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How management accountants exert influence on managers – a micro-level analysis of management accountants’ influence tactics in budgetary control meetings

Simone Mack (Institute of Management Accounting and Control, WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, Vallendar, Germany)
Lukas Goretzki (Department of Organisation and Learning, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 7 August 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine how remote (i.e. global, regional or divisional) management accountants communicate in interpersonal contacts with operational managers when trying to exert influence on them.

Design/methodology/approach

An ethnographic field study focusing on budgetary control meetings between regional management accountants and operational managers is used as the basis for a micro-level analysis of situated face-to-face interactions and communicative influence tactics.

Findings

Remote management accountants mainly use soft rather than hard influence tactics. They, furthermore, employ what is referred to as “panoramic knowledge” gained explicitly from their structurally as well as physically removed “meta-positioning” to suggest certain measures to operational managers that have proved successful in other units and – by doing so – try to exert influence on these managers. Moreover, they use information that they gain in their position in between senior and operational managers by acting as “double agents” – that is, informing operational managers about senior managers’ focus as well as making transparent to operational managers that they will inform senior management about specific operational matters. By doing so, they try to prompt operational managers to address these issues. Additionally, strengthening their verbally articulated suggestions, as “minute takers” they are able to document their suggestions by moving from spoken to a more binding written text. Through these purposeful and rather unobtrusive tactics, remote management accountants try to take influence on operational managers without generating their resistance.

Originality/value

The paper shows how remote management accountants (as staff members) can skillfully turn their apparently powerless position within the organization into a source of strength to exert influence on operational managers.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the National Employment Agency and especially our contact persons for their willingness to participate in our research. Simone Mack gratefully acknowledges support by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. This paper is, in part, based on the first author’s doctoral thesis. This paper benefited from comments of workshop participants at the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, especially Leona Wiegmann and Johannes Georg. A previous version of this paper has been presented at the 10th Conference on New Directions in Management Accounting (Brussels). They also appreciate the constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper by Jürgen Weber.

Citation

Mack, S. and Goretzki, L. (2017), "How management accountants exert influence on managers – a micro-level analysis of management accountants’ influence tactics in budgetary control meetings", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 328-362. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-07-2016-0058

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited