• Career Center

    Is There Anything Worse Than Busy Season? Yes, Performance Reviews

    By | April 7, 2017

    Please enjoy this sponsored content from Beech Valley Solutions. You can read more their partnership with Accountingfly here.

    Cancer, terrorists, undigested corn – all significantly worse than busy season. But what about within the confines of public accounting? Is there anything worse than busy season?

    Yes, and it’s formal professional feedback.

    A late 2015 survey from TriNet of professional millennials shows that three of every four are clueless as to how they are perceived by their managers. More than half feel like their managers are unqualified to give feedback, and almost one-third indicate their feedback caused them to search for a new job. While these numbers span all industries, it certainly rings true in public accounting, where career auditors run multi-billion dollar firms.

    Pretty disheartening figures considering formal feedback completely drives your compensation and promotion timetable.

    Here’s the issue — the whole process reeks of bureaucracy. Accounting firms make their staff adhere to strict HR guidelines from goal setting to performance reviews, creating feedback for the sake of feedback. This results in some rather annoying situations

    • You’re forced to copy and paste someone else’s “goals” because it’s quarter-end and you can’t spend all day filling out HR templates.
    • You type your own formal feedback because your manager doesn’t have the time.
    • You work just as hard, if not harder than your peers, and it’s noted in your feedback. But you receive an average rating because you didn’t make the team happy hour with the office managing partner.

    This is way worse than busy season…at least during year-end you actually sharpen valuable skills to apply to future jobs.

    So what to do?

    Imagine freeing yourself from the time and uncertainty centered on your year-end review. It’s more than possible, and I’m going to give you two ways to do it:

    1) Set up a recurring meeting with your superior.

    Dictate your promotion and rating expectations at the beginning of the year. Then create a monthly calendar invite to ensure you are on pace to meet your goals. You won’t have to write down a bunch of nonsense, or wait 12 months for some nerve-wrenching feedback. You set the terms.

    2) Become an accounting freelancer, preferably leveraging Beech Valley. Yes, that’s a shameless plug.

    When you are your own boss, formal reviews go from 10-page diatribes to one simple client statement – “Can you come back next week?”

    You don’t have to play internal firm politics, and you don’t have to waste your time complying with bloated HR policies. You are strictly judged on the merits of your work (and compensated accordingly).

    From a goal-setting perspective, freelancing allows you the freedom to focus on bettering yourself as a professional. Instead of guessing what you’d be interested in accomplishing a year from now, you can focus on the present, accepting and rejecting roles as they come.

    Big picture, being an accounting freelancer frees you from the most unsavory elements of public accounting, namely formal feedback and all the nonsense to which it encompasses.

    Josh Tarica is a co-founder of Beech Valley Solutions, the premiere network that connects CPAs with freelance opportunities in advisory, assurance and tax. Beech Valley consultants enjoy higher pay for every hour worked, the flexibility to accept or reject projects, and the ability to diversify their skill sets.

    • Big4Veteran

      Another article illustrating how so many people are giant pussies these days.

      What’s the big deal? I like to get feedback on my performance. The more direct and honest, the better. It may not even be true, but at least I’m getting my supervisor’s perception of my performance, which will help me grow if I’m not too big of an arrogant asshole to accept the feedback.

      If its a bad review, then it is what it is. I’m no worse off than before receiving the review. At least I know what my boss thinks of me and my performance now, which can help me make decisions about what I do next.

      In summary, stop being fucking pussies people.

      P.S. I don’t know what the fuck a “Beech Valley Solutions” is, but I’m pretty I won’t ever need it.

      • Midtier Mope

        Performance reviews are such an item of dread because of how involved and time consuming they have become. If you’ve been out of public for a while, they aren’t just annual 2 hour write-ups; they are year-round, never-ending shit shows that require an absurd level of ass-kissing and circle jerking where the only one’s that get top ratings are the brown-nosing tools.

        The last one I did before I left was a series of essays on my performance and how it conformed with the firm values, mission statement, and inclusion initiative. I thought I would include some levity which led to my “career advisor” deleting the entire thing and having me redo it all. I then included an insult he had directed at me which led to a meeting with the HR rep. Time which could have been spent working and billing clients, 40 hours x ~$200 realized hourly rate = $8,000 cost for a promotion decision that was already made by the time the official review season started.

        P.S. they also spell beach wrong.

        • Big4Veteran

          Sounds like you had a bad experience. That’s unfortunate.

      • Missing Donut

        There’s a chasm of difference between direct/honest feedback and the HR-centric company review processes, especially if you’re talking about public accounting firms.

        • Big4Veteran

          This is your daily reminder that the term “Human Resources” is anything but. Maybe a few decades ago, HR’s role was to help its employees. But nowadays their role is to do upper management’s bidding.

          Pro Tip: Never, ever trust HR. Never believe anything they say. When it sounds like bullshit coming out of their mouths, it almost always is just that.

      • Tax Nerd

        Feedback SHOULD be ongoing, timely, and mostly informal. Performance reviews SHOULD be mere documentation of the feedback that has been ongoing through the year (or half-year).

        However, a lot of manager types are cowards* who don’t like to give corrective feedback. So they wait until the performance appraisal process, and write up some flaw the employee may not even be aware of and doesn’t have time to fix. The performance rating is set before the employee even knows they have a problem to correct, much less time to do anything about it.

        * Some employees don’t take corrective feedback well, making it difficult for their manager types to deliver the feedback that the employee needs to hear. This can especially be a problem for those Millenials that have been extremely coddled and don’t believe that they have any flaws.

    • peakfreak

      Performance reviews can be really beneficial if done right (i.e. people take them seriously). Getting honest feedback from your superiors can help you grow and identify blind spots. Even if the reviewer is biased, a review helps you understand their bias.

      It’s basically an exercise in politics – which isn’t a bad thing. I prefer to have a raw discussion with the reviewer ahead of time to get the “real” feedback, then do the dance of what language should be in the review to best maximize my compensation.