Has professional courtesy gone out of the window?by
Dealing with a lack of professional courtesy from other accountants can be frustrating and annoying. But when is it justified to take offence rather than simply rising above the bad manners?
The accounting profession works well when there is a mutual understanding and a good relationship with other accountants – in other words, when you maintain professional courtesy.
As tensions run high with upcoming the self assessment season looming over everyone’s shoulders, professional courtesy seems to have gone out of the window. It’s a hot topic in the Any Answers community, with many finding themselves in sticky situations.
Noosh82 discussed their frustration after a long-term client sold the company to their daughter who then chose to use another accountant without informing them. “The existing accountant seems discourteous and unethical, not to mention problematic as they have had no information from me whatsoever in order to prepare their advice for the client,” Noosh82 wrote.
JSA Mark also detailed their annoyance when an old accountant ignored both them and the client, and provided incomplete information. They had not received full details on any of the four limited companies they were taking over.
“We followed up with multiple emails and telephone calls but the old accountant is ignoring most and drip-feeding a little information occasionally. He tells the client it has been sent, then admits it’s not been when they ask us,” wrote JSA Mark.
Offended or unfazed?
The Any Answers community seemed divided on whether the authors of the posts were taking it too personally or had every right to be upset. AccountingWEB readers Adam.arca and Lionofludesch did not seem surprised about this lack of professionalism. “There seems to be a lot of this discourtesy going around,” Adam.arca said. Lionofludesch similarly commented, “Sadly, this is increasingly common.”
The community provided advice to JSA Mark, understanding and sympathising with him. “I wouldn’t spend more time on the old accountant, but get copies of stuff from HMRC, and I suspect you’ll have to do your best with a probable dire state of affairs bookkeeping-wise,” Moonbeam remarked.
Fellow commenter, Matrix, felt that these reactions were justified and that professional courtesy needed to be maintained in these situations. In regards to Noosh82’s post, Matrix wrote: “This would annoy me too. Strange that he didn’t use you.”
However, not everyone seemed to agree with Matrix and believed that Noosh82 was taking things too much to heart.
“You are probably taking this a bit too personally as it would be reasonable for the daughter to appoint her own adviser and be regarded as too much of a conflict of interest otherwise,” Roland195 said.
Indomitable also agreed: “Clients have every right to use whoever they want. This is part of business.”
Sympathy and advice
When asked his opinion on both situations, mentor and commentator Mark Lee sympathised with Noosh82, but similar to the responses on Any Answers, he believed that the daughter was entitled to do what she wants. “Odd that anyone could or would advise without checking facts with the accountant but not unheard of,” he added.
Regarding JSA Mark, Lee said: “The client should definitely report the accounts to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).”
Alex Bond Burnett, founder and lead executive coach for Ambition: Impact shared her methods for maintaining professional courtesy when someone is not cooperating. Her main piece of advice was to not let your emotions get the better of you.
“You have to remember that you are in charge of that driving stick, don’t let your emotions control you – you control your emotions,” she said. “Control and regulate the emotion to make sure that you are being curious and getting to the heart of the problem.”
She discussed how being curious in these situations is a useful way of understanding what is happening. “You have to ask questions, and be non-judgmental, to get to the heart of what’s really going on and what someone needs to hear from you,” Burnett said.
Recognising boundaries was another piece of advice offered, emphasising the importance of knowing where to draw the line.
If you’ve exhausted all efforts to alleviate the situation – including trying to get to the bottom of it, asking for information, providing support and showing empathy – Burnett advised, “You have to draw a line to protect yourself and say, this is now no longer acceptable.”
She concluded: “Remember to be assertive with kindness.”
As an accountant, how do you navigate the personal vs professional tug of war regarding a lack of professional courtesy? Let us know in the comments below.