A comparison of auditor and non-auditor performance evaluations: Are accountants harsh critics?

Steve Buchheit, William R. Pasewark, Jerry R. Strawser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether audit professionals exhibit greater performance evaluation bias compared to non-accounting professionals. Design/methodology/approach - Both audit and non-accounting professional subjects read a case study and evaluated the performance of a hypothetical subordinate. Two factors were manipulated the subordinate's work performance history and the subordinate's current performance relative to a budget. Findings - It was found that reputation bias and hindsight bias are prevalent in both professional groups. The groups exhibit no difference with respect to reputation bias; however, it was found that public accountants exhibit significantly greater hindsight bias relative to non-accounting professionals. Practical implications - The paper provides evidence that accountants are relatively harsh critics of subordinate performance. Importantly, the paper investigates accountant vs non-accountant comparisons where subordinates' ex ante decisions are consistent with superiors' ex ante guidance (i.e. ex post performance being either favorable vs unfavorable is purely outcome-effect driven). If the findings are robust, this study provides a fundamental reason why employee retention in public accounting is relatively low. Originality/value - This paper is the first to make direct comparisons of performance evaluation bias effects between auditors and similarly experienced working professions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-38
Number of pages17
JournalManagerial Auditing Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Accountants
  • Auditors
  • Bias
  • Performance appraisal


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