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January 27, 2023

Accounting’s Bootstrapping Martyrdom Complex

Personal finance blogger Bridget Eastgaard coined the term Bootstrapping Millennial Martyr in her blog about the rhetoric about the Yelp Employee speaking out about her cost of living struggles. The Twitterverse was clearly in two camps:

The bleeding heart lefties: "Poor thing, the employers should provide a living wage to all employees."


The hardcore righties: "Harden the fuck up, back in my day I had to walk 20 miles in the snow for a dime an hour."

Bridget did a good job of cutting through the noise. And it prompted me to reflect on my own narrative. I checked back on my social, and my Instagram and Snapchat is littered with photos of me looking like shit after a 20 hour day.

It got me thinking about the accounting profession generally. I think that this bootstrap martyrdom complex extends beyond generations to the point where it’s hardwired into our DNA. You only have to scroll through the #howshouldweaccountforme Tumblr (My second favorite site after GC) to see this complex in action.

This was clearly evident when I was coming up as a junior accountant, the seniors would treat us like shit because they got treated like shit and so on. And no one under any circumstances was allowed to complain, because that would make us ungrateful jerks.

When I went into practice, I thought I would break the cycle, but I find myself starting sentences with, “Back in my day…” and I am only 29! I certainly don’t treat my associates like shit (all the time), but I am very much unsympathetic to their complaints, because I feel like it was legitimately much worse… back in my day.

Following on from my piece about no one dying from late tax returns, I do worry about the narrative we’ve set in the profession. I think it’s one of undue stress. It should come as no wonder that lifestyle accountants and firms are on the rise. Their Instagram accounts are littered with photos of them Skyping clients poolside with mojitos.

To that end I am trying to figure out which lifestyle will prevail: The hardcore martyrs with BMWs, or the lifestylers living in a resort in Thailand, or can the two coexist?

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