dislike the use of ‘blue-sky thinking’ as I haven’t got a clue what this means.

3. cheap accountant - June 6, 2015

I’m not able to shed any light on that either. One of my least favourites is “heads up”, an expression that sounds like it belongs on the soccer field: when the football is crossed into the oppositions box and the captain shouts with an expectation of a header into the goal.

4. pranavpolisetty - June 10, 2015

Audit Monkey, if i may call you that, very nice perspective of how you “break the news” to your client/stakeholder. I am sure that, a lot of us auditors would resonate well with this 🙂

5. Audit Monkey - June 14, 2015

Pranavpolisetty – you can call me what you like! Let’s face it, most auditees have called me allsorts, some of it good and some of it not so!

ITauditSecurity - July 14, 2015

As an auditor, I’ve never been called a bad name, but when I worked in security, a manager actually kicked me after a meeting! See “Surprising Survey Results” in https://itauditsecurity.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/wastebasket-audit-findings/
That’s what generated the kick!

Audit Monkey - July 15, 2015

I stick to my guns. Waste bin audit, waste of time unless wrapped up in an info sec process or DPA compliance review. It looks like cheap point scoring in isolation. These days, the majority of offices have confidential waste bins that are near or adjacent to regular waste (trash) bins. It is rare for office staff to have their own bin (as was the case back in the day), so such misdemeanors are less likely to occur.

6. ITauditSecurity - July 18, 2015

Monkey,
I appreciate your frankness. May I call you Frank?

I disagree that it’s a waste of time, and I dispute your judgment regarding “the majority of offices have confidential waste bins…” as if the presence of a control means it is followed. I suppose you have never run a red light? Exceeded the speed limit? Urinated in an alley?

Just because the bin exists doesn’t mean people use it. It also doesn’t mean that confidential data doesn’t pile up on their desk until they go to the bin, which can be days or weeks.

Remember, things are different across the pond (that’s why we’re here in the first place), and I have not been to or worked in a business where everyone did not have their own bin.

And, per my blog, I have listed some VERY interesting items I’ve found in the bin.

Dumpster diving isn’t for everyone. But the price is right: Free-ninety-nine!

Audit Monkey - August 3, 2015

Thanks for the reply. Not alot more to say!

Audit Monkey - August 3, 2015

I’ve given this a bit of thought. My experience of bin audits is that you the auditor is seen as ‘snoopers’ rather than actively working with the business to mitigate material business risks. To add, across the pond you may not have a Data Protection Act equivalent. If you do, this may add more clout to your trash can audits.


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