„Should I Stay or Should I Go?“ Navigating Ethical Dilemmas and Turnover Intentions in the Auditing World

In the ever-evolving landscape of the auditing profession, ethical conflicts (ECs) emerge as formidable challenges that auditors grapple with daily. These conflicts arise when auditors find themselves at a crossroads, torn between their personal values, professional obligations, and the actions they are compelled to take. The essence of such dilemmas is not only the struggle within but also its potential to drive auditors away from their jobs, hinting at a deeper problem of turnover intention (TI).

Guillermina Tormo-Carbó, Zeena Mardawi, and Elies Seguí-Mas have delved into this issue in their recent paper published on 05 February 2024 in the Journal of Business Ethics. Their research illuminates two primary catalysts of ECs in the auditing field: the burden of workload (WL) and the perceived auditor ethical failure (PAEF), which is essentially the auditor’s sensitivity to ethical violations within their profession.

By anchoring their study in role theory and ethical climate theory, the authors meticulously unravel how WL and PAEF not only precipitate ECs but also how these conflicts serve as a bridge connecting PAEF/WL to TI. They further explore the protective shield that an organization’s ethical climate (EtC) can offer against these storms. Through a comprehensive survey and employing partial least squares structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM), the findings are revealing: both WL and PAEF are significant contributors to ECs, thereby amplifying the risk of auditors leaving their positions. More so, the study highlights that a positive perception of EtC within a firm can mitigate the adverse effects of PAEF on ECs.

This groundbreaking research sheds light on the pivotal role that fostering a strong organizational ethical climate plays in not just managing ECs but also in retaining talent within auditing firms. The implications of this study are far-reaching, offering valuable insights for professionals, regulators, and academics who are keen on promoting ethical practices in auditing and curbing the tide of auditor turnover.

For those intrigued by the intricate dance between ethics and professional life in the auditing realm, and the strategies to harmonize this relationship, diving into the full article in the Journal of Business Ethics could offer deeper understanding and guidance.