Internal Auditors' Survival Guide: 10 Proven Ways to Alleviate Stress

person holding illuminated brain

Mental health is a topic that employers in many sectors are keenly aware of these days, but one group that tends to get overlooked – unfairly – is internal auditors. The field of internal audit can be demanding and stressful. Auditors often face high-pressure situations, and the responsibility of ensuring financial integrity and compliance with regulations. In addition, their presence can be unwelcome, and their motivations are often misunderstood. Exposing risk and identifying issues in an organization can naturally put clients on the defensive. Dealing with all these various forms of stress daily can impact mental health, but mental health is crucial to being a successful professional. So what should internal auditors do to ensure they are in an optimal position to navigate the mental health challenges of the profession? In this blog, we’ll lay out the ways that employers can be proactive in assisting internal auditors with maintaining optimum mental health even in stressful working conditions.

Recognizing signs of mental health issues

It's important for internal auditors and their employers to recognize signs of mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. These signs may include changes in behavior, mood swings, increased absenteeism, and reduced productivity. It can be hard to notice these signs if, for example, an employee is regularly off site with clients or working remotely. Employers should be sure to check in on the pulse of their teams and individuals within each time – how are they feeling? What is stressing them out? Are they able to enjoy time away from work or does the stress follow them into their personal time as well?

Ways to be proactive

Internal auditors should have opportunities to relax, spend time with loved ones, and engage in hobbies and activities outside of work to prevent burnout. Many organizations are recognizing the importance of mental health and are providing resources and support for their employees. This can include Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counseling services, and initiatives promoting a culture of well-being. Reducing the stigma associated with mental health is important. Encouraging open and non-judgmental conversations about mental health can create a more supportive work environment.

  1. Self-Care: Auditors should practice self-care, which includes getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and finding healthy ways to manage stress. Self-care is a crucial aspect of maintaining mental health.
  2. Time Management and Prioritization: Effective time management and prioritization skills can help auditors manage their workload and reduce stress. Learning to delegate and say no when necessary is important.
  3. Professional Development: Continuing education and professional development can enhance an auditor's skills and confidence, which can positively impact mental health by reducing anxiety about job performance.

Tools for dealing with stress on the job

Internal auditors often face challenging situations when dealing with difficult clients or complex audit projects. To ensure they do not become stressed in such situations, they can use various tools and strategies to manage their stress and maintain professionalism.

Here are some tools and techniques that internal auditors can employ:

  1. Maintain open and clear communication with the client. Ensure expectations are well-defined and understood by both parties.

  2. Thoroughly plan the audit, setting clear objectives, scope, and timelines. This can help prevent surprises and reduce stress during the audit process.

  3. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness to stay calm during challenging interactions.

  4. Consider time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to break work into manageable segments.

  5. Learn and apply conflict resolution skills to address disagreements and difficult client interactions constructively.

  6. Continuously update auditing skills and knowledge to boost confidence and competence.

  7. Seek support and advice from colleagues or supervisors when facing challenging clients. Sharing experiences can provide insights and coping strategies.

  8. Prioritize self-care and work-life balance. Ensure you have adequate rest, exercise, and leisure time to recharge.

  9. Whenever possible, proactively identify and address potential sources of conflict or stress before they escalate.

  10. Always uphold ethical standards in auditing, which can provide a foundation for professional confidence and integrity.

Remember not every difficult situation can be completely stress-free, but by implementing these tools and strategies, internal auditors can improve their ability to manage stress and navigate challenging client interactions more effectively. Additionally, seeking support from supervisors and colleagues can be particularly valuable in addressing difficult client situations.

Seeking help and being a supportive employer

If an auditor is struggling with their mental health, it's important to seek help. This can involve reaching out to a mental health professional, talking to a supervisor or HR department, or confiding in a trusted colleague or friend. Auditors must also be aware of legal and ethical considerations related to mental health. For example, they should handle sensitive information with care and maintain confidentiality when dealing with mental health issues within their organization. In some industries, there may be regulations or standards related to employee mental health and well-being. Internal auditors should be aware of these regulations and ensure their organization's compliance. Internal auditors, by nature, are entrusted with dealing with organizational issues. Ironically, organizational issues are growth and development opportunities, and so are mental health challenges. That’s why it is of high importance for internal auditors to be role models when it comes to growing through what they are going through.

Recommended AuditPro content

Here at ACI Learning, we offer NASBA-certified CPE courses and webinars on a variety of internal audit topics, as well as a podcast – The Skeptical Audior - where our subject matter expert, Dr. Hernan Murdoch, interviews legends in the field.

ACI Learning



Learning areas