Public knowledge of auditors is shrouded in fear and ignorance. Fear of the awesome variety of pens that auditors wield. Ignorance of what auditors actually do. This has lead to “auditphobia”. This article is the start of the campaign to rid humanity of this evil psychological condition.
Auditphobia is defined as the irrational fear and ignorance of audit and its associated persons. It affects both auditors and non-auditors (who are also known as nauds).
In nauds, auditphobia is characterised by ignorance and half-truths. Auditors will be confused with accountants. Subsequently, nauds will ask auditors to do tax returns. This can lead to dire financial consequences, because auditors know little about personal taxation. You’d be better off filling in a tax return with the results of a bingo game.
Nauds won’t know who Big 4 are, nor realise how big they are. In 2010, combined Big 4 revenue was $95 billion (source: big4.com). In comparison, the top 10 investment banks billed $83.4m (source: ft.com).
Among finance professionals, auditors are treated with fear, pity and disdain. Unfortunately, audits are as enjoyable (and expensive) as seeing a private dentist. You’d rather do without, but your teeth may fall out.
Taken as a whole, trainee auditors have low self-esteem. Few are openly proud to be an auditor. Conversations have a cynical tone. The work is not considered terribly worthwhile. Saying someone loves audit is used as a cheap taunt.
The “Enron-Anderson” test establishes if a naud suffers from auditphobia. Three out of the following need to be satisfied for a positive diagnosis:
- Ignorance of the large companies tax rates
- Fear of spreadsheets
- Physical repulsion at the sight of an auditor
- Confusing auditors with ear doctors
Research into the causes of auditphobia is, sadly, very sparse. Nauds usually suffer from child-onset auditphobia. It is often triggered while doing long division. Auditphobia is more likely if both parents are accountants. Such children usually become musical prodigies or best-selling novelists.
Finance professionals develop auditphobia while being audited. The following situations are likely to cause auditphobia:
- Having your mistakes pointed out
- Answering questions from clueless trainees
- Working overtime to get your normal work done
- Requests to compile unfeasible reports
- Answering pointless questions
- Answering hard questions
Trainee auditors will suffer from adult-onset auditphobia. Audit work is stressful, monotonous and exasperating. The exams are horribly insane. Many graduates sign up for a training contract because they can’t decide on a firm career plan. This leads to the constant and unsatisfying feeling that they should be doing something else.
Auditphobia helps no-one. Nauds miss out on the benefits of spreadsheets. They lack financial skills, such as budgeting, investing and avoidance of bad debt. Such skills would have prevented the credit crisis and we’d all be in a happier place. However, the bankers also lacked these skills.
For finance professionals, audits become more painful than they need to be. A good audit should mean more accurate accounts. This prevents jail-time for directors.
For trainees, auditphobia prevents contentment in work. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Nauds can overcome auditphobia by befriending an auditor. This fosters mutual understanding and trust. Nauds can also join a NAYG (Numbers Are Your Friend) group. In time, the fear will disappear and they will gain useful financial skills.
Trainees can overcome auditphobia by gaining a proper perspective. This could involve spending a month in a Chinese textile factory. For those short on time, you should go to a busy street and proclaim “audit is good!”