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.

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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