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January 28, 2023

Survey: Accountants Are Absolutely F*cking Miserable at Work

When we talk about the miserable working conditions in public accounting, we’re usually referring to the long hours because let’s be real, it’s low hanging fruit when it comes to complaints. One thing we haven’t spent nearly enough time discussing is another pervasive issue in the accounting workplace: shitty ass colleagues.

Enter the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA), a U.K.-based charity that exists solely to help chartered accountants past and present focus on their wellbeing whether that be emotional, financial, or even legal. One can only imagine what drove them to conduct the survey we’re about to share with you, gonna go out on a limb here and guess that more than a few members were stressed out and reaching out to them for help thanks to toxic work environments. Let’s jump right in.

Toxic environments plague the accountancy profession, according to new research

Over 50% of chartered accountants deem their workplace to be toxic

Communication issues (18%), working unrealistic hours (17%) and cliquey colleagues (15%) are creating toxic environments, according to a new survey of over 250 chartered accountants.

The survey conducted on behalf CABA, the chartered accountants’ wellbeing charity, found that more than half (55%) of those working in the profession believe their workplace to be toxic.

Alongside working unrealistic hours and cliquey colleagues, jealous or competitive peers (13%), people sabotaging one another (12%) and a lack of accountability (12%) were among the reasons cited by respondents.

When asked if work had negatively affected the respondents in the last 12 months, worryingly 76% agreed with this statement.

The sentiment gets worse for “the younger generation,” with a whopping 80% of 18-34 year old respondents stating they feel they work in a toxic environment. One out of four blamed the toxicity on people sabotaging one another in the workplace, which sounds like some petty ass shit worthy of its own reality show if we’re being honest. 60% of 35-44 year olds felt their workplace was toxic, lowering to 35% for 45-54 year olds and bottoming out at 29% for those 55+.

“The issue of the ‘toxic workplace’ is certainly not confined to the accountancy profession, but it’s worrying to hear that so many chartered accountants feel as though they work in such an unhealthy environment,” said Kelly Feehan, Service Director, CABA. “It’s recognised that this type of culture can take its toll on employees’ mental health, leading to an unproductive and unmotivated workforce.”

Feehan urges leaders to recognize the signs of a toxic workplace — whether that’s unrealistic expectations, a clear lack of communication or unsupportive colleagues — to work toward resolving the negative influences and hopefully transform the office from a warzone into a happy, productive place.

Alright look, that sounds great and all but forgive me for having doubts that any leader is capable of fundamentally changing a toxic workplace simply by identifying a few sources of misery. Especially if they’re the ones who don’t seem to perceive the environment as toxic when compared to the younger staff. Why change something that you don’t feel the effects of?

I would love to see these results compared, say, 20 years from now. When today’s 30-year-olds are in their 50s, will their perception of workplace toxicity drop? Do younger accountants perceive toxicity because they’re the ones at the bottom of the food chain? Does the older generation shrug off things the younger finds “toxic” because that’s just how it’s always been and they’re better at accepting it?

While I ponder those theoretical questions, here’s a Twitter survey for you. Might as well keep it simple so you can get back to sabotaging that mouthbreather Becky in the next cube.

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