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#43 Coworker Gossip

gossipYou might not expect it, but accountants are nonstop gossipers. This could be because it happens behind your back.

Not just yourself, but everyone they work with and run into. The Starbucks barista? Check. The receptionist in the lobby? Check. The accountant’s manager? Check.

When accountants get together and spread gossip, it’s usually not never about nice things.

When you work with an accountant over an extended period of time, you will know everything there is to know about everyone else they work with. More accurately, you will know all the stupid things an accountant’s coworkers have done. You may not even want to know what food allergies or racist remarks were made the other day by people you don’t even know, but you get the pleasure of finding out.

All this gossip becomes downright annoying. It’s perfectly natural to want an accountant to stop talking (or shut up) about other people during every conversation.

Because of the office gossip and privileged information accountants are entitled to, accountants are powerful social networkers. They are usually the one to break the news that so and so is going out with that person. Or they pass along the latest inappropriate comment made by their boss.

If you are working with an accountant, you have a number of paths. You can participate in the gossip train-wreck or you can try having a real conversation about something outside of work. Good luck about #2 though. Just remember that anything you tell an accountant is basically told to the entire office.

googleAccountants know the answer to everything, provided that everything first shows up in the first few results of a Google search.

Accountants rely on web search for everything. Financial ratios, stock quotes, exchange rates, press releases, and lunch spots – everything is a click away.

Since Google is the current reigning market leader, we can just assume that accountants Google for everything. Google is pretty much the ultimate resource.

The amazing thing about Google is that it allows accountants to answer seemingly obscure yet basic questions. Accountants don’t need to have a copy of every tax form, excel template, or printer driver as these are all a search away. If somebody asks an accountant about Excel formatting, all an accountant has to do is type in the original question word for word in Google, and the accountant gets the answer.

For resources like accounting pronouncements, Google may not actually be the source for the best answer. Accountants sometimes have to rely on (gasp) company databases for the unimportant stuff: SABs, TPAs, company guidance, etc.

It’s also important to note that while college students use Wikipedia, accountants love Wikipedia.

It’s a good thing the internet was invented or accountants would be stuck working in an environment without Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.


For all those in twitteronia, feel free to follow @accountantslike for updates and more.


emaillateatnightAccountants work a lot. This much is known. Since accountants don’t sleep much, this entails a lot of irregular rituals – getting coffee 3 times a day, never working out, and staying past the late night cleaning crew.

Since accountants are always “working” throughout the day, they are constantly making phone calls, sending out e-mails, opening PDF’s, etc. The 2nd one in this list deserves special recognition.

If you are working with an accountant, you should expect an e-mail before you arrive at your desk. You should expect phone calls or in-person visits in the morning for more questions. More e-mails will arrive throughout the early evening requesting things. Accountants take the simple concept of question & answer to the next level.

If someone sends an e-mail at 7AM, it shows that they were there working early, right? Well how about another e-mail to their team at 9pm? That shows they were working late. Accountants manage to continuously send e-mails past midnight, past 2AM, and again before people show up in the office. In fact, accountants rarely see what is known as the sun.

This is the game of one-upmanship that accountants play to show their supervisors, coworkers, peers, etc. that they work harder (read: longer) than everybody else. Why send an e-mail at 8:30PM when you can send one at 11:23PM and show everybody your dedication.

Accountants are amazing at this, because they will pretend that nobody notices the time stamp on their e-mails. Saturday at 2PM? Sunday at 11:57PM? Accountants act shocked when they are asked how late they worked, but deep down secretly, they have a self-important attitude because they were in the office at midnight documenting something while you were out enjoying life.

So the next time you see an accountant, ask them how late they were working in the office last night. This will allow them to give you a nonchalant reply. You should act surprised and then amazed. By commending them for working so hard, this will improve your relationship with the accountant by more than you can imagine.

#40 Internships

suitsAccountants are rather fond of interns, both being an intern and having one to order around. Interns are great targets for pranks and the perfect excuse to blow the budget. Three words: “It’s for recruiting.”

In accounting, you typically have the summer internship which is all about learning how to claim expenses. The winter internship falls in busy season and manages to involve something called work. Internships last a couple months, and you would not believe how much gets spent on interns.

Interns typically fly out to training and then spend the rest of their internship setting up the printer, making photocopies, and getting coffee for the team.

Since interns are considered prospective hires, accountants can’t be too politically incorrect. If an intern actually found out what it is an accountant does, there’s no way they would agree to come back full time. Luckily enough, interns spend just enough time at the beach, at baseball games, or out “teambuilding” that they never have to experience real work with impossible deadlines.

Interns occupy a weird spot on the social ladder. They can receive the best treatment because the company would like them to come back full time. However, they do get assigned (depending how you see it) the most boring jobs. Photocopying binders, making binder tabs, and grabbing coffee take more time than you would think.

Normal pranks (which deserves its own future post) that accountants love to pull work even better on interns. Interns, eager to please, are highly susceptible to office pranks. In fact the more coworkers that are involved in an elaborate prank (especially to the detriment of productivity), the better the prank.

As much abuse as interns get, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Interns get paper experience for their resumes and can be paid a pretty penny. Considering that interns get overtime and regular accountants don’t, interns can actually make more than everybody else if it’s crunch time. Accountants benefit because they have someone to pick on and do their menial tasks.

#39 USB Keypad

usbkeypadA USB keypad could pass for an accountant’s best friend.

No surprises here – anything that allows an accountant to use Excel more efficiently is beloved by accountants. Among the jumble of mice, keyboards, AC adapters, screen protectors, and unused laptop locks – the USB keypad is the most useful to an accountant.

