December 3, 2021

Another List of the Best Accounting Firms to Work For, And Another Reason to Hate These Lists

If you hate your job, it's clearly because you don't work for one of Accounting Today's "100 Best Firms to Work For." Every year they come out with this list, and every year it bugs the hell out of me.

I don't totally get the methodology of determining and ranking the list, mostly because I didn't look into it. 
I did discover, however, that a firm doesn't just happen to make the list. It takes focused effort. One characteristic that is true of all of the best firms to work for: they applied to be on the list of best firms to work for. And this year, the field was more competitive than a Parks Department kindergarten soccer league1.
A total of 244 firms [applied] for recognition this year. 
Wow. They say 80 percent of success is showing up, and 41 percent of being a "best firm to work for" is registering. This distinction imbues its recipients with the dignity of a man who asks his children for a "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt and is nearly as meaningful as the wait staff at Chili's singing Happy Birthday.
Back in February, all four Big 4 firms plus Plante Moran made Fortune magazine's "Best Companies to Work For" list. Surprisingly, none of them appear in Accounting Today's list. Either the work environment at these companies has turned caustic in the past ten months, or the Fortune magazine list is pure bullshit2.
But what bugs me the most is that I used to work for a company that has made the list every year for four years in a row, and I fucking hated it there. 
As their employee, I tried my damnedest to do two things: to do the best job I could while trudging up a very long learning curve; and to meticulously track my time, allocating the actual time I spent on actual work to the actual clients for whom the work was done. Because of the former, I was really slow. Because of the latter, everybody knew I was really slow.
As a result, I got to eat a turd sandwich once a week, prepared and served steaming hot by the partner who oversaw my team. In these meetings he would A) remind me how long it took me to complete a given tax return; B) tell me how long it would have taken him to complete said return, and C) ask me why it took me so long. If I was candid and ballsy, I would have said, "because I'm new, and you low-balled the client." Because I was chicken shit and had little tiny balls, I said, "I'm stupid, and I'm sorry."
Then came the news that made my head explode. I was told, "None of the partners want to give you work because you're too slow." But I was paid on salary. Apparently whatever ridiculous algorithm they used to determine partner compensation brought them to the conclusion that it was better for me to do nothing rather than to do something slow. Now, no one really expects a partner at a CPA firm to be good at cost accounting3, but for some reason they're not.
I contend that no CPA firm is a "best firm to work for" if they tell their people: 
1. You're billing too many hours to each specific client;
2. You're not billing enough hours;
3. You'reYour entire performance is judged on the number of hours you bill.
The Employee Engagement and Satisfaction Survey for the Best Firms to Work For list asks you to rate a series of statements on a scale from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." One of the statements was, "This organization provided as much initial training as I needed." Strongly disagree. No one taught me how to eat time, how to rationalize working 65 hours a week, or how to rebuild my self-confidence by ridiculing interns.
But when I was hired, they did take me to lunch at Chili's.
1 Everything's more competitive than a Parks Department kindergarten soccer league.
2 Hot Topic made the list in 2005 and 2006, also indicating that Fortune Magazine's list is pure bullshit.
3 No, wait. That's right. Everyone does.

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