Accounting research finds that staff auditors, who increasingly interact with high-level client management, maintain positions of lower power in auditor–client interactions. We conducted semistructured interviews with 22 practicing associate- and senior-level auditors to investigate staff auditor–client interactions and their outcomes. Our results shed light on a deep-rooted power dynamic between staff-level auditors and their clients, whereby clients maintain the upper hand during the evidence-collection process. We also document auditors’ concerns for their clients’ perception of them and the audit team. Finally, we observe that auditors often struggle to fulfill their professional responsibilities while also ingratiating themselves to the client. These forces often lead to audit quality-threatening behaviors such as client avoidance and “ghost ticking.” Our results suggest that ongoing power disparities between staff auditors and their clients may impair staff auditors’ operational independence.

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