If you went to business school to avoid writing (like my accountant dad), you were in for a rude awakening when you started your first job. There were no term papers, but there were client emails, executive summaries, and reports. Entering the workforce with the ability to communicate clearly and professionally is something Tippie College of Business students are known for, and that’s not by accident.
Some Hawkeye history...
The Accounting Writing and Communications Program was established in 1998 in response to our alumni sharing how few accountants could write. That program paved the way for the Frank Business Communication Center to open in 2001 as a college-wide resource. The center tutors students, supports faculty in embedding writing instruction into their classes, and manages the required Business Communication and Protocol class.
Today the college has incorporated business communication instruction into much of its curriculum. Students practice pitching to potential investors, creating a persuasive slide deck with strong data visualization, and honing their writing skills.
Assignment in ACCT 3600: Advanced Tax Topics
Prompt: You report directly to the controller of the company. As part of your regular professional responsibilities, it is clear the company is reporting artificially high earnings by overstating sales and understating expenses. Now you have been asked to make journal entries capitalizing several expenses into inventory, expenses you know should be recognized on the income statement. Your assignment: draft an email, addressed to the chairperson of the board of directors, to express your concerns.
TO: Chairperson of the Board of Directors
FROM: Junior Accountant
DATE: October 1, 2022
SUBJECT: Concerning Actions Going Forward
I am writing to express some concern that I have regarding some documents that I have been given and what I have been asked to do with them. The documentation is clearly showing that our company is artificially reporting higher earnings due to overstating of sales and understating our expenses. I am concerned that this behavior will continue as long as is needed.
9:57 AM Oct 18
Start email message with a greeting and then introduce yourself. Also, the writing is wordy throughout, aim to cut the word count by 1/4.
to my understanding that the CEO is encouraging this fraudulent behavior, as evidenced by his email to yourself and the CFO to “do whatever it takes” to meet next quarter’s analysts’ earnings expectations. This kind of behavior contradicts both business ethics as well as my personal ethics. I understand that my standing in the company could be at stake with both refusal to participate in what is asked of me, but I have to put my foot down on this.
9:59 AM Oct 18
Overly strong language that risks retaliation. A simpler and safer way to approach the problem would be to state that you have a concern and ask for a face-to-face meeting. The last sentence of the paragraph ends up putting the focus on you instead of your concern.
I also understand that yourself and the CEO of the company are close personal friends, however, I am strongly recommending to you to go the CEO and personally plead with him to stop this fraudulent business behavior as well as come clean with what has transpired over the past 2.5 years. This type of decision made by the CEO is only going to get worse as time goes on, so I believe that it would be in the company’s best interest if you went to the CEO and talked to him about this. I hope you will do the right thing.
10:01 AM Oct 18
Needs a better understanding of the power dynamics. Telling the chair what to do could be seen as overreaching professional boundaries.
TOP 3 Gen-Z Communication Struggles (that drive their managers crazy)
Members of our various advisory boards have identified three high-level challenges new graduates have when communicating in a professional enviornment.
1- Channel Strategy
Should the information you're communicating be in the form of an email, text, or phone call?
2- Formality Level
What level of formality is needed for different audiences?
3- Communication Tactics
How do you structure a message so the main idea comes through clearly?
Sharpen your Business Communication Skills
Elements of an Exceptional Slide Deck with Nick Westergaard
Thursday, May 25, noon-1pm (central) via Zoom
The takeaway: The University of Iowa is known as “The Writing University” and business communication instruction is infused throughout the Tippie College of Business curriculum. The UI is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the #1 public university in the nation for "Writing in the Disciplines."
This article appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Tippie Magazine.