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Accountants - A necessary 'Evil' and dull profession

Updated on August 12, 2010

I remembered my boss once calling me ‘a necessary evil’ – at that time, I did not take much notice about his statement, since I was new in the company, having been just appointed a Group Financial Controller, an equivalent to a Chief Financial Officer, a term which was unheard those days. Subsequently I came to the conclusion of his statement, of course, with no help from him. The positive side was, ‘I was needed to keep the records and the finance in order’, so that the Management team understood what the company spent on and what was available to be spent. The negative side was, he would make such statements when I did not approve of the outlay of his more expensive “toys”, so his statement was not really complimentary in that manner, either way. What my boss did not understand was, it was not for me to say whether his expensive “toys” should be capped or not, it was that my monthly paycheck was issued to me to be a custodian of the funds and to ensure that whatever expended should be accounted for – ah, the word is “accountability” , which, unfortunately was not in the dictionary of such people like my boss. He felt that what he spent on was my accountability – a dreadfully dangerous definition, for me, that is.

All being equal, accountants are accountants, irrespective what position held – whether you are a lowly accounting manager / accounts executive or a high CFO, you are basically still an accountant. One tends to apply what is being learned from college, and sooner or later will find the principles slowly ‘disappearing’ or ‘forgotten’ in time as a career progresses when ambition takes over. Compromises often sets in when one tries to be in the “Team”. If you disapprove, you are considered not a ‘team player’, so, how does one balance the equation? Of course, this is not a political campaign during an election or a popularity contest, where one wants to be considered “NICE” in the management team, so, why should I be nice? You may ask! If you are not, you may well find yourself out of the circle very fast – and you may have to look for alternatives!

Accounting is considered a very dull subject, irrespective of how much one wants to liven it up or make it more interesting, it is still dull. What a lot of people do not know about accounting is, there are so many aspects in an accounting profession, that when mentioned, may astound more people who are not in the profession, or for that matter, people starting out in the profession may be equally astounded.

Getting an accounting degree in a University or College seems easy enough, if you can get through the exams, with subjects like statistics, cost accounting, financial accounting, etc., all point to “dull”, period. The challenge actually comes after graduation. One may find out, sooner or later, that the Cash Flow in the company may not be as healthy as what the college book normally says, and that everything balances out beautifully. In reality, most companies do not have healthy cash flows, having borrowings and always in the negative, during economic downturns, especially – that’s the challenge for the accountants to ‘fix’, or that’s what the bosses think the accountants should do.

Manual Calculator

Manual Machine used for Costing with multiple decimal points
Manual Machine used for Costing with multiple decimal points
Machine for manual calculation by manually punching the numbers
Machine for manual calculation by manually punching the numbers

The first 6 years of my life in the accounting profession can be considered awful, in terms of remuneration for my services rendered.  The first 2 years in my career almost caused me to leave my eventual position leading up to Controller status.  Why?  The manual mental calculation, which we called “casting” those days, of Inventory stock sheets which were at least 1 inch thick was sufficient reason to quit – and doing it for 2 years continuously, left me totally and completely devoid of numbers in my pay package.  Personal computers or PCs were unheard off when I started in the profession.  Even calculators were considered primitive by today’s standards, and extremely expensive, and totally not a privilege to junior staff at all.

I was never a 9 to 5 person sitting in an office, and that is what was expected for an accountant those days (perhaps even now). Fortunately, after securing a position as an Internal Auditor, subsequently, I had to travel to the subsidiary companies from my office – a breather from the 9 to 5 job, or so I thought. Then in my earnest and ‘eager to please’ attitude to my immediate supervisor and to prove my worth, I used all the knowledge acquired during my days as an external auditor that I should not be an embarrassment to him. Very soon, I discovered some documentation which were not quite legal in the approach to completion of certain acquisitions of properties, by none other than the Head Honcho of the entire Group of Companies. Even my immediate supervisor reports to the Head Honcho, so I thought the quickest way to get unemployment benefits was to submit a written report on my findings, which I did, but not in a written format. Verbally I seek a ‘pow-wow’ with my supervisor, about this, my thought was to avoid a scandal, not a cover-up, how naïve I was, then.

