I had dinner the other night with an accounting firm owner who was in his mid 60’s, still enjoying life, and handing over his firm to the next generation of accountants. At the same time, we were comparing the Big 4 accounting firms we’d worked in, and discussing accountants we’d known who had already passed away in their 60’s, so very soon at or near their retirement age.
We already know that long hours (if not decades) behind a screen in a sitting position is toxic, but the same time there are other hidden dangers through being an overachiever.
There is now more discussion in the Australian accounting industry that professional organisations often recruit “insecure overachievers”, who are “exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy”. Such employees are willing to work long hours and deliver outstanding results in the short term.
Overachievers have attributes which affect not only themselves, but the culture and company in which they operate.
Overachievers prioritise outcomes over people, have difficulty delegating, work long hours, have trouble saying “no” (especially to clients), and frequently end up burnt out.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
When an overachiever is an accounting firm owner, they can create a toxic workplace culture that frequently removes innovation, and stifles creativity in younger staff. At worst, younger staff leave as the accounting firm owner refuses change, preferring to work excessive hours which frequently are written off in the WIP.
Ensuring time not only to “sharpen the saw” technically, but also taking a mental break to improve mental well being. In essence, a body needs not only physical but mental rest, and there should be a good balance of activity as well as stillness during this down time.
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