The accountant’s guide to staffing: Saying goodbye

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Unless an employee or partner is leaving with a gold watch after 50 years of devoted service, parting with a colleague is almost always a fraught business. It can also be a very costly one too.

Therefore, before sacking someone, making them redundant or trying to drive them off via a pay freeze, it is always a good idea to think deeply, take advice and make life as easy as possible for all parties.

From bitter experience, the best advice of all is to be decisive. So often, accountants take on substandard staff, people unable to do the jobs for which they have been recruited or partners who do not fit in with a firm’s culture. Rather than admitting to a disastrous error of judgement, they then habitually stick their heads in the sand and hope that the problem will go away. It very rarely does.

Frequently, hopeless workers have made a career out of joining hapless firms, sticking around as long as possible while doing as little as they can get away with, awaiting at the very least an amount to which they are contractually entitled and frequently a great deal more.

The dream scenario, which is based on an actual situation but materially re-engineered to protect the identities of those involved, went as follows:

Many years ago, I interviewed a gorgeous blonde with a fantastic smile to take on the marketing role vacated by the useless person to whom we had just been obliged to pay £50,000 as a much-resented golden handshake for a year’s non-service.

In her interview, the new recruit charmed me, talked a good game and, having left a job three months before (alarm bells should have rung), was immediately available.

She arrived and immediately proved to be adept at making coffee and smoking outside once an hour.

She apparently arranged lots of meetings with prospective clients but, after six months nothing beyond innumerable promises materialised.

Reluctantly, we asked her to leave, having effectively written off six months’ salary plus on costs. She then pointed out that one of my partners had made lewd remarks in an e-mail three months before and, lo and behold, the solicitor to whom we had given another couple of thousand pounds advised the firm to pay her £30,000 to go away.

While this may sound sexist, arrogant and outlandish, in your heart of hearts, you know that it is not too far from your own experiences and those of other professionals that you meet at the Dog and Duck.

I could give chapter and verse on half a dozen other examples that are all too similar.

In every one, had the employer taken a long hard look at the situation before signing off on recruitment or after a month or two of failure, they would have been just about certain that the eventual outcome would be a parting of the ways. in such situations, it is doing everyone a favour to accelerate the exit of someone who cannot do the job for which they have applied. The cost would then typically only be a relatively small amount of salary, one week’s notice and some heartache.

By being indecisive, you make the employee considerably richer if not necessarily particularly happy and give both the relevant head hunter plus your legal advisers a problem as they try to hide their glee at unexpected windfalls.

About Philip Fisher


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19th Sep 2017 10:07

This article is completely sexist. What does it have to do with the fact that you wrongly recruited a candidate who was not suitably skilled to carry out the role? Poor interview technique coupled with obvious prejudice. Being a gorgeous blonde is irrelevant.

I find it appalling that AccountingWeb would publish such an article in this day and age. How about shaming the lewd email sent by a Partner, presumably who went unscathed. And yet whilst 5 or 6 other examples, none of these are mentioned so perhaps doing so would have given the article less of a prejudice slant.

Much more focus should be on the lack of ability to do the job and physical traits are irrelevant.

Thanks (1)
to Lesser Tax
19th Sep 2017 16:32

Thanks for the comment Lesser Tax.

It's fair to say there was a great deal of discussion at Aweb towers about whether to publish this.

In the end, we decided to go with it because it was a real-life example, and because it does not condone or sanction behaviour such as the partner's.

As demonstrated by Della Hudson's excellent piece for us last week, discrimination still exists, but I don't think not discussing it is the answer.

Hope that clears things up a little and thanks again for commenting.



Thanks (1)
19th Sep 2017 14:42

We live in a real world. People are persuaded by smiles and beauty. That is reality and not sexist. I congratulate the write on an honest and frank article.

Thanks (3)
20th Sep 2017 14:55

Anyone stupid enough to recruit someone purely because they find them attractive is treating an interview like a tinder date. Conducting business in such a way is a sure fire way to fail.

This is not the real world, charm without substance might be around in the world of scams with programmes like "White Gold" but an accountancy firm conducting interviews?

Thanks (0)
25th Sep 2017 11:22

I my experience not acting decisively in a timely manner is disastrous. All business owners, not just accountants, have to realise that if it ain't working out after a few weeks it never will. As I am fond of saying "unlike toothache it won't just go away" .
The starting point is what the CV is hiding , plus failure to talk to referees and understand how close they were to the subject is so important.
Hiring needs to be giving proper due diligence - it may take longer but it is well worth it

Thanks (1)