Audit firms face a constant conflict between the business of auditing and the profession of auditing, characterised in the literature as a cost-quality conflict. This conflict is manifested at trainee levels in the pressure to perform quality work within specified time limits. Prior studies have reported high levels of quality threatening behaviour (QTB) at trainee levels and the importance of examining contributory factors has been highlighted. Multivariate models, based on large-scale surveys have identified some important variables, but calls have been made for in-depth studies to develop a more complete understanding and help refine previous models of auditor behaviour. The objective of this study, the first of its kind, is to conduct a qualitative investigation of how control system variables operate in audit firms and the perceived impact of those variables on QTB. Based on a framework constructed from the management control literature, the study adopted a qualitative approach using 25 semi-structured interviews of audit seniors in four of the (then) Big Five firms in Ireland. The findings suggest that key variables (time pressure, participative target setting, style of performance evaluation and audit review process) have been inadequately operationalised in previous studies. Time pressure emanates not from a single source as suggeste
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