News

December 2016

Publication: IMA
December 2016

 

 

Office Politics: Diplomacy Always Wins

With the U.S. election now behind us, you probably think you can take a break from politics, but don’t get too comfortable – office politics knows no season and no end date.

 

In an Accountemps survey, 80 percent of U.S. office workers polled said workplace politics are alive and well, and 55 percent get involved in politicking. What’s more, 76 percent of respondents say playing the game is necessary for professional advancement, compared to just 56 percent who felt the same way in 2012 when a previous survey was taken. It’s clear that politics is playing a bigger role in the workplace these days.

 

Common office politicians

 

There are many ways to play office politics. Below is a list of common culprits:

 

·       Gossipmongers. It’s common to talk about others. Why? We gain social bonds from telling interesting stories about our friends and coworkers. The gossip hound, however, takes it one step further with speculations, unfounded theories and even blatant misinformation. Gossip becomes harmful when people share unprofessional or potentially damaging information, especially on social media.

 

·       Flatterers. There may be a few of these in your workplace. If you’re in management, perhaps you’ve experienced it first-hand — employees who frequently praise your decisions and actions. If you’re among the rank and file, this is the person who shamelessly butters up the boss with sweet but insincere words.

 

·       Credit hogs and credit thieves. The hogs demand recognition for their own work, no matter how small or insignificant. At the same time, they downplay the contributions of others. Thieves are worse – they essentially lie about who did what and take credit for other people’s hard work.

 

·       Finger-pointers. The flip side of the credit thief is the finger-pointer. Whenever there’s a mistake or something goes wrong, they’re never to blame. Instead they point fingers.

 

·       Underminers. The world of politics has opposition research — digging up dirt on the opponent and dropping bombshells at opportune times. This can happen in the workplace, where a few bad apples take down their rivals with whispers and accusations. These operatives are skilled in making others look bad.

 

·       Lobbyists. In government, these professionals’ sole job is to sway elected officials’ opinions and consolidate support for their cause. In the financial workplace, these savvy employees have a way with words and know how to persuade their team to go along with their plan.

 

How to deal with office politics

 

Some aspects of office politics can be positive. For instance, if you’ve done your research and feel strongly about the merits of moving to a cloud-based financial solution, your lobbying efforts would benefit the company. But whether you choose to play the game or sit on the sidelines, every accounting and finance professional needs to know the basics of workplace politics. Here are some tips:

 

1. Radiate positivity. Be that person in the office who doesn’t badmouth others. Rather than going along with the tattler and adding fuel to the flame, say something nice or bow out of the conversation. Let fairness be part of your personal brand.

 

2. Be ready to walk away. When gossip becomes a problem, know when to excuse yourself. Make some noise about how that quarterly report won’t write itself or express you have a pressing deadline.

 

3. Keep good records. Write down your ideas and accomplishments. That way, when credit thieves pass off your work as their own, you have documentation. If necessary, provide your manager with a paper trail – showing the idea was your brainchild, not someone else’s.

 

4. Stand up for yourself. When someone spreads nasty rumors about you, say something. Diplomatically confront bullies and let them know their behavior is unacceptable. If necessary, bring it up with your manager.

 

 

Office politics is bound to happen in the modern workplace. You may not enjoy the game, but you should at least understand the rules — and be ready to play if necessary.

 

 

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

 

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November 2016

Publication: IMA
November 2016


You’re the Boss Now: Leadership Skills New Managers Need

After a great deal of hard work that’s showcased your accounting and leadership skills, you’ve been promoted to your first supervisory position. But stepping into a managerial role for the first time can be a challenge, even if you’ve led projects in the past.

 

A recent Robert Half survey asked CFOs what they felt was the most difficult part of becoming a new manager. Thirty-two percent of respondents said the hardest part is balancing their own job responsibilities with time spent on overseeing others. The second biggest challenge, cited by 19 percent of respondents, was the awkwardness of transitioning from being friends and peers to being the boss. Other CFOs surveyed said the ability to motivate their team, one of the most important leadership skills to possess, was a difficult task.

 

Whether you’re a first-time supervisor or have ambitions of becoming one, here are seven tips for succeeding as a new manager:

 

1. Set boundaries. Don’t wait to define and maintain boundaries. If you maintain the same former relationships with coworkers you’re now supervising, you might have a hard time asserting your authority when you need to. By acknowledging the changing dynamic between you and them right away, everyone is clear on your new role. Above all, if one of your best friends is a former peer, it’s vital for staff morale for you not to show favoritism.


