Here's an interesting email that was forwarded to us late last week. It's from a peeved partner and we've removed the particulars since the message strikes us as universal among larger public accounting firms.
From: [Regional Partner In Charge of Assurance]
To: [Whomever it may concern]
Cc: [Office] Leadership Team
Subject: Respect – Living our values
“It is generally much more shameful to lose a good reputation than never to have acquired it.” – Roman Philosophy
Proverb says “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”
I know this message does not apply to everyone but I share it with everyone because we like to pride ourselves as being the best office in the firm—we know we certainly brag about that at times. All of us like to have fun and there are many opportunities that are firm related to do so. We also have client commitments that need to be dealt with. Sometimes we make bad decisions and reminders need to be sent. We are deep into our CPE calendar now and unfortunately I am hearing about some situations where we have gone too far.
It has come to my attention that a number of people have been creating some headlines at training that are very unbecoming of being a professional. Examples include (a) people signing into sessions and immediately leaving / not attending and (b) other incidents of intoxication and disrespectful or poor treatment of fellow [firm] colleagues facilitating the training. In some cases there have been claims of client commitments that have needed to be tended to. Behaviors and actions like this undermine who we are and who we want to be. Quite simply- don’t engage in them and don’t tolerate it from your colleagues. Training and professional development is a requirement of our profession and is a big investment by the firm that needs to be taken seriously and treated as a priority. Client commitments should be minimal and if you are getting requests to do client work at training please direct whoever is making those requests to me directly before we excuse any time out of training. Sometimes client needs cannot be anticipated but that should be the exception, not the rule. I feel that as an office, our commitment to training has slipped and we do not take it seriously enough. If anyone has a legitimate issue with attending a session they should address it appropriately and it should be the exception. As far as having fun after hours– we know that is a nice byproduct of being away with friends and colleagues as well an integral part of national training programs. Know your limits as the fun can’t come at the expense of your personal reputation, the [local] office, or the firm. Blowing off classes, showing up late or sitting in class with your head on the desk is not acceptable. We are better than that—let’s act like it going forward as there is no acceptable alternative.
If there's one thing that irks a partner to no end, it's people acting like damn fools on the firm's dime. Nowhere is this more prevalent than at national trainings. The irony, of course, is when you throw a bunch of overworked employees into a city that is not their own, they often take that as an excuse to cut loose, because it's rare that both professional and personal responsibilities can be left behind.
Except the instances when those responsibilities aren't left behind. I remember many colleagues bringing work to national trainings and, in one memorable case, a person leaving in the middle of the week to return to an engagement that apparently needed his immediate attention. I'm sure there are other harrowing tales of client service at the expense of audit methodology or tax law updates.
National trainings are one of those tricky (read: impossible) balances of trying to absorb new information as well as keep up with client demands. More times than not, the client demands win out and that means something has to give — either the good times in the evening or the training sessions during the day. You hate the former; the partners that run your office hate the latter. And the partners REALLY hate the latter when you do so because you tied one on the night before and pictures of you dancing on the bar sans shirt somehow ended up on Facebook.
CPAs in these largest firms are, contrary to popular belief, human. If you put them in a strange city semi-absolving them of client responsibilities for a week, some of them are going to behave like idiots. At all levels, at all firms. We've all seen it. Some people simply don't grow out of it. And some of them will blow off trainings because their immediate boss is a raging lunatic, so rather deal with that, they'll get a friend to sign them in at the training sessions every day while they crunch numbers in a hotel room for a week.
Since firms spend a metric asston of money flying people around the country, putting them up, finding appropriate venues, and all the rest that goes with that, it's understandable when an email like the one above makes the rounds after stories of tomfoolery make their way back to Seattle, Chicago, Dallas or wherever. The problem is people simply roll their eyes and get back to the business at hand without giving it much thought.
Granted, it's not the biggest problem facing big accounting firms these days but for the Deloitte at least, the solution is simple — throw some money at issue, create a sprawling education compund
, feed everyone well
, and keep everything contained there, good and bad
. This way, everyone is on their toes. Acting like a fool at a random hotel is one thing; acting like a fool at Deloitte University has the potential for being a colossal CML. As one of our Deloitte sources remarked in a previous post:
"You never know who is around the corner," this person said. "Leadership roams the halls," so people are likely to be a little bit better behaved than they would be at some random training in Orlando.
Of course if your firm doesn't don't have $300 million to spend, you'll keep shopping Orlando hotels for the best deals, hoping your people actually learn something and no one ends up in jail.