Many senior accountants hate their job

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Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life, as the saying goes. But what if you’re one of the 40% of accountants who are stuck in a rut?

In 2017 AccountingWEB’s anonymous blogger The Imprudent Accountant likened the job as a partner to the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

And there is plenty for an accountant to feel miserable about: whether it is the added burden of regulation, pressure on fees, the senior partner’s despotic email policy, or it could be Tim, the sparky new junior member of staff who is earning more than you.

Senior accountants are stuck in a rut

It could be any of the above that led to around 40% of partners and others in senior and middle management to feel stuck in a rut, as found in a survey conducted by the aptly named executive mentors Rutbusters.

The cloud of misery that circles these demotivated partners trapped in their job glooms down on everyone else in the office. So while the accountant in a management position wallows, the people working for them complain of reporting to a low energy boss who is often slow to make decisions (25%), not interested in change (35%), providing little leadership (42%), and getting little work done (33%).

The hatred accountants have for their job is becoming a frequent conversation within the profession. The number of accountants fleeing the profession has increased due to the additional workload and with MTD being the final straw.  While others riding it out are burdened with stress, anxiety and ill health, as one beleaguered accountant recently confessed.

Another survey released by the chartered accountant charity CABA hit on similar nerves, where one-third of accountants admitted feeling stressed every day. The burnout culture was perpetrated by emails.

But the accountancy profession is not unique here. Senior teams from many other businesses are also seeing their motivation, energy and respect from their team nosedive.    

The obvious answer is for those dreading the morning wake up alarm is to just leave. But these accountants would rather cling on than worry about the financial impact of leaving (26%) or family commitments (27%).

Age discrimination is still a concern

While 24% show that age discrimination is still a concern within the profession as they worry that their age will mean they won’t be considered for roles elsewhere.

Rutbusters points out that this could present issues for firms that have problems retiring those at the top of partnership to make way for new partners.

But the good news is that while there is a 10% hardcore of unmotivated, unfulfilled and low energy senior people at accountancy firms, the typical accountant in their 40s and 50s feels more motivated, fulfilled and happier than those at most other businesses.

For Kedge Martin, the CEO of Rutbusters, the research should act as a warning that accountants in their 40s and 50s can get stuck in demotivating and harmful ruts.  

“They get there often because the challenge has gone and each year seems very much like the last. Once they have lost their fulfillment such people resist change and demotivate their team, even though personally they may well still be hitting their billable hours.

“By looking after these people, who have lost the satisfaction their colleagues get from advising clients firms are not only helping the partnership stay vibrant but also addressing at an early stage the mental health issues that follow from hating your job.”

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.


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21st Jun 2019 10:09

so 60% love their jobs? sounds like a pretty good job to get into to me

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By dwgw
to NH
21st Jun 2019 11:24

Are love and hate the only possibilities? What about "s'alright"?

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21st Jun 2019 10:23

I used to hate my job when I was an employee in practice. All the [***] ups, delays and stress were caused by others. I also hated timesheets.
Even when I became a partner I still hated it due to disagreements with other partners. Setting up my own practice was the best thing I ever did. I now enjoy it and have the freedom to do what I like and ditch any clients I don't like.

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to Marlinman
21st Jun 2019 11:14

Well said Marlinman!
Been there, done that, sold the business, looking after 20 ish small jobs now. Life is wonderful! Hope you reach that stage too!

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By tedbuck
21st Jun 2019 10:45

Been in this job so long that ICAEW sent me a long service certificate. Still can't let it go but it is far less enjoyable than it used to be. Far too much time wasted on such as FRS, AML, GDPR, MTD and the like which waste tons of time for no real gain. If only HMG and the ASB and HMRC would stop and think before they crash ahead with time wasting bureaucracy we might all be better off.
I recollect that in the 'good old days' (GOD) we could manage to get a set of company accounts onto 5 pages now it's more like 15 and the client finds it harder to understand because it's all in FRS speak with GAAPs in understanding here and there. I heard a lecturer the other day saying that FRS was not fit for purpose - does anyone disagree?
Perhaps they should abandon acronyms!

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to tedbuck
21st Jun 2019 18:00

I totally agree. Clients pay us to do the nitty gritty of the job - preparing accounts and legally minimizing their tax, not for all the pointless red tape that is forced upon us.

