Accounting careers and poor performance reviews

CPA Exam Forum Accounting Careers & Designations Accounting Careers (Public/Private/Industry) Accounting careers and poor performance reviews

This topic contains 94 replies, has 20 voices, and was last updated by BrickellCPA BrickellCPA 8 months, 1 week ago.

Viewing 30 posts - 1 through 30 (of 95 total)
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  • #1479210
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    Curious what you guys think about working in the accounting industry and receiving poor performance reviews?

    Regardless how hard you work, most firms will give you a poor performance review and focus on the areas you didn't do well rather than praise you for what you did right.

    What are your ideas and theories on why many companies do this and do you agree/disagree with this practice? I have my ideas, curious about yours.

    #1479211

    Christopher
    Participant

    Which firms/companies do this? I've never experienced anything like that. I've always been under the impression that a poor review means you're doing a poor job. I'm also under the impression that the industry itself is shifting towards a more remedial approach to problems (rather than just criticism) when it comes to employee performance.

    #1479213
    Sticky Nicky
    Sticky Nicky
    Participant

    Seems kind of counter intuitive nowadays..that was the old way of thinking…a good company would encourage, motivate, and empower you to become a leader

    #1479234
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    What kind of firms do you work for? Public/private? Large/small?

    I've learned it's pretty common in firms of all sizes in the accounting industry, including Big 4.

    #1479240

    ruggercpa2b
    Participant

    I have worked at a Big 4, top regional firm and industry and have never encountered it. People that got poor performance reviews pretty much knew it was coming because their performance was not up to par compared to their peers. Any areas of improvement I have ever been told of during my review period I knew I needed to work on. Nothing was ever a surprise any of the places I worked for.

    Is this another one of your hypotheticals or is this actually based off experience?

    #1479246
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    @ruggercpa2b

    In your first 1-2 years let me guess, you just automatically received very little review notes on your workpapers and were the social butterfly of the office? You never had any bad experiences at work and it has always been an easy dream job for you despite the number of hours you put in and little recognition you received for it?

    Is this accurate?

    #1479258

    HoosierCPA
    Participant

    I don't work public but I never get amazing performance reviews from my employer. Partly because I'm young and even my boss openly admits that he cannot give me great scores and make me believe there is no room for self-improvement. This is kind of random, but one of the best things I did for my career was become good at excel. Accounting can get confusing when you're studying from a book but for the most part its pretty straight forward stuff…when I got to be good at excel it made a huge difference in separating me from my peers. My boss started going to me to generate reports and do various analysis on financials, even my VP will go to me for help. But who knows maybe I just work around a bunch of people that know nothing and it makes it easy to standout from that perspective…maybe you work with a bunch of excel geniuses and its not quite that simple! lol

    #1479261

    ruggercpa2b
    Participant

    I am not a social butterfly by any means. My first year I received a lot of review notes and I asked questions. I also made sure when I received review notes I did not make the same mistakes again. When I did get my reviews of course they pointed out how I did in the beginning and they also pointed out how I improved.

    I have never had bad experiences at work. If you ask for people's feedback based on their experience you cant come back and try to argue what my experience has been. Everyone's experiences are going to be different. Which is why you asked what everyone's opinion is.

    I just started working in an industry I have never worked before. I have to talked to others to see how I can improve on learning the industry and also talked to my manager and director to see if they have any suggestions on what I can do to get myself up to speed.

    I have had jobs I loved and jobs that I hated. But just because I hated the job does not mean I did not perform to the best of my ability.

    #1479270
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    @dtatham10 Yea excel is pretty big to be familiar with. I have found most companies already have excel templates set up and created though so I have rarely had to learn the advanced functions or software in depth. What would you say are the most important functions/techniques in excel that have helped you the most if you don't mind sharing?

    @ruggercpa2b Well you are apparently an anomaly. It's not hard to find similar posts even on this forum of people questioning performance reviews or various articles on the internet describing why employers might do it. It's not as cut and dry as you might think and poor performance reviews can be used for a variety of reasons from what I've learned. Since you are such a stellar employee, I am curious have you ever felt stressed or treated unfairly at a job? Based on your responses in this and previous threads, your experience seems to stand out since you portray yourself as such an ideal employee who has worked in ideal conditions, which makes me skeptical and curious about your experience.

    #1479322

    dankpsu
    Participant

    Accounting firms/private companies focus on retaining the best talent as good employees are very expensive to replace. Most employ the remedial approach for poor performers. From my experience in public, multiple conversations during CPE and accounting society meetings with colleagues from public and other controllers like myself, this is the best way to retain and develop good talent. Purposely giving poor performance reviews is counter intuitive to this theory and not a common practice. If you are in this situation with your employer, I would seriously consider looking elsewhere. If an employee has received a few poor reviews and hasn't figured out how to improve, it's a good reflection that they don't have “IT” to succeed in their current position. A smart employee would take the negatives from a performance review and figure out how to improve but if those problems reoccur, the employee deserves the negative feedback.

