Since I did my previous post on learning how to accept praise, I thought it was worth sharing how most tax departments decide who is at fault for an internal problem before looking at who actually did anything wrong.
Although tax accountants tend to be very law and order oriented (its one of the reasons we don’t get selected for jury duty), we hate to get blamed for doing something wrong. It does not even have to be an issue for which we would get into trouble. If someone tries to tell us that we did something wrong the idea of saying “I am sorry. I will take care of the problem” tends to rank low on the list.
As a result, the tax accountant’s response tends to fall within one of two categories:
I may have been involved. But the real person at fault is not in the room.
The idea is that the former or current employee who is least able to defend themselves must have been the reason for the problem (see list below for who gets blamed first). The CPA then responds that they will be happy to solve the problem that “other person” created.
- Former Contractor
- Former Employee
- Tax Intern
- Current Contractor
- Admin Group
- Tax Staff
- Audit Group
- Tax Supervisor
- Tax Manager
- Tax Partner
I might have done it. But I did it for a good reason.
Tax preparers and reviewers (actually auditors have this problem too) love to get partial credit. We think of getting blamed for something as if we are losing points on the CPA exam. As a result, we are frequently qualifying our answers regardless of the amount involved. We will spend twenty minutes trying to convince you that we are only partially responsible for you having to pay an extra $5 at lunch.
The main point to take from this discussion is not to respond to each accusation like a Gunfight at the OK Corral. Take a deep breath and look at whether the issue is a big deal or a nonissue. If it’s not a big issue then simply fix the issue and move forward. No, I am not saying that you need to take all of the grief that comes your way. But management in the firm want to be able to work with tax preparers who can fix mistakes and move forward with dealing with any grief in the process.
If you are at fault for something then take responsibility for it. Making mistakes is part of this business. The reason that you do not have a corner office is that the tax partners and managers understand that you still have things to learn. The key issue in their minds is whether they think you will learn from the mistake. Discuss with your boss why you made the mistake and what they think you can do to prevent that mistake from occurring in the future.
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