2. Learn to delegate. You used to be just an accountant or analyst, but now you’ve added management responsibilities to your to-do list. No wonder so many respondents to the Accountemps survey said the most difficult part of first-time management was trying to do it all. Assigning tasks to others is one of those leadership skills new supervisors must become comfortable with. So the next time you feel you have too much on your plate, hand off some duties to your staff. At first, it may be frustrating to dedicate time to explain tasks can perfectly do on your own, but it’s the only way you’ll be able to take full advantage of your team. The extra time you put in now will pay off later on.

3. Ease into changes. You have a vision for your team, but pushing through your agenda too quickly does not reflect sound leadership skills. It will only overwhelm and frustrate your department. Instead, start small and slow. Take the time to learn more about your new job, the firm’s long-term plans and, most important, your staff’s ideas.

 

4. Prioritize communication and dialogue. Good managers take the time to listen to their staff and learn more about them. What are their career goals? What is their dominant learning style? What do they think are areas that need improvement? The more you know about their ambitions and opinions, the better you can lead and motivate the team. In addition to weekly or monthly group meetings, aim to hold one-on-one sessions as well.

 

5. Don’t micromanage. Do you like it when your boss breathes down your neck and checks on your progress twice a day? Then don’t do it to your employees. Empower your staff and inspire innovation by letting them determine the best ways to solve problems. Give them room to fail or succeed, and to learn from those experiences. Offer guidance and support, not step-by-step instructions. The more breathing room you give your staff, the more they’ll grow as finance professionals and develop their own leadership skills.

 

6. Take care of your needs. With new management meetings, extra human resources duties and dealing with budgets — all on top of your accounting workload — there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. That’s why, as a manager, time management — including attending to your work-life balance as never before — becomes even more important. Take regular breaks, including a real lunch with staff and non-finance colleagues. Block out time on your calendar so you can complete your tasks. And don’t forget to use your vacation days.
 

7. Find a mentor. This may seem counterintuitive, but the truth is, you could benefit from a mentor with managerial experience now more than ever. A mentor can give you advice on areas such as how to manage Generation Z workers and which of your leadership skills need improving. This individual also acts as a sounding board. If your company doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, look for a more senior manager who may be willing to serve in this role.

 

New management comes with its share of challenges, but also a set of exciting opportunities. In addition to honing your existing leadership skills, focus on empowering your employees and making time for yourself. When you need help or support, don’t hesitate to talk to your boss or mentor. Enjoy this new chapter in your finance career!

 

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

 

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January 2016

Publication: IMA

January 2016

 

 

Job Interviews Coming Up?

 5 Interview Questions You Should Ask Potential Employers

 

A job interview is a two-way street. Not only do you, as the interviewee, have to be prepared to answer interview questions, you should also plan on asking your own questions during job interviews.

 

If you do, you’ll have plenty of company. Eighty-four percent of professionals responding to a recent Accountemps survey said they ask hiring managers questions during job interviews. Here are five productive interview questions to serve up the next time you find yourself in the role of interviewee:

 

1. What’s a typical day like for someone in this position? The answer to this question will be helpful in at least two ways: You’ll get crucial information about what your day-to-day duties would be if hired, and you’ll gain insight on how well your prospective manager understands exactly what the job entails.

 

2. Who was in the role before me, and why did they leave? The interviewee should not expect the full scoop on the previous employee’s history, of course, but learning more about why the position is open will provide a better idea of whether you’ll have the tools and support you’ll need to succeed if you eventually accept the job.

 

3. What qualities do you think would make someone successful in this position? The answer to this question will not only help you get a handle on whether the job would be a good fit for you but also give you a chance to emphasize your skills and traits that match up well with what the company needs.

 

4. What do you see as the greatest opportunities for the company in the next several years? This question shows that you’re interested in more than just the short term, and the response will shed light on the company’s leadership style and plans for the future.

 

5. What do you like most about working here? In general, it’s not appropriate for you, the interviewee, to put the hiring manager in the hot seat. But this question brings a human element to job interviews while still keeping the focus on the workplace and how individual employees can gain career satisfaction from contributing to the firm’s mission.

 

Being ready for questions directed your way during job interviews means being able to respond with informative answers, but it also means being able to recognize when the time is right to pose your own questions. Hiring managers understand this, and they’ll be attuned to how well you seize opportunities to ask what you need to know. The interview questions you ask may well turn out to be as important as the ones you answer.

 

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 340 locations worldwide. More resources, including online job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at accountemps.com.

 

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December 2015

Publication: IMA
December 2015


Take a Real Vacation: 5 Tips for Managers When it Comes to Unplugging From the Office

 

If you’re like many finance and accounting managers, you may have plans for using up the rest of your PTO (paid time off) before the new year. Though vacations are supposed to be a time for getting away from work and recharging your batteries, many supervisors find it difficult to disengage completely. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your best. After all, you need to be at peak form for the first quarter of 2016 and tax season. Here are five tips for unplugging from the office while on vacation.