Soon enough, I was informed that there was a vacancy as a Controller in one of the better performing subsidiaries within the Group, which led to the position I mentioned at the beginning of this Hub. First thought, of course, was that my services were recognized and thus justifiable promotion was accorded to me. Subsequent thoughts came, after my acceptance, were – they had to get rid of me, before I do more damage to the reputation of the Head Honcho of the company. They cannot fire me, not wanting me to be a whistle blower, which they think I will be, if they do that, and so, they took the more ‘honorable’ step as to boost the morale of the staff that positions can be filled internally.

Well, I did not stay forever in the Controller position, but that is another story altogether. Moral of the story? Being at the top may not be as gratifying as it should be, after initiation into a ‘dull’ profession.


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    • profile image

      Good riddance 5 years ago

      I was an accountant and financial analyst (which is another term for accountant). There are some aspects of the job that are worth mentioning. First, it is very repetitive work. Second, it is necessary work (since we need to do record keeping). Third, you will most likely always have a job. Fourth, you will almost always be overworked.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 6 years ago

      @MyOfficeBooks, thanks for reading my article.. ahhh, a 'fellow' accountant.. :)

    • MyOfficeBooks profile image

      MyOfficeBooks 6 years ago from Brisbane

      Being an accountant can be a boring occupation to say the least. It also will not win friends and influence people if you work in a company, especially when you have to inform your boss that no, that speedboat he uses every fortnight for solely personal use cannot be used as a business expense.

      I agree that accountants are respected.

      Enjoyed reading your article, more so as I can relate to some of your experiences as a bookkeeper :-)

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 6 years ago

      To say that Accountants are 'dull' boring people is the perception of others but not to oneself who is interested in being one. The long hours in the profession may be the thing stopping you to have time with women; the attraction to women is oneself, as long as you don't talk "accounting" in front of the 'hot' ones. :)

      Have to say that an Accountant is not the most interesting person in the office but may be the most respected to those who value your efficient reports, but you don't have to be one, outside of the office.

      28 is not too late to be one. If you are afraid of failure, maintain the interest and passion and I am sure you won't fail to become one.

      Thanks for dropping by and good luck!

    • profile image

      Ray 6 years ago

      I'm considering pursuing a career as an accountant.. My concerns are:

      Is it to late? I'm 28 already.

      Will it turn me into a 'dull', boring guy? If I stop attracting women, i'm not gonna be happy...

      If I fail, I would be pissed. I'm afraid of failure.

      If i'm gonna do this I wanna go all the way. But it seems whoever I mention my dream of being an Accountant to they always look at me funny and say, 'really?' and then they roll their eyes and say, 'that's just so boring'..

      I just don't want to be this boring guy at an office but, I am great with numbers..

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Accountancy is more than just book keeping, that's for sure. Of course, the books need to be kept and normally book keepers do that... Accountants do a little bit more than that; they analyse the numbers or what some people call it "crunching the numbers" and put them into its appropriate perspective, for presentation to the owners represented by the Board of Directors on the performance and health of the company. General accounting is very monotonous, have to say I was never that kind of accountant, that's why I am no longer in the trade. :) Thanks for dropping by, @Ingenira.

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      telltale, I am not an accountant, but I have a friend who is an accountant. He used to work for the NZ government. I was surprised when he mentioned that accountancy is only about book keeping. He didn't stay on the job for long. He left the job and opened up a factory. Now he owns a few factories and are happier with what he achieved.

      I think the good thing about being an accountant is that you can work part time from home and are still earning a lot.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Lady_E, thanks for dropping by and the wishes... no longer working as an Accountant anymore... am in software related to accounting, somehow... old habits die hard.. hahaha!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      I've always respected Accountants. Just like Doctors there are so many exams they have to take. (University is just the start of their studies).

      I read in one of your comments you are self-employed and that's such a good thing. You can choose the companies you want to work for and you would have different ones too - Your Job would never be dull.

      Best Wishes.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      @heart... can almost tell you are 'psychic' :), and thank you for visiting my hub... appreciate your visit and comment.

