Nearly 10 years ago to the day (10 years and one day, specifically), my esteemed former colleague Caleb Newquist wrote a post for this here then-new website entitled Infuriating Problem of the Day: Accountants Quitting During Busy Season. It’s important to note here that Caleb is former Big 4 himself (borderline debatable given he worked for the radio station that shall remain nameless), and although he may have been cool at one point (again debatable), he and I are both old enough to remember when the Challenger space shuttle exploded and Punky Brewster’s best friend Cherie got trapped in a fridge. Meaning, we’re old. Literally held hands across America old. Ten years ago at least one of us could say she was in her 20s but those days are long gone. I digress. Old people sometimes lose their train of thought ya know.
Let’s revisit his now-ancient screed, shall we?
Seriously people. For most of you, this isn’t a problem. You gird up your loins, duck your head and bulldoze your way through this time of year just like you’ve done in years past. Busy season sucks. We all know that.
Who in their right mind interviews with the Big 4 et al. and is thinking, “The hours won’t be that bad,” or “I probably won’t have to travel” OR “Big 4 salaries are good enough for me”?
Alright so he’s a few sentences in and already going for the jugular, implying you’re weak if you can’t hack a single busy season. I couldn’t help but think of the infamous “y r u gae” meme video in which the Ugandan TV show host is like, “Welcome to the show, WHY ARE YOU GAY?” Like settle down, sir, we’ll get to that. And if you haven’t seen that video, do yourself a favor and watch it, it’s the greatest antidepressant available without a prescription.
Back to Caleb and his rant.
Yes, the trend of accounting firm layoffs is demoralizing and yes, merit increases were mostly frozen, and there were virtually no bonuses> Hell, you may working your ass off knowing that your staff makes more than you but if you’re working in mid-February, what ton of bricks hits you that causes you to conclude that bailing out on your team is the best option?
All the people we’ve had the pleasure of working with, despite all of them having multiple “F— THIS!” moments, pull it together because they have a job to do. Why the hell didn’t you quit prior to busy season? You really felt like sticking it to everyone?
Fine. Perhaps your desire for sweet, sweet revenge against your senior/manager/partner/firm is more powerful than any shred of integrity you may have but for crissakes, that makes you a very bitter person. More so than the average accountant.
I’m beginning to think Caleb could have had a promising future in public if he just would have stuck it out a few more years. Of course, that may have deprived the world of this here website so there’s that. “All the people we’ve had the pleasure of working with, despite all of them having multiple “F— THIS!” moments, pull it together because they have a job to do” sounds a lot like what Boomer partners tell themselves to justify their own existence. They don’t know why they’re doing it, but that doesn’t matter because that’s how it’s always been done. Same as last year, et al.
Although I’m sure 2010 me wholly agreed with him, 10 years later I am here to say fuck that. Fuck “integrity.” That’s a word management uses to guilt you into sticking around. Your job isn’t your marriage or even your fractured relationship with your absentee dad. It’s just work. It’s a business transaction in which you trade labor for a salary. You’re accountants, you know this.
I’ve told this story before but I once made the mistake of being loyal to a company. A far better job offer came along that would have meant far more money and far fewer hours for me, among other benefits. You know what I said? “I’m sorry, my company needs me, I can’t do that to them.” A few months later I was laid off. So much for loyalty, eh? By then the other job offer was no longer available, it was filled by someone with bigger balls than mine who I’m sure is having a grand ole time these days with all that money they earned for taking the job I should have.
Should you quit during busy season? Well, no, that’s an asshole move as Caleb pointed out. But can you? Of course. Unless Deloitte paid for your passage on the Mayflower and you owe them another three years of indentured servitude, you’re free to do whatever you want.
There is of course the issue of “your permanent record,” which as we all know was a lie when we were little kids told to us to keep us in line, but it’s very real in the oddly small world of accounting. Burn one too many bridges and you could find yourself doing taxes out of the back of a sketchy nail salon for the rest of your life. Or — gasp — cranking out clickbait for an accounting tabloid. God forbid.
But if you’re seriously considering throwing up your hands and leaving your team holding the bag during busy season, then a reasonable person can assume you passed the point of giving a shit about said permanent record a long time ago. Sometimes it’s just not worth it. Sometimes your mental health is more important. Sometimes you’re just not cut out for it. And that’s OK. Despite what any former clickbaitologists may tell you. Do it. What’s the worst that can happen, you’ll never work in Big 4 again? Uh, that’s kinda the point.
As you mull over whether to stay or to go, I leave you with sage advice from Reddit: “Don’t kill yourself, but try not to fuck anyone over at the same time if you can.”
Now get back to work, those PBCs aren’t going to request themselves.