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Write-up for CPA Society's Magazine - Impact of Culture on the Accounting Profession

ckpckp1994 8 / 17 2  
May 27, 2020   #1
Hi all, I understand that this might not fall under the Graduate subtopic exactly, but I can't find a better place to post this. So, here we go...

Below is a short piece that I wrote to submit to my state CPA society's magazine as a contributor. There's no prompt. They accept everything as long as the write-up provides "value and insights" to the accounting industry. This is my first time doing this, so please be gentle! Thanks!

Yes, No, ...Maybe So? Impact of Culture on the Accounting Profession

"Perhaps", "allegedly", "presumably", "possibly"- words that I use in my daily language whenever I communicate any financial information to a recipient. While these colloquials are certainly a nod to modern professional euphemism, they are also a direct reflection of my own cultural values and upbringing.

Growing up in a traditional Hong Kong family, I was raised to speak responsibly and conservatively. Always leave room for ambiguity, as it conveniently levitates the burden of delivering false information. It also carries a non-confrontational tone of a suggestion rather than a verified fact that would affect a decision. As my journey progresses as a young professional, however, I begin to recognize that the lack of assertiveness in my communications imposes some surprising challenges in a professional environment. People tend to repeat their inquiries to garner a sense of assurance from me. Or, they would divert to another resource for their concerns due to a growing sense of distrust.

In his New York Times bestseller "Outliers", author Malcom Galdwell penned a chapter to speak on the impact of culture on aviation safety. With multiple notable deadly crashes in the 80's, the South Korean aviation industry has since undergone scrutinies regarding its safety protocols and pilot habits. While the public initially attributed the crashes to poorly trained pilots and outdated planes, Gladwell theorized that the Korean culture and its language were the true culprits behind these unfortunate incidents.

As opposed to the American culture, Korean culture is collectivistic. Koreans employ oblique languages when speaking with the superiors (think less of "you should"; and more "you might want to consider"). Commands then became mere suggestions when they lacked the authoritative undertone. This might sound trivial to some, but safety on a plane can be dwindled into matter of seconds and quick judgements. We finally learned that cultural context mattered in communications, but that lesson came with a heavy price.

Though, thankfully, financial professionals aren't put in charge of safeguarding lives under stressful situations, we serve a profession that values accuracy and informational integrity. As CPAs, our specialized knowledge and skills afford us the privilege to become a resource to many. Whether we're communicating with a tax client, a colleague or even a live audience, it's beyond vital to consider our own cultural influence and how it affects our tone and the delivery of the information.

If you're a young professional like myself who's beginning to establish a presence in a field, be sure to know that the language we use and how we communicate convey confidence, which in turn directly translate to our own personal branding and credibility. That's not to say prudence doesn't have its place in our accounting language; in fact, it's quite the contrary. As our economy continues to globalize, the mastery of balancing culture and effective communications is slowly becoming an essential soft skill to hone for our generation.
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 10,524 3442  
May 27, 2020   #2
I am not sure what the connection of aviation safety is to the CPA profession. I would have rather read a reference to "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" in relation to how you speak to your clients. The aviation reference doesn't connect well with the main topic. I can understand what you mean by referencing the Korean plan crashes that were caused by the submissiveness of the co-pilot to the pilot, as dictated by their culture. However, that has nothing to do with finance so the relevance will be lost on the reader. Try to use a book that is more relatable to those in the same field. That way you add information to the article, in an entertaining and educational manner.

Why not consider writing this as an insight into how you are struggling to overcome the "natural" language of your family so that you can kick-start your career. A career that demands a confident, assuring voice every time you speak to a client. Explain the cultural war going on inside of you, and why the non Hong Kong side of your personality has to win in the end. You just may find some other CPA's suffering from the same situation who will reach out to you after the publication of your article.

Start the article with a more interesting hook. Tell a story, a story of your day at the office when, because of your uncertain word usage, the client decided to release you from your job with his firm instead. That would be a more interesting take on the topic instead of mere mentions of the words that you use in your daily work life. It will also better explain what you mean by your culture being a problem when it comes to your career advancement. Talk about what steps you have taken to overcome this problem. How has it affected your career? Perhaps the changes have also helped you develop a stronger personality within your family? There are a lot of ways this article can actually go. The question is, "What do you really want to say about yourself, your profession, and your culture with this article?". Write about that.
OP ckpckp1994 8 / 17 2  
May 27, 2020   #3
Hi @Holt, thanks for such a thorough review!! Agreed on most counts. I did give some serious thoughts about putting an example or two in my article to highlight my story, but then I realized doing this would trigger some liability issues. My former employer(s) would think I was the reason why they lost certain clients. They might pursue legal actions. Sounds crazy, but they've pulled that card before. My current employer has a very dominant PR department that screens through everything that has the company's name on it. If I mentioned a story in a publication, they might think this would taint their "positive working culture image". This is why I kept it vague in my article (not mentioning any specific event) in hopes of avoiding any technical issue. In light of this, how should I go around it? What do you suggest?

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