    #1479328

    NYSCPA
    Participant

    I work in public and I only receive annual performance reviews. The review consists of what my “package” will be (annual bonus and raise) and general “you're doing good work”. I have never received a poor performance review*. I take it upon myself to inquire as to what I can be doing better.

    However, I have a general sense of this during the year as the work process is:

    1) I prepare returns
    2) Return gets reviewed by Manager and returned to me for changes
    3) I make changes then return goes to Partner for final review.
    4) Partner reviews returns and any changes to be made come back to me.

    I gauge my own progress based on number #2&4. Once I complete a return I review prior year review notes to see what I missed then so I don't miss it again. I also use it as a prompt to ask questions of the account managers that my Manager would normally ask. Therefore, the fewer review notes in 2 & 4, at least to me, means I did a better job than the prior year.

    *My biggest pet peeve with public accounting is the notion of “If I spend 30hrs in the office every day I'm a great employee” and that we all have to work the same hours (at least in my firm). Mind you the firm prides itself in not requiring weekends and limited OT.

    *I am a morning person. I rather get in the office by 6-7am and leave a 6-7pm rather than come in at 9am or 10am and stay until 9pm or 10pm. My Manager once asked “why can't you be like everyone else and come in late and stay late” and to that, I responded what difference does it make if we're all still working a 12hr day.

    *So while I've never received a poor performance review I have had disagreements/received come negative feedback about the hours I work.

    #1479331
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    @dankpsu “Accounting firms/private companies focus on retaining the best talent as good employees are very expensive to replace.”

    I think that is the general idea of what is portrayed by the industry to the public, but I disagree. If an entry level staff accountant has a salary of say $40,000 and a senior position has a salary of $55,000, is it really cheaper to retain and promote the best employees or to keep them insecure about their work and squeeze more out of them at a lower level? Accountants are really expendable to be honest, especially accountants in non-managerial positions.

    #1479342
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    Also, many firms give poor performance reviews even to the best staff because the higher level positions may feel threatened by their jobs. If a Partner asks a Manager about a Senior's performance, many times it is likely the Manager will give a mediocre review for a staff accountant who has actually performed exceptionally well.

    There is a lot of office politics in the accounting industry and I am giving away all the secrets.

    In addition, people who receive good performance reviews are often times the employees who are the least paid and most gullible or who have little marketability. In other words they tend to be the easiest ones to take advantage of with very little resistance or complaint.

    #1479364

    Son
    Participant

    @brickell cpa, what is the purpose of this post? Do you want people to agree with a completely nonsensical statement that top performers are given bad reviews on purpose? Yes, there's politics involved. Yes, there are companies with toxic cultures. Yes, sometimes you don't get along with people on a personal level and that factors into your performance review. That is not the norm. It's not “most companies,” and it's definitely not “very common,” and being rewarded for good work with great reviews and promotions is not an “anomaly.”

    Regarding @ruggercpa2b – I have all reasons to believe his posts reflect his actual experience. Public accounting firms, especially Big4s, strive to hire the best. It should be no surprise to you that those people excel in their careers and receive praise for the work they do.

    #1479372
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    The purpose of this post is to hear the different perspectives and discuss their experiences. If everyone just states what they want without being questioned about it, what good is that?

    Auditors especially should be familiar with skepticism and knowing the details of an industry, why is it so hard for them to do it the same for their own industry?

    Your perspective as well as rugger's perspective reminds of people who buy into easy marketing ploys. It's as if you guys would be the ones who would outright purchase the “all new 4K TVs” just because that's what all the salespeople are pitching, when in reality, the 4K function will do very little to benefit you.

    #1479385

    ruggercpa2b
    Participant

    I just told you my perspective based on my experience. I mean what other perspective are you looking for? You always claim you want to hear what other people's experiences have been but then you always argue. How can you argue my experiences.

    Don't come after me just because I have had great working experiences and have been fortunate enough to work for great employers. You clearly have some insecurities based on your personal experiences and you take it out on those of us who actually have had positive work experiences.

    Asking for one's opinion has nothing to do with professional skepticism.

    I knew it would turn into you attacking anyone that responds and does not agree with what you say. Its what you do with every single one of you rposts. If we arent sheep then we are underpaid gullible people.

    #1479397

    dankpsu
    Participant

    There's certainly office politics but I think your perception of how easily talent is expendable is extreme. It takes a lot of time and money to train employees. A 40K staff at the Big 4 or mid sized firm could easily cost 50-60K a year to train if you factor in time, travel and training programs. A 55K senior is a senior because they excelled and was promoted. The investment in a senior is much more considering the years of training that was provided. To easily cut or force out good employees would cost a company both time and money since they have to train new talent. If the work environment is toxic and the firm is merely just trying to squeeze maximum value, people leave and firms lose their investments. This happens at some companies and smaller firms but it's generally not the norm. From the way you view employment, I'm thinking you had/have some bad experiences but most companies are out to bring the best out of people while keeping them happy, not the other way around.

