The scandal surrounding News International executives has brought to the fore a number of issues that accountants face day-in and day-out: how to deal with strong personalities and difficult situations, explains Jack Downton.
One can only imagine the temperature of the meetings that have been taking place internally and with external advisers at News International as executives try to piece together what occurred in the past and agree on a strategy for the future. While it is (hopefully) rare that accountants are required to deal with suspected illegal activity, confronting thorny issues, dealing with dominating personalities in meetings and handling angry clients or colleagues is not.
The first lesson that the Murdoch example teaches us is that the truth will come out eventually. Whether as a result of tenacious (honest) journalism, or increased transparency as a result of digital communications, whatever unpleasantness you try to bury will find a way to the surface. It is far better to be straight about bad news right from the start.
Coming clean about a mistake, informing a client about a change in personnel, or breaking the news about a poor result is like holding a hand grenade. Tossing it from one hand to the other in front of the client or the board, and trying to lead into the topic in a disingenuous way, won’t stop it exploding. You demonstrate greater integrity by tossing the grenade in an up-front and honest way, and then working hard to pick-up the pieces.
If you try to hide facts or lie, then very often your body language will throw doubt on the logic of what you say, undermining your arguments and creating subconscious uneasiness in the minds of your audience.