September 19, 2018

Boomerang effect

How Should an Ex-Big 4 Manager Broach a Possible Return to the Firm with His Boss?

Welcome to the this-ashes-made-me-break-out edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, a former Big 4 manager wants to pursue a chance to return to this old firm. How does he handle this with his current employer?

Got a question about your career? Do you have an interesting opportunity but not sure if you should pursue it? Need a new nickname for your special, super-secret team? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll help you avoid anything lame (or possibly racist).

Back to the Big 4 Boomerang:

Hey Going Concern,

About a year ago, I left Big 4 as an audit manager and now work for a client of my former firm (though not one of mine, Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley made sure of that). Lately, I’ve been seriously considering a return to my old Big 4 stomping grounds.

My questions isn’t whether I’m crazy or not, it’s how to handle the issue with my current company. It’s not a slam dunk that I will return to my old firm, but I want to at least pursue it. On the plus side, I have a good relationship with my current boss (we’ve known each other for several years).

If I come clean to my boss but end up staying, that’s a pretty big matzo ball hanging out there. If I reach out to my firm on the sly and leave, I threaten to restart my audit career by angering a client.

Help me Going Concern, you’re my only hope…

Thanks,
The Once and (possibly) Future Auditor

Dear Oa(p)FA,

A Seinfeld and a Star Wars reference? Obviously this is keeping you up at night. I’m on this. Since you’ve made up your mind that you are pursuing a Big 4 boomerang situation, I won’t pass judgment there but knowing a little more about your situation might be helpful. I’ll be making some assumptions in order to help you with your ordeal.

Personally, I’m a “honesty is the best policy” type, so telling your boss about your ambitions is the way to go. It sounds like you’ve got a good relationship with him/her and if you do the march in, drop the news and are gone in two weeks, I feel like you’re torching that bridge. The best thing you can do is explain your reasons for pursuing a return to your Big 4 firm. If it’s because you really miss auditing, I think you need your head examined. If it’s because you think you want to make a run at partner, the odds are against you. If it’s because you think it will better prepare you for a return to an industry for a management position, then you can probably explain this to your boss (assuming he/she is level-headed person); your honesty will be appreciated and your integrity will remain intact.

And if you don’t get the job, what then? Well, that is a bit awkward but if you and your boss have a good relationship and are the only two people aware of the situation (which I recommend), you don’t have to worry about others getting all judgmental on your ass and you’ll eventually get back to business as usual. If your boss knows you well, he/she probably is aware of your long-term career ambitions and knows that a move (regardless of whether it’s a return to your old firm) is inevitable at some point and situations like this will come up occasionally. And if your boss isn’t aware of what you want out of your career, this is a perfect time to start talking about it. May The Force be with you.