The story of a day in the life of an unsuccessful office worker

4:15pm Life as a ‘bean counter’

Accountants like to think they play an integral role in the success of their company and that their profession makes a valuable contribution to the effective functioning of society.  

Some managers, however, do not hold such a rose-colored view. Instead, they view company accountants as ‘bean counters,’ men or women in suits who sit at office desks on floor twenty-eight and play with numbers on spreadsheets all day. ‘Bean counters,’ they feel, have little or no connection with the real operations of the company. 

Managers dislike interference from ‘bean counters’ in their business. Many would be happy if bean counters simply kept to playing with numbers and stayed out of their way. 

Lewis Grier is one such manager. Mr. Grier joined our company this week as a plant manager.  

I have not met Mr. Grier yet, but I am just about to. I have a meeting with him and other managers at the plant to discuss the costs involved in various options for upgrading plant facilities. 

I wait at the plant reception area whilst Mr. Grier is on a call. His office is directly behind the reception area and I can clearly make out what he is saying. 

“Yeah, I’ve got to meet with the bloody company accountant this afternoon.” 

‘Yeah, mate, I hate these bean counters. Mate, they come in their pretty little suits with their fancy spreadsheets, and they think they can tell you how to run the things. I don’t need some bean counter to tell me how to run things. If this guy, Stewie Robertson, I think his name is, just stays out of my way, I’ll be happy.” 

“Yeah, well, suppose I’d better go meet the bugger eh?” 

Mr. Grier puts down the phone and appears at reception, wearing an orange safety vest over a shirt and tie. 

“Stewart,” his voice indicates surprise at seeing me. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting me yet. 

“Mr. Grier. Nice to meet you.” We exchange handshakes. 

“You too, mate,” he gives me a solid handshake with his other hand reaching around and giving me a hearty slap on the back.  

“Please call me Lewis. Thanks for coming. I’m glad to have you with us on this project. There are a number of areas where your expertise might come in handy.” 

This working relationship is obviously off to a flying start. It sure helps that Mr. Grier, at least to my face, fully appreciates what I have to offer.


  1. February 20th, 2008 | 3:25 am

    “Bean counters” come in handy when you need them, which is pretty much all the time. Still, like so many occupations in the business world, it is a thankless job.

  2. February 22nd, 2008 | 8:30 am


    You make an interesting point.

    I would bet that you, as a sales and marketing consultant, have had your fair share of experience with ‘thankless’ or ‘underappreciated’ jobs in your time!

    Indeed, there are many examples of occupations which provide valuable service to the broader community, but are thankless jobs. Some examples I can think of include:

    Some examples I can think of include:

    debt collectors (the legal variety);
    police (particularly riot police);
    insolvency practitioners;
    tax assessors/collectors;
    call centre operators;
    anyone working in the ‘complaints’ department;
    social workers;
    undertakers; and
    funeral directors

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