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Why Public Accounting Is Really Just One Long Kegger

Cruising through Meijer the other day, I took a short cut through the toy aisle on my way to the cat supplies, and a fart piano caught my eye. The fart piano played assorted bodily noises – farts, belches, and vomit effects – in various keys. Next to the fart piano was a product called poop dough. It’s exactly what it sounds like. When did this happen? Remember when we used to buy our kids Legos?

The fart piano made me think. Are we devolving? All of us? Even the professional accountants?  Because the people I’ve worked with in public accounting seem to be devolving rapidly from highly sought professionals into some sort of frat house movie starring Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and the cast of Animal House. In public accounting – at least at my firm – I wouldn’t be surprised to see my coworkers swinging from a ceiling fan, running from security, and crashing the black tie open bar soiree next door, fart pianos in hand. Oh wait, that was the firm Christmas party.

I honestly wonder if accounting is devolving faster than other professions. I worked retail management for years, and people weren’t half as nuts. That includes the employee who got arrested for stuffing bottles of Pantene Pro V down his pants. Friends in other professions are pretty shocked when I tell them the crass stuff that’s gone on behind audit room doors, but that’s okay because nobody has any idea what we do for a living anyway. I guess “reenacting that one scene from Animal House” is as reasonable an assumption as any.

On a dare from a senior manager during year-end, a full grown man with a masters’ degree and a CPA license tried to eat a Jimmy John’s Gargantuan™ in three bites in the middle of our client’s audit room. My bet was that he’d choke on the bread and that his bereaved family would be entitled to the death benefits of the life insurance policy that the firm took out on each of us. Like a large Amazonian snake, though, he not only devoured his prey in four horrifying bites, he also lived to digest his food and audit another day. Worker’s comp be damned.

Happy hour at my firm is a hot wing eating contest – winner take all. Bonus points if you steal a bottle of Sriracha for the audit room.

We’ve had more than one office-wide keg race because some days, working in public accounting is like a 6th year of college.

As a result, networking with my peers feels less like a gathering of credentialed professionals and more like a frat party. I really shouldn’t be passed up for the better audit jobs just because I am both physically and emotionally incapable of eating my body weight in hot wings.

I’m not asking that the profession take itself too seriously – we’ve got the lawyers for that — but at what point does it stop? We’re a client services profession, and I’m sure the clients are already nervous about letting a couple of 23 year olds audit their financial statements or comb through their tax liabilities. What if the client were to walk into a Buffalo Wild Wings and witness the audit team lining up Jager bombs and billing the “meal” back to said client? Or worse – what if my python-esque coworker had actually choked to death on the Gargantuan™ (nothing sexual) in the audit room? Aside from making fantastic Going Concern fodder, it’d be a hell of a way to lose a client.

Do you have concerns about the decline of professionalism in accounting, or are eating contests and keg races not an issue at your firm? Or worse yet, does the managing partner at your firm insist that your next “voluntary” firm teambuilding extra-curricular activity be a case race in his basement?