Making sense of career in a big four accounting firm

Frank Mueller*, Chris Carter, Anne Ross-Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


There is little existing research on how managers within the 'Big Four' professional services firms (PSFs) respond to the increasing normative pressures and performative cultures that characterize contemporary PSFs. It is primarily managers within PSFs that enact the new managerial roles, systems and ethos that differentiate 'managed professional businesses' (MPBs) from the P2 archetype. It is managers who in their own estimation need to ensure that both organization and employees perform to the required standard. This article reports from an empirical study into one of the Big Four accounting firms. The focus is on how a specific group of employees, namely female managers, make sense of career and performance in their particular organization. The respondents' career is being shaped by their real and perceived willingness to be 'bothered to be playing the game' as well as providing a good client service and participating in the ongoing rationalization of professional practices. Thus, the self is divided: on the one hand, ambitious, committed and loyal to the firm and to the notion of performing. On the other hand, there is also distancing and disenchantment with the existing practices and reluctant acknowledgement that the reality is characterized by a culture of visibility and exposure; the need to network, play politics and be playing-the-game, none of which are gender-neutral.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-567
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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