CPAs are humans, too: Workplace relationships matter

Shutterstock_1494208232A human experience

I don’t love my job because of the work I do. I love my job because of who I work with and what we do for one another.

The memorable moments in my career are not the audit tasks I perform but the audit teams I am a part of and what we learn about each other. Coming out of school and into my career, traveling out of town for my first audit with strangers was a scary thought. I was nervous and didn’t want to do or say the wrong things. To my surprise, on the first night of the audit, the managing partner asked me to hang out at the hotel bar. My initial thought was, “Great, my first night and I’m going to get slammed with audit work.” But to my surprise, he took the time to get to know me.

It not only made me feel welcome but set the foundation for what I have come to value most in my career. This showed me that people were the priority. He believed that taking care of people was the most important aspect of the firm. He exemplified the culture many companies can only hope to foster. Fourteen years later, I still feel the same.

This was the first experience of many in which welcoming and supporting my colleagues were at the forefront of my mind. Everyone knows that it is important to get the job done. But, to me, it is more pertinent to also show my colleagues that they are important.

Benefits at work and beyond

The workplace relationships I have are invaluable and are what bring me to work every day. You reap many benefits when you create great work relationships. You have people:

  • You can vent to
  • To share laughs with
  • Who you can rely on to help you during stressful times
  • Who can pick up your workload if a personal emergency comes up
  • You can ultimately depend on and vice versa

Although many people I have met have moved on, the relationships I built have had lasting effects. These people are not only arbitrary LinkedIn connections but are people who I can count on and vice versa. I do not doubt that we would help each other with anything, such as:

  • Being a reference on job applications
  • Contacting me about potential career opportunities
  • Referrals for new engagements or clients
  • Helping you move
  • Sharing laughs

Relationships are not one-hit wonders

Relationships in the workplace, just like relationships in our personal lives, don’t happen overnight. Relationships are built over time. Here are some thoughts to help.

  • Don’t be afraid to be the one to initiate contact.
  • Ask the other person about their story.
  • Listen with intent. Ask questions that pique your interest in the other person.
  • Embrace the awkward and don’t let those instances deter you on future touchpoints.
  • Extend an offer to help

 Roadblocks and remedies

When you develop relationships, you can run into hiccups or even devastating roadblocks. As in any relationship, certain boundaries are crossed or things are shared with others that aren’t ours to share. We’ve all heard the saying about what assumptions can do. So, when you make assumptions about what each other is thinking and feeling, it can lead to misrepresentations. That can further cause a roadblock in your relationship.

A good remedy for this is to be explicit. Difficult conversations are not fun. Allowing people to make you feel uncomfortable without addressing it, or you continuing to cross a boundary without knowing it, is unfair to both parties involved. Be willing to share what you are thinking and what you are feeling. Be explicit and let each other know what’s OK and what’s not.

CPAs (aka “humans”) are social creatures.

Humans are social creatures. In an industry where we choose to serve the public, we accountants or CPAs are often mistaken as “hermits” or not social. The last time I checked, CPAs are “humans,” too. A great way to show this is to build lasting meaningful relationships in the workplace. In other words, create more “human” experiences. I bet it will make the careers of you and your colleagues all the more fulfilling.

Eugene Park, CPA, Audit Partner, Heinfeld, Meech & Co. P.C.

Eugene is an audit partner with Heinfeld, Meech & Co. P.C. His responsibilities include overseeing several nonprofit and governmental audit engagements the professional development of staff associates, and serving as the lead recruiter for the Phoenix office. He has served as a member of several committees within the firm, including audit and accounting, client conference planning, wellness and fun committees. In addition to his responsibilities above, he serves on the AICPA’s Young Member Leadership Committee, ASCPA’s Leadership and Growth Alliance Committee and will begin his first term on the board of directors for the ASCPA in May.

Eugene graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in accounting. He also earned the AICPA Advanced Single Audit Certificate in 2016. He is a 2019 graduate from the AICPA Leadership Academy.