Some Human Aspects of Accounting
BY JOHN F. WEST Partner, Philadelphia Office
Presented before the Accounting Club of Pennsylvania State University, University Park — October 1959
SERIOUSLY, I do welcome this opportunity. It occurred to me that, as a variation, you might be more interested tonight in hearing a few words about certain human aspects of the accounting profession that do not readily appear in textbooks than to have me dwell on a more academic topic. I realize, of course, that not all of you may be considering
the practice of public accounting as a profession; that many of you plan on corporate accounting careers. I believe, however, that my observations will apply with almost equal measure to both fields of accounting.
For our purpose tonight, let us take the perspective as it would appear to a recent college graduate who is embarking on his professional
career with an accounting firm and follow him through his early years.
First, the young man becomes aware of a certain intangible—let's call it the "professional concept" of his job. He comes to realize the responsibility he bears, perhaps even on his first assignment, since in the eyes of any client he is just as much the representative of his employer
as are his more experienced colleagues. His personal actions therefore must be governed accordingly. This professional concept also applies to the manner in which the young accountant handles information,
whether confidential or not, obtained in the course of his work on a client's records. Some of this information might be available
to only a few individuals within the client's organization—and certainly not to outsiders. Such "privileged communication," if you wish to call it that, must be restricted to its necessary use in the course of the audit examination and kept inviolate. It is only human nature for some young men to think, when reviewing a client's payroll records,
that certain individuals may have been over-generously rewarded.
Such personal opinion, however, is highly inappropriate as lunch table gossip. In another situation, the young accountant in a burst of helpful enthusiasm may feel prompted to remark to a representative
of the client, "Your accounting procedure for handling payables
is certainly poor! It's not nearly as good as the method used by our client the X Co." The embarrassing consequences of such remarks