Should accountants worry about their image?
Geoff Trickey, managing director at Psychological Consultancy, examines whether the profession has a ‘boring’ image because of the type of person it attracts and whether this is actually to its advantage.
All the major professions have developed a public persona, sometimes painstakingly honing an image created over decades or even centuries. For the banks, a Portland stone edifice in classical style architecture was de rigeur; a metaphor for permanence and security. Today it is futuristic architecture that cuts the mustard and, since deregulation and the new bonus culture, Porsches are the preferred accessory. Rogue traders, Frankenstein bonds and endless mis-selling sagas have precipitated a transformation that has been accompanied by a fall from the peaks of wisdom and probity to their current pariah status.
The image of the medical profession is also experiencing something of a setback as services become less personal, less accessible and increasingly uncertain in quality. Gone are the days of infinite public gratitude when everything from a scratch to a fever could be cured with life-saving antibiotics. Nowadays, headlines like ‘Doctors paid £3,000 per shift’ and ‘16,000 GPs are being paid six-figure sums’, ‘more than 600 doctors on more than £200,000’, do little to foster public affection. The clergy hasn’t fared much better, but we won’t go into that.
While many professions seem intent on pursuing the Gerald Ratner school of public relations, accountants remain relatively unscathed. There are some detractors though. An American psychologist suggests limitations in emotional intelligence. Apparently, that means that “accountants are much poorer at working out how they and other people are feeling; they also have very constant moods”. So accountants are less self-obsessed, less emotionally intrusive and more stable than most – when compared with the reputation of other professions, that doesn’t sound too bad does it?
But what kind of image should the accountancy profession pursue? Personally, I like the idea that...
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