A USB keypad is a computer peripheral that lets accountants type much faster than the row of numbers found at the top of the keyboard. The USB keypad is taken for granted, except for when it’s missing. Once it is gone, an accountant will spend all their energy tracking down a spare USB keypad.

Fancier USB keypads have spare USB ports, function as standalone calculators, or work wirelessly.

If you see an accountant using a laptop’s trackpad and no attached USB keypad, it is safe to assume that they’re new to the profession. However, this can get tricky since an accountant without a USB keypad could be so old to the profession that they have people to do the number crunching for them – so they wouldn’t need a USB keypad.

While USB keypads appear to be going the way of the floppy drive, this couldn’t be further from the truth. With smaller notebooks like netbooks and touchscreen devices, nothing can match the ability of a $15 USB keypad to get numbers into Excel and get things done.

While you can’t give an accountant a USB keypad as a gift (since it’s given they already own one), you can use the USB keypad to distinguish between the good and bad accountants. An accountant with a USB keypad, mouse, extra monitor, etc. will get a hundred more things done than an accountant who relies on the trackpad and looking at the top of their keyboard to enter numbers.

Ledger Paper Sculptures

Here’s something unrelated to the regular list, but nonetheless should be appreciated by accountants:

Artist Jill Sylvia has created intricate sculptures using ledger paper.




From her own words,

Ledger sheets are traditionally used to record the financial transactions of a business or an individual. These papers host the data necessary for accounting information to be compiled, and for analysis in determining profit and loss. They are the material of economics.

(Via boingboing)

#38 Getting Organized

clipsAccountants are on top of numbers. It’s what they do, being that their job is to take numbers, organize them, and present them in financials.

An accountant spends more time than anyone actually realizes on planning, organizing, and following their ridiculous systems. This has been partially covered in workpaper references. However since it’s such an important part of what an accountant does, it deserves it’s own post.

Accountants rely on shelves and cabinets full of binders. (There are even more binders waiting in document retention.) The binders belong to different sets of indexes – such as general and workpaper. Each binder has it’s own table of contents and binder tabs. Each tab has it’s own workpaper reference system with a leadsheet and memos. The memos have procedures and so on. Accountants like to stay on top of the organization game.

Since it takes a small army of people to maintain the organization system, some people spend a week doing nothing but sorting papers into binders and electronic files into folders.

All hell breaks loose when a memo is out of place. It could be it’s in the wrong binder tab or the binder’s front flap. If it was completely signed off and lost, then you will see a grown person cry.

In addition to sorting through papers and managing file systems, accountants invest in tools like plastic drawers, stationary trays, and day planners. This makes them appear super organized. The reality is that they now have more places to look when they lose information. Also, this is the stuff that ends up in the clearance aisle because you didn’t think anyone actually buys that stuff.

Accountants take great pleasure – pleasure as in joy and self-satisfaction – when their workspace is kept organized. If there are papers all over the place, an accountant will not be able to get anything done.

Working with an accountant, you should never tell them how disorganized you think they are. Instead, you could say, “How do you keep so organized? I’m always losing things.” This will make them feel secure in their job and become impressed that someone noticed all their time spent arranging paperclips and printing binder tabs.

#37 Period-End Assessments

assessmentAfter busy season (or in reality, after each assignment), accountants fill out a self-assessment form. The thinking here is that accountants can be honest with themselves and write down all the things that went well and all the things that can be improved upon. The reality is that it’s a non-stop fluff piece that wastes paper and more important – time.

A period-end assessment is a written, self-review of strengths, weaknesses, and ratings. After being submitted for approval by higher-uppers, these forms become lost in endless files. Ratings are important because accountants, as everybody knows, can be boiled down to a number.

When you see a review with statements about “a challenging opportunity,” “enjoyed working with the team,” and “glad to help out over the weekend,” you know the accountant is saying the opposite.

Still, you can’t blame an accountant when the whole point of a review is to gauge how much the accountant has sucked up to the person(s) reviewing them. Even if they made honest, innocent mistakes, they wouldn’t mention it for rightful fear of losing their job.

Accountants spend much of their careers filling out these self-reviews and assessing others. The smart one simply adopt a template and “rollforward” their previous review for the current one.

One reason accountants spend so much time on reviews, is that the review cycle is confusing and arbitrary. At first, reviews were done on an annual basis. Then reviews were due after each assignment. Now, reviews may be semi-annual, quarterly, seasonal, etc. As if that wasn’t enough, review deadlines are often changed around. If this all sounds backwards to you, it’s because it is backwards.

Reviews don’t have much purpose besides creating a paper trail for the HR department. Reviews are often rubber stamped through or an opportunity to throw someone under the bus.

If it’s not busy season or training, you can assume an accountant is filling out reviews.

webding-roadAccountants have horrible e-mail signatures. Not that anyone has a good e-mail signature to begin with.

Accountants like to add “Please consider the environment before printing this email” to the end of their message as part of their signature. It’s often embellished with webdings and colored green to bring attention to the message.

While good intentioned, it doesn’t add any value – this sums up most accountants. Consider that the extra line generated from the message can cause a page break and print an extra sheet.

Or consider that nobody pays attention to it. It’s often buried below the sender’s contact information and above the “This message is confidential…” obligatory legal disclosure.

As mentioned before, accountants could never go paperless. An accountant’s need to get something done overrides any want to save trees from getting cut down. Once an accountant finds an e-mail they need, it’s as good as CTRL+P before they see “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.”

While conserving resources is a noble goal, accountants are usually more interested in appearing to be green than being green.

If you see “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail,” you can praise an accountant for doing their part to help the environment. Whatever you do, do not ask them about real ways to help the environment, such as turning off lights not in use or not using styrofoam coffee cups. Because these are things that they cannot give up.

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