    #1479399
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    @ruggercpa2b It is not an argument, it is a discussion. If you are unable to share your experiences without discussing them and becoming defensive, then that says a lot.

    The purpose of a discussion board is to discuss and this was posted in the career section, was it not?

    #1479403

    TommyTheCat
    Participant

    my experiences at PWC are in-line with rugger's. You work hard get a lot of review points and make certain to learn from your mistakes and minimize them going forward. Being social around the office is definitely a needed skill set, since you are working as a part of (and often times the lowest level of) a chain of command. I got plenty of great reviews, and plenty of constructive critique of my performance in my reviews.

    Work, as in life, is all about working hard, taking it seriously, putting in the effort to make friends with and get along with others.

    dank – while I don't argue your points about talent being expensive to train, staff are expendable at Big 4 on the whole. They generate so much revenue and make so much money on the bottom line that they can afford to cut the underperforming staff while they harvest the better performing staff. I was pretty close to several partners there who would tell it like it is. Plus, that high performing staff makes the partners MUCH more money in the bottom line down the road, so it's worth the investment to churn the low performing staff.

    #1479406
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    This perception of many of you that you are sharing is fine, however, there are countless sources including many posts on this site that claim otherwise. It's easy just to say people who receive bad performace reviews are not doing something right, however, this is not always the case. And employees who do not perform well often get promoted or are favored for one reason or another. So who's to say your experiences are based on competence rather than favoritism or office politics?

    I think that is a legitimate question and I can understand if it ruffles some feathers.

    #1479409

    Christopher
    Participant

    haha wow. @brickell cpa I totally understand your poor performance reviews. Look up the word “Introspection”.

    “Regardless of how you work, most firms will give you a poor performance review”

    lmao

    #1479415
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    I've only received one performance review in six years, and funny that after they learned I was leaving, they gave me an extra nice bonus check.

    #1479423

    ruggercpa2b
    Participant

    I think the thing you do not realize is the posts on this site are from the perspective of those people, which are not the same people responding to this post. You asked a question, a few of us chimed in which is not even most of the people on the forum.

    I mean if you are getting some other results from other internet posts and some old posts, then I hope you are getting the different perspectives you are looking for.

    #1479427
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    Also I am really curious what location and what kind of firms you all are working for? It sounds likely that it may be in locations that are not highly competitive. For example I doubt that your experiences have been in places like NY or MIA or Los Angeles. On the other hand, my experience has been, and my starting salary out of university was $55,000.

    As accountants you should know not everything is so comparable in such a one-dimensional perspective. Instead of becoming so defensive, consider using your analytical skills and a bit of introspection yourselves. Often times things can be much more dynamic than they appear.

    #1479430

    Son
    Participant

    @brickell cpa, at this point I'm almost positive that you're just trolling people at this forum. If so, it's somewhat petty, don't you think?

    On the off chance that you're not, your hypocrisy is over the top:

    1. You claim you want to have a discussion and hear people's opinions. When people do share them, you shut them down and insult them without provocation.
    2. You speak in absolutes – “most,” “all,” “everyone” – yet not a single person on this thread agrees with you.
    3. When presented with facts and actual evidence you refer people to “other threads” and your deep knowledge of the industry. Care to share what that experience is? So far it seems like you've had bad reviews and felt underappreciated throughout your career. Wonder why people would not feel good about your performance given how acrimonious you get every time someone disagrees with you.
    4. You state there's no good in a discussion if people just state their opinions and don't allow any questioning. Read your post again. Read the replies. You're the one being defensive and rejecting any evidence that things might be different from what you claim them to be. We're all just sharing our experiences – exactly what you've asked people to do.

    #1479439
    NJM34
    NJM34
    Participant

    @Brickell Attacking other people who responded with their own experiences seems a bit childish. As others have already stated, your experience is not the same as others who have worked in the Big 4 and you asked for their opinion on the matter.

    #1479471

    chynablue
    Participant

    “Regardless how hard you work, most firms will give you a poor performance review and focus on the areas you didn’t do well rather than praise you for what you did right.”

    This has not been my experience. Top 25 CPA firm, very large city, starting salary about $55k.

    #1479507

    dankpsu
    Participant

    I don't know about MIA but I worked in Philly, many friends out of school work in NYC and met a few people during my visits to the LA area. The great majority had the experience different from yours. The companies are even more incentivized to treat their employees better in these cities as the competition is more fierce to retain good talent.

    #1479519
    BrickellCPA
    BrickellCPA
    Participant

    Ok then, I concede in this discussion. And I will accept that this is not an effective discussion board for careers, but rather a “let me post what I want to post to gain reputation and get defensive when someone questions my authenticity”.

    Thanks for the perspective.

    #1479525
    Nathalia
    Nathalia
    Participant

    I work at a small firm (10 people) and I've never received a bad review. They do always tell us what we can do better in the upcoming year. At my firm, if you do receive a bad review, you're fired.

    I work in DC and I like to think it's very competitive. Starting salaries tend to be around $60k-70k straight out of college.

    I have friends in the big 4 and none have received notably bad reviews.

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