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21st Jun 2019 10:58

It's not news. You get the same in any job. Teachers, GP's, solicitors, to name a few.

"Many [insert profession] hate their job"

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21st Jun 2019 11:04

I am planning to leave the profession after 40 years .I am not ready to go but can see the tax system collapse as standards fall, HMRC don't listen to feedback and the younger taxpayer appears not to care about standards. MTD was the final straw when HMRC realise that a load of garbage has been entered into computers by taxpayers and they realise they have no properly trained staff to correct it all I shall be gone . Thank God I can.

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to GHarr497688
21st Jun 2019 15:34

can I have your clients please :)

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to Tom 7000
21st Jun 2019 21:35

All sold for 2 times the fees so I got a great deal - sorry

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21st Jun 2019 11:23

A note for managers and employers: I have quit two jobs because the people I worked with hated their jobs and made the workplaces miserable. No one wants to spend 8+ hours a day with people who hate being there.

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21st Jun 2019 11:33

I think this should read 40% of most people hate their jobs. Don't think the accounting profession is any different. Having qualified in 1991 the job is both better and worse, Better - technology. Worse - over regulation by Government that appears in many cases not to solve anything, too many accountants

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By sash100
21st Jun 2019 11:53

Accountancy is far less stressful than many other jobs. We should be grateful.

If you are working for a firm and there is too much pressure then get out there and work on your own. I know easier said than done but at least try on the side.

Perhaps the firm is having an influx of clients but does not have the manpower or is just greedy and allocating the work to already beleaguered staff

What gets most people down in their jobs is not the work itself its the people who they have to work with and the office politics. One bad egg can disrupt the whole environment.

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By ColA
21st Jun 2019 13:09

Interesting piece.
Still working full time at 71 and enjoying it my thoughts are that moving jobs is a way to relieve the monotony.
Mind you I made that choice in 1972 two years after qualifying when I decided that professional office life offered 35+ years of repetition or if specialising in taxation multiple Finance Acts to master.
Industry commerce & the public sector have served me well - current role is 5 minutes from home on the Sussex coast & I write this watching the azure waves of the English Channel washing up on a shingle beach - and a salary keeps rolling in.

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to ColA
21st Jun 2019 15:36

That's ace can I do your year end audit so I get a trip to the seaside each year. Ill knock 20% off what you pay now, just for the pleasure of sitting next to you watching the waves.

Tom in a forest, well sort of.... more like a town in a forest. But born at the seaside.

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By ColA
to Tom 7000
21st Jun 2019 16:16

Thanks, Tom
Would be delighted to offer the chance but we are in the middle of a three-year term and the field is quite narrow being a Town Council.
If you fancy a trip anyway with a bit of detective work try BN25 & I’ll treat you to lunch.

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By edhy
21st Jun 2019 13:37

Isn't the modern job hating is because of our design; to be on our feet, chasing game, gathering berries and raising lots of kids with in a clan.

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to edhy
24th Jun 2019 11:57

Probably. Hundreds of thousands of years evolving to be perfect for the hunter gatherer lifestyle and here we are stuck at a desk all day staring at a screen. Depressing isn't it.

On the plus side we don't have to fight mammoths and sabre tooth tigers so swings and roundabouts I guess.

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21st Jun 2019 14:24

I changed jobs 4 years ago at the age of 57 and was surprised at the lack of ageism displayed towards me. Perhaps experience does count for something.
Yes the job is different and we cannot love all of it all of the time. We do however have to move with the times and work with the changes otherwise we stagnate which cannot be good. Having said that I work in a very small practice close to home and with no ambitions left, quality of life is more important. If I were 3o and under the pressures my children have I might hate my job too!

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21st Jun 2019 15:41

There are FOUR (4) fundamental pillars of happiness at work

1. Be nice to everyone around you, they will be nice to you and that's much better

2. Always tell the truth and do things properly

3. Don't tell everyone everything you know

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By ColA
to Tom 7000
24th Jun 2019 13:13

4. Be especially nice to your children and (any) grandchildren - they will have the choice of your care home as God's waiting-room.

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21st Jun 2019 15:56

True wisdom:
40% of accountants hate their job
100% of accountants love spreadsheets

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21st Jun 2019 19:13

Work should mean honesty and doing your best. When you apply logic profit statements and tax computations should be straight forward. Why get worked up. ? Life should be about ease and achieving the bottom line.
Work is only a part of life.

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