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Why “Finance” People are Difficult (and Sometimes Should Be)

I started work with a new client last week, and while talking to my contact about the staff I would be interviewing, my contact said: “Sally is our finance director. <pause> She’s kind of difficult to work with.”

I always smile when I hear this, because it’s a fairly common remark. And I can tell my own stories of working with “difficult” finance directors from my experience as an association executive.

But here are three reasons why I think finance people have a right to be difficult, and sometimes should be:

  1. Unlike any other position in the association, finance people must work according to a set of rules (generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP) that are imposed upon them by regulating bodies. Accounting is typically not a place where one can be “creative.” If the books are not being kept according to GAAP, the finance department and the association can be “dinged” in their management letter, or worse.
  2. No other position in the association actually has to pay an outside company to come in to the office and question all the work that’s been done in that department over the past year. This is exactly what happens during the annual audit.
  3. Fairly or not, the accounting department is often held responsible for the financial health of the organization.
My point isn’t to excuse finance staff for being difficult. There’s a difference between saying “We can’t do that because it is not GAAP-compliant” and “We can’t do that because that would require me to do my job differently.” But the next time you’re finding it difficult to work with your finance staff, consider the three points above.
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2 Comments on "Why “Finance” People are Difficult (and Sometimes Should Be)"

Rodger Harris - 17 April 2011 Reply

Nobody I know minds difficult people who are difficult because of binding rules. I don't call that being difficult. I call it "Childish and Immature" RULES ARE RULES and you are here to help me understand them and you are here to enforce them and make sure we all abide by them. I am not the financial guy, you are! Help me understand! Is what people mind is people who are being difficult just to throw their weight around. Good professional' are not know to be difficult. I don't want to hear anyone being called "Difficult to work with". I find it professionally offensive! Grow Up! It is like saying "John has such a terrible temper, but it is OK because he is Italian you know and they have tempers". Wrong! Most difficult financial people I have worked with are more so because of “We can’t do that because that would require me to do my job differently.” then any one of the three points you indicate above! I understand rules we all do.

Wes Trochlil - 17 April 2011 Reply

Don't hold back, Rodger, tell me what you REALLY think! ;-) I think my post is pretty clear that there's a difference between working within the rules and being intentionally difficult (as noted in the last paragraph).

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