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Accounting News Roundup: Deadlines and Scaring Would-be Whistleblowers | 03.21.16

If You Dread Deadlines, You’re Thinking About Them All Wrong [HBR]
The accounting profession is one filled with deadlines, both real and arbitrary. There's no avoiding it, deadlines will be a regular factor in your day-to-day life.

That can be stressful for some people, however, you can now have a turn-that-frown-upside-down perspective on them:

Deadlines can be energizing and help you to sharpen your focus, set priorities, collaborate effectively with a team, and get work done, all while keeping projects on track and on schedule. Think of it this way. Deadlines are a done-for-you prioritization tool that tells you a given project is important to focus on since its deadline is earlier. Deadlines can also make it easier to honestly assess your workload. If you have something due on Friday and you’re aware that it will take all your available time between now and then, it’s easier to decline extra projects or meetings. Finally, when you know you have a chance of meeting the deadline, these sorts of hard dates can be downright fun. They can give you a thrill by completing a piece of work and finishing it on time. Victory is sweet.

I can tell you with the utmost confidence that in my career, deadlines were not " downright fun" or thrilling or a "prioritization tool." They were a date looming in the distant future that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Then it was time to celebrate the end of that deadline, but it never felt (tasted?) sweet.

I suppose this was due, in part, to how I was trained (no one ever suggested deadlines as a prioritization tool) and how my co-workers perceived them (a date looming in the distant future that suddenly appeared out of nowhere). Seemingly, everyone around me dreaded deadlines, so I dreaded deadlines. Perhaps other people were using those dates to "sharpen focus" and "set priorities" but they sure weren't sharing that secret with anyone else.

Maybe this has changed and deadlines are "downright fun" in the accounting profession these days, but I've seen or heard little evidence of that. I do like the contrarian idea of embracing deadlines, however, because life is easier that way. Similar to loving Mondays. Man, I love Mondays.

Whistle a Different Tune [CFO]
Please note to anyone charged with writing whistleblower assurances for the employee handbooks: Don't go overboard:

An experiment reported in the current issue of the American Accounting Association journal Behavioral Research in Accounting suggests that explicit assurances that whistleblowing will not lead to retaliation have an effect opposite from the intended one. Although the experiment deals with a hypothetical auditing firm, it clearly has implications for many kinds of organizations.

“[V]ivid language that points a reader’s attention to explicit instances of retaliation is likely to evoke fearful mental imagery, even if the intent of the vivid language is to engender a feeling of protection,” the authors wrote. And, yes, in this day and age where distrust and paranoia are pretty much a part of every thing that happens, listing examples of retaliation will probably cause people to think, "Oh, is that what happened to the last person who said something? NO THANK YOU."

Previously, on Going Concern…
I wrote about H&R Block CEO Bill Cobb's response to the AICPA over those video ads. And in Open Items, a student wonders about a lowball offer.

In other news:

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