Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Accountants have a bad name. We are seen as conservative, rigid, and demanding; and we are often perceived as a barrier to new and innovative ideas. We are usually portrayed in TV shows and movies as unapproachable and stiff, like Angela Martin in “The Office.” These stereotypes can be especially alive in advertising agencies, which are made up of creative brand makers, storytellers, designers, and web developers who are all vested in promoting a product or an idea on the behalf of the client and creating the big picture. But, accountants are people, too. We have feelings. We love, and we want to be loved.
I have worked in accounting and administration for the last five years, but before that, I worked in sales and operations. I have been on the board of directors of a medium-sized company and have served on several non-profit boards. What I find common throughout my experience is that people see things primarily from one perspective – their own. However, no one works in a vacuum. Your actions affect your colleagues directly, just as their actions affect you.
There are three ways to promote cohesiveness within a company and avoid conflict between the accounting staff and co-workers. The first is to treat your co-workers as your clients. The second is to acknowledge your co-worker’s contribution to the success of the company. The third is to communicate and ask questions.
Service your client.
The Accounting Department provides accounting services and financial support to its organization. To that end, you need information and collaboration from everyone in all positions. Not everyone understands accounting at the same level, so you should be prepared to explain, decipher and distill information patiently and with a smile. Nothing inhibits future cooperation more than an eye roll or a heavy sigh – so don't do it. Always ask “What does my co-worker need from me to be effective in their position and how can I help them help me?“
Acknowledge your co-worker’s importance.
Every department considers itself the engine that drives the agency. Without Account Service, you would have no clients and no income. Without the creatives, you would have no ideas to sell to the client. Without web developers, again nothing to sell. Without production coordination and traffic, you will not have a quality product, therefore unhappy clients… Without accounting billing the clients and controlling overhead, there is no income and no profit. Each and every part of the machine is essential for it to work properly. Ideally, the directive comes from above and the idea that everyone is an integral part of the company is part of the culture. However, this belief can be thwarted (or promoted) by individual behavior, regardless of the company culture. You should actively acknowledge your co-workers’ excellence. Show them they are appreciated, and don’t be insincere. If you truly respect what they bring to the company, it will show.
Be respectful, tactful, and an active listener. We all have deadlines. In accounting, we have hard deadlines at the end of the month, and it feels like we are always scrambling to finish. I never feel prepared or ahead of the game. I can get frustrated when I get my billing jackets back last- minute since there are inevitably adjustments to be made or forgotten time to be added. I could retreat into my typical passive aggressive ways and mutter under my breath, or I can effectively communicate my needs to my colleagues. Remind your colleagues of your deadlines, but also be respectful of theirs. Accounting deadlines are usually based on standard recurring dates, but most of the rest of the world has arbitrary deadlines. You can help things go more smoothly in the short and long run by discussing the onboarding of new clients before they are actually onboarded and by sending out reminders for the end of the month. We all have calendars and know what day it is, but don’t expect the dates that are embedded in your mind to be top-of-mind for your co-workers as well.
Truth be told, this is just common-sense advice and not special secret tactics for the numerically gifted to implement to manipulate their co-workers into compliance. Offer your co-worker good customer service, understand that their position is equally important to the survival of your company, and communicate respectfully and tactfully.