The Case of the Indispensible Staff Assistant

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After spending a worthwhile week completing his firm’s staff orientation training, the firm’s newest staff person, Marv O. Less, was eagerly looking forward to his first assignment on Monday.  The firm’s best supervisor, Sue Perb, had asked Marv to help her complete an audit engagement this week for a new client she was wrapping up in the office. 

Sue had scheduled some challenging things for Marv that would reinforce learning from the orientation training:  posting audit adjustments, designing the financial statements, making the tax adjustments and preparing the corporate tax return, all on the firm’s auditing software program. Sue loaned Marv her laptop so he could get right to work on Monday morning.  Unfortunately, she discovered that nearly half of the working paper files were still on her assistant’s computer and the assistant was in the field working on another job.  While Sue phoned the assistant and waited for the files to be delivered to the office, she sent Marv to the office library to get some examples of financial statements for similar companies.  

On his way to the library, Marv bumped into the audit partner who hired him, E.N. Tegrity.  E.N. asked Marv to come to his office to discuss a special cash management software project for one of the oldest clients of the firm.  Even though this project was due by the end of the week, Marv was delighted to be able to work for E.N. and was willing to put in some overtime to get it done.  

Upon returning to Sue’s office, Marv learned the audit software files couldn’t be delivered to the office until after lunch.  Sue gave Marv a tax return file for a client that had been extended at April 15 and, she related, the client was not happy about it.  She had promised the client the return would be finished by Wednesday and asked Marv to do it.  

Feeling important about how much he was needed, Marv headed for his cubicle.  On the way there, he heard his name over the intercom page.  The insurance company nurse was in the lobby to give Marv an examination for the new policy he had applied for as a part of the firm’s flexible spending account.  As he was about to meet with the nurse, his wife phoned to tell him she had left work with severe stomach pains and was on the way to the doctor.  Their son was in half-day kindergarten and his wife asked Marv to pick up the child at noon.  Before she hung up she reminded Marv that her parents would be arriving at the airport later this evening and were planning to stay the rest of the week.  His wife also reminded him she had scheduled two dinner parties for her parents with old friends while they were visiting. Marv thought things surely could not get any worse.

Unfortunately, he was about to learn otherwise.  With his head beginning to swirl as he called their day care center to make arrangements for their son, he was informed there had been a measles quarantine issued for the facility that day.  He would have to make other arrangements, they said. As he drove to his son’s school with desperation welling up in his heart, the “check engine” light began to blink on his dashboard.  Pulling over to the curb amidst waves of nausea, Marv wondered if every day in public accounting would be like this!

Now it’s your turn.  Post a comment below and answer these questions:

1.    What problems do you see in this scenario?
2.    Who is at fault?
3.    If you were this staff person, what could you do to eliminate some of these problems?
4.    If you were the supervisor in this case, what would you do?

Hopefully this scenario doesn’t resemble life in your office!  However, if you are interested in practical staff training to improve your management and technical skills, you will be interested in the three new staff training series I will present in live webcasts starting in July.  Including both job management and technical skills training, they are:

•    Entry-Level Skills Training
•    New In-Charge Staff Training
•    Developing Supervisors and Managers

Make sure you sign up for my free email newsletter on our website,, to receive notification of the presentation dates for these series.


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