Partners or Opponents: Auditor-Manager Relationship Dynamics following the Deaf Effect in Information Systems Projects

A.L.P. Nuijten, Mark Keil, Gerrit Sarens, Mark Van Twist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)


Purpose: Information systems projects often go awry and when they do internal auditors are often in a position to bring the problems to management's attention. However, managers are not always receptive to risk warnings, even when internal auditors who are role prescribed to carry out this function deliver such warnings. This phenomenon is known as the deaf effect. In this paper, we examine: (1) the actions that internal auditors take in order to resolve the deaf effect and (2) how these actions affect the auditor-manager relationship.

Design/methodology/approach: Based on a multiple case study approach, we conducted in-depth interviews with auditors and examined ten cases of the deaf effect from the auditor's perspective.

Findings: Our findings revealed three categories of actions that auditors took in response to the deaf effect and how these actions immediately affected the auditor-manager relationship. Further, by analyzing the subsequent sequence of actions taken by the auditor in each case, we identified three distinct patterns that capture the dynamics of the auditor-manager relationship over time until the deaf effect was ultimately resolved.

Originality/value: Several practitioner studies have shown that internal auditors and managers struggle to build effective relationships, even under the most favorable circumstances and we suggest that deaf effect situations are likely to pose an even greater challenge to the auditor-manager relationship. The study contributes to the discourse on internal audit effectiveness in several ways. First, we identified three categories of actions that internal auditors took in response to the deaf effect. We found that two of these categories of action are related to the two distinct roles that internal auditors can play (inspector or consultant). Second, we examined how these categories of actions played out over time, influencing the auditor-manager relationship dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1073-1100
Number of pages28
JournalManagerial Auditing Journal
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2019


  • Auditor manager relationship dynamics
  • Deaf effect
  • Information system projects
  • Internal audit effectiveness
  • Internal audit roles
  • auditor manager relationship dynamics
  • deaf effect
  • information systems projects
  • internal audit effectiveness
  • internal audit roles


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