By Chit Chan Cho

The thought alone quails, the heart palpitates and the palm perspires. Grown men have been known to become a puddle of mush at their door and few leave unscathed. These ladies rule the roost and their presence can be felt in every organisation, be they big or petite (organisation, not the ladies). Any decent chap would wonder why these ladies were made into creation. It was possibly the kind of wondering Adam would do whilst choking on the proffered fruit or Samson when looking at the lady barber’s handiwork. The unassuming plaque with a bland typeface outside their doors would spell ‘Finance’ but even the unwise would hear the whispered counsel. Beware.

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It is not every day that one would recoil from the notion of receiving naked cash. Yet this is exactly so when the monetary gains (or paltry reimbursements usually) come with Atlas’ burden and a sermon long enough to turn a fellow’s hair white. It is not to say that men do not exist in such surroundings (they do) but it is a rarity of the cow jumping over the moon sort. But the general disinclination to interact with them does not discriminate by gender. Men and women alike experience this little sinking feeling in the innards when commanded to request for cash from them. An inspection is commenced upon the submission of the documentations and the verdict differs little every single time. Documentations are always missing, mistakes are always found, signatories are never high enough, procedural steps taken are always wrong and the person requesting is always mentally deficient.

The general perception of these ladies is that of being bespectacled, shrewd, painfully difficult and an empty hole where compassion is supposed to be nesting. The ladies are not unnecessarily unkind or purposefully mean (one can only hope) but there is little love lost when they refuse to cough up dough that is already signed and sealed by the brass. Any protest is met with rational reasoning that few could dispute. Even the need to count rice by the grain could be attributed to getting the tally right and tight. Malevolence does not need to configure as an ingredient for the ladies to inflict mortal damage. They simply need to do their job well enough.

One victim of a job well done was a luckless bloke who was bitten by one of the dogs in the office. Nothing to write home to mother about, considering that he was the fourth victim in two weeks. However, the finance lady in charge of handling cash became fed up with paying for the medical shots and kindly requested the poorly chap to get further approval from Management. Half mad with the thought of being rabies-laden for the rest of his natural life, he waited for the Management to come down to earth. As the world would know, Management is as free as a jay bird, therefore the managers found out only after the hours of decency and greeted the intelligence with a what-in-heavens and a sacrebleu or something fouler. The chappie got his shots but the lady did not get a rap because technically, she was acting in the interest of the company’s coffer.

On the flipside, the world is indeed not rainbows and roses for these number ladies. Mistakes are an anathema in their trade and personalities are not stomached. They churn numbers day-in and out into the wee hours with little contact with the outside world except to confirm that such-and-such is correct and so-and-so has not been swindling the company blind. But life is not as dreary as one would imagine from the other side of the looking glass, there is much excitement in internal gossip and slightly more so in lunch. There are also the little disputes with the Sales and Marketing Department or any other department with voluble personalities to add spice to the office life.

Exams also comprise a weighty chunk of their upwards mobility in the food chain, and they communicate through acronyms namely ACCA, LCCI, IFRS, CPA or some such flummery. Their days would start with exciting classes towards the attainment of one paperwork or another and concluded with a day of fiddling with numbers or making some poor soul miserable.

A seasoned number-churner has fair-mindedly mused that their trait of not letting any funny shade of anything flit pass their eyes might possibly stem from the differences needing to be settled out of their very own pockets. The notion of footing for another’s mistake would play a rather substantial role in the abolition of an uncontained conscience and this concern could have transformed these kindly ladies into one where money needs to be extracted by means of chloroform or a mace. Any small problem or mistake that they have closed a jaundiced eye upon will usually accumulate and blow up on a larger scale at an elevated level. Therefore, it is only understandable that they pinch the life out of anyone’s buzzing glory on one hand, and prepare for anything fate have up its sleeves on another.

Much unlike other departments in a typical company, the finance department is forcibly blessed with a watchdog that comes once a year at least to turn their lives upside down. ‘Audit’ becomes a bugaboo that the ladies employ to keep themselves in check, and it is the ultimate rationale for them being constitutionally incapable of flexibility. One has to appreciate that having a team of auditors sweeping in with the sole intention of picking out mistakes is not for the weak of heart or want of wit. To put the cream on the cake, the auditor’s report will gleam on the directors’ desks for retribution later.

Let us give them credit for keeping us poor mortals in line and for violently presenting the benefits of following the system to our advantage or detriment (naturally the choice is ours). It is not the most enviable role but someone has to do it, just as Prometheus. For the greater good of humankind (or BOD pockets). 

This article was previously published in MYANMORE’s monthly lifestyle magazine, InDepth #13, Novemebr 2015.

 

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