How's your EQ? Emotional intelligence can help auditors build and maintain positive, productive relationships throughout the organization.

Author:Jacka, J. Michael

Mark was dreading his meeting with Dave. His team had identified significant control issues in the new purchasing system--significant enough to have a negative impact on the system's stated objectives. Dave, the executive responsible for the system, had promised senior management it would not fail.

Mark walked into Dave's office after deciding it was best to get right to the point. "You've seen the draft of the audit report," he said. "It is apparent that the issues we identified reveal the program will not meet any of its agreed upon goals."

To Mark's surprise, Dave had no response--he just kept looking down at the report printout. But just as Mark was about to discuss potential corrective actions, Dave exploded. "I know how you auditors work," he yelled. "You come into an area you don't understand and dig until you find something wrong. You're just trying to make a name for yourselves--you've always been out to get me."

Mark was taken aback but refused to ignore the attack on himself and his department. "We know exactly what we're doing," Mark snapped back. "And our only problem with you is that your project's failure will cost the organization a fortune." The conversation then quickly devolved into a shouting match, with fingers pointed and accusations of incompetence and poor leadership thrown about. Eventually, Mark was summarily dismissed from Dave's office.

As this scenario--based on real events--reveals, even the most well-intentioned meeting can go quickly awry. And while numerous reasons could be given for the communication breakdown, in essence both parties' emotions superseded rational discussion.

The scenario shows that, despite frequent emphasis on the need for internal auditors to possess analytical, critical-thinking, and technical skills, the ability to establish effective interpersonal relationships is a much more important competency. An audit can be conducted with thorough attention to detail and accuracy, with meticulously supported findings, but one interpersonal misstep could shatter the entire process. Effective auditing requires practitioners to build and maintain positive relationships with clients and co-workers.


Understanding and managing one's emotions, as well as understanding the emotions of others, is fundamental to successful interpersonal relationships. The degree to which an individual possesses this ability is known as emotional intelligence--also referred to as emotional quotient (EQ).

EQ is best understood through the Emotional Competence Framework, developed by psychologist Daniel Goleman. Encompassing several practical skills that underlie EQ, Coleman's framework features a two-pronged structure consisting of personal competencies--how we manage ourselves--and social competencies--how we handle relationships. (For additional details on each of the framework components, see "The Emotional Competence Framework," this page.)

Personal Competence These skills focus more on the individual than on the individual's interactions with other people. They involve the ability to stay aware of internal emotions while managing personal behaviors and tendencies.

* Self-awareness--recognition of our emotions as they happen. An inability to notice one's true feelings as they occur leaves that individual at their mercy. Conversely, the ability to monitor these feelings as they occur allows better control of them. When Dave attacks Mark, he responds without considering how his emotions have taken control. To keep the situation from escalating, Mark needs to understand the reasons for his immediate reaction before continuing the conversation.

* Self-regulation--the ability to use self-awareness to better manage emotions (once they are recognized) and react appropriately. If Mark recognizes that anger is driving his reactions, he can pause, control his emotional response, and develop a...

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