Scott Adams didn’t paint a rosy picture when he depicted accounting personnel as trolls. Now I love Adams’ work. In fact, I could frequently be found rolling on the floor after reading his material. Yet, I used to say I had never found any justification for this scandalous portrayal. But that was because I didn’t know that kind of accounts people at the time. I was used to the helpful and rational accounting staff within my small company. However, after some exposure to the wider splatter within similar departments… I still feel the portrayal is scandalous.
The trolls should sue.
Whoever controls money shall have the power. And there is no measure to the destructive prowess of a troll with power. Of course, as with all generalizations, this one is not absolute either. Good people too can get stuck in the foothold of accounting hell. Not all accounting personnel are one-dimensional twits who should be rolled in butter and shoved down an African red ant colony. But then again, can you take that chance?
Accounts Personnel: “I’ll need you to account for that cash you took for project SV7B.”
U: “Huh? I gave a detailed account.”
AP: “Not in form 216, you haven’t.”
AP: “All expenses are to be tabulated in form 216, except for pro bono executions, which is to be reported in triplicate, through forms 420, 318, and 109.”
U: “And how am I supposed to know this procedure if no one explains it to me??”
AP: “It’s all explained in guide book 316, subsection (iiv). Don’t even tell me you proceeded with a project without reading guidebooks 303-462.”
U: “But… but… the guidebook is in German!!”
AP: “Not anymore. We have a few new German recruits. New guidebooks will be in ancient Hebrew. It must be there on your desk by now. Take a look at forms 420, 318 and 109. Fill them up ASAP.”
U: “I… I… HEY, form 109 is blank.”
AP: “That’s no excuse! You fill up your end. We’ll put in the form questions later. Don’t try to back-talk me, you little… Hissssss…”
This kind of interaction might be confusing for the layperson or the corporate newbie. This is because most laypersons and the average newbie live under the all-too-popular delusion that accounts team is meant to act as facilitators. In fact, for smaller companies, this delusion is so strong that even the accounts department believes it, and consequently, works hard at making the employees’ lives easier. These people become an endless source of amusement in the form of coffee-break humor for the real, enlightened veteran accounts head.
Troubled Employee: “Aargh. I need a new keyboard.”
Naïve Accountant: “What happened?”
TE: “The keys are all smudged on this one. I can’t work on this.”
NA: “Oh. Well, I can’t give you a keyboard just like that. You have to send me a written request for the same.”
Everybody’s happy. TE gets keyboard; NA gets the satisfaction of helping a fellow being; and the veteran accountant who snoops in on the conversation gets a great coffee-break story to tell the gang.
Troubled Employee: “Aargh. I need a new keyboard.”
Veteran Accountant: “What happened?”
TE: “The keys are all smudged on this keyboard. I can’t work on this.”
VA: “No problem. Fill in forms 134, 218, 264, and 398,in that order, get them approved by the GE, TPE, PM, TL, and the TRKS respectively…”
TE: “What?? Who are they? And you’ve mentioned four forms and five designations.”
VA: “Worry about that later. Right now, you have other things to do… Take these forms…”
TE: “More forms??’
VA: “We NEED these details…”
TE: “Let me see… Name, date, designation, (murrmur murmur)… height, waistline… (murmur murmur)… passport number…. drivers’ license… date of manu… DATE OF MANUFACTURING?? What the!!”
VA: “Sure. We need to know how long you had used your earlier keyboard. We also need a rough estimation of wear and tear of the device… in percentage, date of birth and dental records of the original salesman, a handwritten note of explanation for the wear and tear by the manufacturer… Then a four page essay on how buying a new keyboard will help protect the environment… for our new environmental policy plan. Then we need a…”
TE: “Aaargghhhh!! <pulls out gun, points at VA> Gimme the damn keyboard”
VA: <reclines on chair, squints left eye> “Is that gun sanctioned by company form 136?”
TE: “WAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa” <turns gun on himself… KABANG!!>
VA: “Hey! You did NOT fill up your suicide form. And you cannot bleed on the carpet before you fill form 666.”
Of course I am not old enough to generalize from my own experience, but reliable sources in the form of disgruntled former employees from unrelated companies assure me that while there are all kinds of people in every department, it is usually the self-righteous half-assed hard-wired ignoramus who gets promoted early in the accounts department. And once they grow in power, they become immune to logic, reasoning, and independent thoughts. But the similarity to George Bush ends there. Once we clear the mist and theory, we see the true purpose of the enlightened accounts head. He is the clog in the business pipeline; the rust in the corporate machinery; the speed breaker on the information highway and the dam on the corporate workflow. If these enlightened blights of nature handled accounts issues for nations, then there’d be no wars. You know that.
“That’s it, gentlemen. This means war. Launch the thermonuclear weapon FIZZLAND. Start the countdown!”
“Very well, sir. But first, you need to fill in forms 216, 290, 531, 423 a through q except b, n, and g.”
“Hmm… maybe we should give peace a chance.”