This month’s question

My organization has a mix of experienced and new auditors. How can I educate my team on delivering negative feedback? Some of the new auditors are delivering results to seasoned bosses with strong personalities.

Our response

Thanks for submitting this question. The ability to deliver negative feedback effectively can be challenging, no matter who you are delivering it to. In the case of audits, the term used to indicate that audit criteria are not being met is a negative term—“non,” for nonconformance or nonconformity. Because of this, those receiving the feedback are preconditioned to the term’s negative implications. This can be hard to overcome.

During an audit, when the objective evidence is being reviewed, or at the end of that day, it is a best practice to communicate any potential or confirmed nonconformance. This can help reduce the negativity of the nonconformance, instead of the auditee being surprised by it when it’s listed in the audit report and discussed at the closing meeting.

Here are a few more best practices to follow when delivering audit results:

  • Have the closing meeting in a common location, such as a conference room.
  • Ensure the group invited to discuss the outcome of the audit is well-balanced. At a minimum, it should be the lead auditor and co-auditors involved or assigned to the audit, regardless of whether they were present when the nonconformance was identified. If the nonconformance covers a crossfunctional process, also include the appropriate managers.
  • Also present positive process practices that were seen during the audit.
  • When presenting the nonconformance, it is important to:
    • Stick to the facts of the finding.
    • Stick to the sampled objective evidence that led to the nonconformance.
    • Stick to the audit criteria outlined in the audit plan.
    • Indicate that audit findings are opportunities for improvement and are based on a sampling of records.
    • If an escalation path is part of the internal audit process, indicate that the path is available and can be used, if desired.

This response was written by Tiea Theurer, medical assessor, NSAI Inc., Newark, DE.

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