Are Accountants Bossy?

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Everybody would sing the praises of accountants, if they were more flexible and turned a blind eye to errors.

--By Nirmal Aryal

Accounting is one of the most important back office functions. It is more than just crunching numbers. As the financial backbone of the organization, they help people to conceive goals, plan how to achieve them and then take necessary steps. The person who undertakes the responsibility of the accounting of an organization is, most of the times, referred to as accountant. The terms book keeping and finance are also interchangeably used however, we must understand that there is a vast difference between book keeping, finance and accounting.

Most individuals and executives think that accountants are introverts. They tend to show off more power compared to other functions. Rather than solving problems, they complicate things. They present themselves as such that without them the organization will go bankrupt. They see themselves as the true gate keepers. To conclude in one sentence, individuals label “accountants as bossy”. 

I have been hearing these depictions almost every day, ever since I started my career as a trainee. To my surprise, I haven’t found a non-finance executive who feels any other way. The phenomenon has gone on for decades. These depictions have always kept me curious and my curiosity is growing. They might not seem to be unusual but being a chartered accountant myself, with the word ‘accountant’ on my title, I think the time has come for us to know why accountants sound or seem bossy.

This article isn’t the right place to dissect the difference between the two professions of chartered accountancy and accountancy. If I start it, then it will take me into a whole new direction. Maybe I will try to elaborate on it next time. But for now, I am focused on whether the above depictions represent all accountants? Is this a fair representation?

I have visited hundreds of organizations, got acquainted with their organizational structure, working culture and interacted with multiple executives. During those visits, I have been closely observing the level of interaction between the accountants and other executives. After analyzing all those interactions, comparing and contrasting I am confident to write that size, nature, the number of people and turnover of the organization may differ but the fundamental interaction required between accountants and other executives remains the same.

The basic thing we need to consider while analyzing the accountant’s behaviour is to acknowledge the fact that every individual is unique. Their behaviour is a function of both the environmental context and personality type. Every accountant may behave differently in any given circumstances. However, the common theme among accountants is that when faced with a decision, they tend to be decisive and seek closure using the principle of cause and effect. In general, they have an aptitude for planning and organizing. They tend to be impersonal. And, they believe something only when they are provided with adequate supporting documents, i.e. evidence.

Another thing is that every accountant irrespective of the nature of the organization has several roles and responsibilities, both in terms of competence at carrying out accounting practices as well as their ethics and approach to the job. Volume of the job, the type of interaction with internal and external stakeholders might change but as long as accounting principles remain the same, one should not doubt their consistency. An accountant’s job demands them to work within the law at all times.

One of the other reasons why accountants are called bossy might be that they don’t make decisions in favour of employees at the expense of compliance. Everybody would sing the praises of accountants, if they were more flexible and turned a blind eye to errors but it rarely happens, hence, they are labeled as inhuman.
It is important that an accountant has strict principles to follow, standards to adhere to, as without them they will be unable to do their job correctly and potentially harm their organization, and certainly the industry. Hence, before labeling any accountant, please keep in mind how you would want your accountants to be.  Do you want them to be flexible, reliant on their own beliefs, perceptions and relationships when making decisions? Or do you want them to be passive gazers, easily manipulated and reliant on others? The decision is yours.

The author is an MBA executive and manager in the Not-for-Profit-Sector.

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