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 7 years ago from hub

      I can tell, you are an analytical person...I mean that in a good way:) This was an interesting read, enjoyed it thoroughly! Sometimes knowing too much, does change our enthusiam in a job.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      @6hotfingers3, good for you to point out where the problem originated, otherwise, non-accounting bosses always will blame the Accountants. It's never easy to work around the problem as it will always be there if unsolved, it's best to resolve the problem, irrespective, that's what I did, at that time.

    • 6hotfingers3 profile image

      6hotfingers3 7 years ago

      I've experienced something similar to what you've mentioned. My boss said to me, "the books balanced before you came'" I showed her where the problem originated. She stared at me blankly and we never had another conversation about it. I noted in code where the problem was and tried to work around the problem as best I could.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      I agree, it's never dull when you are 'in control', so to speak. I would call it 'challenging'. Looking at your profile I can remember my first manager was from South Africa, when I first join the profession - learned a fair bit from him - a very meticulous person. Thanks for dropping by, and giving an insight of the profession, at your end, nice to meet you too!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      How nice to find a colleague on HubPages! I relate wholeheartedly with this hub of yours. Being the financial officer is always being the negative one, the devil’s advocate, the one who smothers the fiery dreams of the idealists. I’ve learned, after many years of being the protector of the companies I serve and the enemy of their creators/owners, how to let them fly, free like doves in the air, and waiting patiently with the budget and financial statements in my hand at the gate of their cage on the ground. Eventually they have no choice but to listen to me or to go bankrupt. So they all passionately hate and love me simultaneously. LOL! No, I don’t really find the work ‘dull’. I enjoy creating order and to control assets/stock. Also in this field I am the witch/bitch, fiercely protecting the companies (the hen laying the golden eggs) against the selfish and often ignorant beneficiaries. To keep myself balanced, I practise writing as a hobby. So nice to meet you! I’m looking forward to read more of your hubs.

    • jasonycc profile image

      jasonycc 7 years ago from South East Asia

      Yes, I am still in the profession. And thank God I don't have to use those manual calculators illustrated above.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      twentyfive - don't think you missed much.

      patdmania - if you are good at math, you are a mathematician, but to be an accountant, you may need something more than just math.

      jasonycc - ah, a fellow accountant, are you still in the profession? Thanks for the thumbs up!

    • jasonycc profile image

      jasonycc 7 years ago from South East Asia

      I am an accountant by profession too. I can relate to your experience. So very true. And I think this profesion is dull at the earlier years. As we join ranks in the managemnet level, the ride can be much more interesting especially on decision making. An insightful hub on accountants. Thumbs up!

    • patdmania profile image

      patdmania 7 years ago from waterford, mi

      I am not a big fan of accounting. I was always good with math, however i have to do something physical for work.

    • twentyfive profile image

      twentyfive 7 years ago

      I've studied accounting but it's never meant for me. lol

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Einron, the racial rioting was in 1969, the famous "May 13", in which we, in Malaysia, have always been reminded of, during elections - 'vote for the opposition and you will get a May 13', they always say - actually this day happened during the time when the ruling party was in power, not the opposition.

      To be fair to the accounting profession, it can be exciting when you are a Controller - what with all the juggling of the numbers can be really challenging, especially when the funding is abit lopsided.

      Thank you for your input.

    • einron profile image

      einron 7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      My brother was an accountant and reached the position of Acting State Treasurer of Malacca before he left for Canada during the time of the racial riotings in 1979 in Malaysia.

      I never thought that accounting is a glamorous or exciting job. It only deals with figures and statistics, and rather exacting. However, accounting is an essential job to the economy, and therefore, an essential evil.

    • telltale profile image

      telltale 7 years ago

      Every new accountant is always enthusiastic about his/her profession - I used to, too, until you reach a certain level, where I learn that it's not exactly a bed of roses, that's when the dream ended, for me. Well, certain Accountants still love their job, even after more than a couple of decades in it. Found it is not exactly what I wanted to end in, that's all. Thanks for visiting, appreciate very much.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      I have a niece who is an accountant who loves her proffession but is a newbie And most probably hasn't hit the paradoxial fronts you have encountered...thanks for the insight on accounting;)


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