 

1. Manage expectations. Decide whether you’ll be severing connections completely or checking in on occasion. If you will be responding to emails or taking calls, set aside specific times. Inform your team members of your vacation schedule. Your staff should know whether they can (or should) contact you during your vacation and, if so, when you will respond. Try to keep your check-in times to an hour a day or a few times a week: Remember, you’re supposed to be taking time off!

 

2. Delegate responsibilities. If you’re totally unplugging from the office, which is what vacations are all about, your staff will need one or two people to turn to for questions and advice. Before leaving, ask a trusted employee to serve as a contact person. If you oversee two or more distinct projects, divvy up the responsibilities among multiple finance professionals. You’ll want to schedule a briefing with your backup team before your vacation so they know what to expect. In the short term, delegating covers the bases during your absence. In the long term, you get to see who has leadership potential as you build a succession plan.

 

3. Get organized. When you prepare properly before going on vacation, you’ll feel less anxious about tasks dropping through the cracks.

  • Write memos for your replacements, telling them where to find files and how to reach you by phone or text.

  • To save you time when looking over your messages during vacation, take a few minutes to organize email controls before you leave. For example, if you know pressing matters will crop up while you’re away, set up rules so that emails from specific senders or those containing certain keywords are automatically moved to subfolders.

  • Even if you’ll be checking email and voice mail regularly, use out-of-office messages to let people know you can’t respond immediately.

 

4. Let go. To maximize the enjoyment of unplugging from the office, have full faith in your staff’s ability to handle things while you’re away. If you’re concerned about any dips in productivity as a result of your vacation, consider bringing on interim accounting professionals, especially if you’re taking more than a week off.

 

5. Don’t overdo re-entry. It’s tempting to dive right in and re-establish your groove after a vacation, but leave yourself some breathing room. Aside from a short meeting to get caught up, don’t plan anything major on the first day back. You’ll have a full inbox to sort through and projects to catch up on.

 

Unplugging from the office can be challenging for managers, but it’s highly doable if you prepare in advance. Keep these tips in mind before taking off for your vacation, and you’ll come back refreshed, recharged and ready to work.

 

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 340 locations worldwide. More resources, including online job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at accountemps.com.

 

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Temple Chapter

CMA Connection
Issue No. 36 | October 9, 2014

Word of CMA and IMA Spreading Through Temple University

Two professors at Philadelphia’s Temple University are helping spread the word about management accounting and the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification to a cadre of elite students.

The process began three years ago when the decision was made to revitalize the struggling accounting club at Philadelphia-based Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Through the vision and initiative of Christian Wurst, associate professor of accounting, and A.J. Kreimer, assistant professor of accounting, the club was reorganized as an IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) student chapter, where it has since grown to become the largest accounting student professional group on campus, attracting students committed to exploring opportunities in management accounting and engaged in activities to advance the profession.

For Wurst and Kreimer, the decision to start an IMA student chapter dovetailed with what they saw as a gap between the real world and the school’s emphasis on public accounting.

Wurst explained, “Let’s face it, everyone joins a public accounting firm thinking they’ll make partner, but the truth is that very few actually do. So, there are four huge accounting firms and about 126,000 companies in the United States. Even the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) admits that 80% of the jobs in the next decade will be outside of public accounting. Why are we spending our time preparing students for 2% of the jobs and ignoring the other 98%? I think we aren’t adequately preparing them – we’re putting them on the soccer field with a catcher’s mitt.”

Now starting its third year, the Temple group boasts about 80 active members. The chapter also has developed strong partnerships with local companies thanks to the outreach efforts of Kreimer and Wurst. Working alongside IMA’s Philadelphia Chapter and IMA’s North Penn Chapter, they have invited finance and accounting professionals from local companies to speak to the students. Guests have included executives from Ford, Johnson & Johnson, and a vice president from Temple University. The chapter has also started an Executive Mentor Program to help link students with seasoned professionals.

Wurst and Kreimer are working to implement changes to Temple’s accounting curriculum as well. Two years ago, they were able to add a track to the senior seminar that has greater emphasis on decision making. The team is also in the process of applying to receive endorsement under IMA’s new Higher Education Endorsement Program.

“We want our students to know about all the options that are available to them,” said Kreimer. “There is life outside of the Big Four because not everyone is cut out to fit that mold. And I truly think that many of the opportunities out there are even better. As a result of the emphasis and exposure that we've given IMA and the CMA, many of our students are exploring careers in management accounting that they had not previously considered.”

For more information on IMA’s Temple University Student Chapter, please visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IMATemple.