News and advice on management and the business environment — December 2015

A self-published novel about an “utterly uninteresting” accountant tops the charts of bestselling audiobooks, while research shows that most people aren’t as busy as they say they are.


A book you can sink your teeth into

Now that accountants have caught on as heroes in blockbuster movies, TV pilots and comic books, it was only a matter of time until the profession collided with another pop culture staple: the undead. The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant, a self-published novel by US author Drew Hayes, was among the top-five best-selling audiobooks on for the week ending Sept. 18, Associated Press reported. The week’s other top-five titles included The Martian, which spawned this year’s critically acclaimed Matt Damon flick, and The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the latest in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. While it seems unlikely that Fred will make it to a theatre near you, Hayes has already published a sequel starring the vampire accountant: Undeath & Taxes.


No train, no retain


The lure of learning something new may be what drives financial experts to make a career move, finds a Robert Half survey. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the 2,500 finance and accounting professionals polled say they consider the ability to gain new skills as “very important” when evaluating a new job opportunity. “A lack of advancement opportunities is a top reason good employees quit, trailing only inadequate compensation,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “A company’s best performers are often the first to leave if their employer does not provide ample training and development to help them grow professionally.”


Frenzy fakes?

Far be it for us to tell CPAs they aren’t busy — especially as we head into tax season. But, according to an international survey of 10,000 adults in 28 countries by Havas Worldwide, people are generally much less busy than they purport to be. Only one in five respondents say they’re constantly rushing around and 42% admit they sometimes pretend to be busier than they actually are. Furthermore, six in 10 think other people are faking their busyness too — which means they aren’t buying your excuses for missing that holiday lunch.


Best-self actualization

Want to boost the productivity of an employee or colleague? Laud their achievements. In a working paper published by Harvard Business School, people who were given notes from their family, friends or colleagues that reminded them of their “best self” by recounting stories of past successes performed better on subsequent tasks than those who were given neutral stories or drafted their own praiseworthy notes. “Performance-management systems rarely concentrate on employees at their best but instead highlight weaknesses,” the paper’s authors write. “By activating people’s best-self concepts and highlighting examples of them making extraordinary contributions, we found positive changes in their physiology, creative problem solving, performance under pressure and social relationships.”