Saw this on r/big4 over the weekend and while it’s obviously completely made up (despite being posted on the internet where absolutely nothing is fake ever), much like an account man getting his foot run over by a riding lawnmower by a secretary at an advertising firm, surely this has happened somewhere at a Big 4 firm. In fact, it probably happens far more often than any of us want to admit. It might be happening as we speak. As the saying goes, shit happens.
Name checks out. Anyway, I can’t believe this wasn’t deleted. Kudos to r/big4 mods for being brave enough to let this shitty story (heh) stay up for the benefit of any future Big 4 pants-shitters.
I’m curious to hear your suggestions, and if I’m being entirely honest I’m also curious if this has happened to any of you before but I feel like I’ll regret it if I encourage you to share your story in the comments. Maybe just share some general advice for what new hires should do if they embarrass themselves in front of their senior manager.
I’ll start. While crapping your pants is a pretty egregious offense, keep in mind how hot the public accounting job market is and how desperate firms are for talent. I’m not suggesting you should do this on purpose but firms are so hungry to retain people right now this most likely won’t get you fired. You could probably take a dump on the senior manager’s office right now if you wanted. Again, don’t do that. But you could if you really wanted. Probably.
Job market aside, there are two approaches to take when you’ve committed an embarrassing error. 1) pretend like it never happened and hope no one ever mentions it or 2) confront it head on, own it, apologize, and move on with your life. Keeping in mind that second-hand embarrassment is definitely a thing and anyone who was party to your embarrassment likely does not want to discuss it any more than you do. Sometimes it’s a sign of maturity to own your mistakes, other times it’s best to ignore it completely and instead spend the rest of your life replaying that moment over and over in your head during every shower and every night when you’re trying to drift off to sleep. I see you, anxious people, I see you.
Which option you should choose also depends on the gravity of the offense and whether or not the firm might be directly affected by it. Crapping your pants has no impact on the firm (unless it happens at the client site I guess), whereas making a mistake like, let’s say “accidentally” backdating workpapers is a major error. The big difference being one is just a thing that happens sometimes because human bodies are kind of gross, the other is a question of judgment. Not the judgement you’ll get from crapping your pants in front of your senior manager, I mean the kind of judgment regulators expect you to have in performance of your professional duties. All of us have crapped our pants (granted, most of us were toddlers yet to be potty trained when it happened), most of us do not make huge mistakes like cheating on ethics exams. Not all mistakes are created equal. Use that professional judgment and determine if your mistake is worth admitting to or trying to forget.
Why do I feel like five years from now I’m going to get an email from someone saying they came across this post and need advice on what to do? God I hope so. Future pants-shitter if you’re reading this let me just say… go with option 1. You already chose #2 and look where it got you.
Photo by Anna Shvets