We’ve seen time and time again accountants leave their public accounting firms to go work for one of their firm’s clients. Most of the time, that goes pretty well. Sure, the firm may hate to lose that particular employee, but if he or she has to jump ship, at least they’ve stayed “within the family,” so to speak. Treat them right during the transition and odds are that client bond has an extra layer of cement on it. I can think of a time in my life seeing that play out beautifully when “CPA Tim” at the firm resigned to be the controller for one of the firm’s clients in the construction niche. That construction company had a reputation for bouncing from firm to firm every few years, but Tim was treated well by the firm’s partnership before, during and after his decision to leave — and Tim “felt the love.” That client-firm bond was never to be broken. Still isn’t.

But what about when an accountant moves from one firm to another firm? That can be trickier … for the firm and for the accountant. For the accountant, the job hunter, there’s often worry associated with shielding the situation from that person’s current employer. Shudder the thought, but what if your boss asks you if you’re interviewing at other public accounting firms? Lying is never the solution, so grab the opportunity for a face-to-face, heart-to-heart discussion and be honest.

Certainly, there’s no way to predict how your boss or the managing partner will react unless you know they can’t wait to get rid of you. If that’s the case, all signs should point to trying to find that greener pasture anyway. Assuming the firm really doesn’t want you to leave, that inevitable “grown-up discussion” is poised to yield a wide variety of finales.

Here’s a mini list of outcomes I’ve seen or heard over the years. I’m sure you have some to add to the list based on your experiences.

*Immediate dismissal
*Salary increase
*Promotion
*More flexibility with work hours
*Free or better parking
*Desk move (away from someone she didn’t like)
*A bump in vacation time
*The opportunity to sit with the managing partner (or partnership group) and have an open discussion without repercussions

It’s that last one on the list that I’ve seen keep good employees more than the others on the list combined. People want to be heard, listened to, and feel that they have a voice — and not have to walk on eggshells doing it.

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“Do one thing every day that scares you.”–Eleanor Roosevelt

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