Systems of secrecy: confidences and gossip in management accountants' handling of dual role expectations and MCS limitations

Francois-Regis Puyou

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    The article shows how secrecy - defined as the purposeful revelation of information to some and not others - is used by management accountants to pursue their roles as independent business controllers and nurture the social proximity required to be sought-after business advisers. The paper examines management accountants’ retentive and communicative strategies in reporting practices in a subset of a large multinational company. It conceptualizes systems of secrecy as the purposeful articulation between two types of revelations (confidences and gossip). It shows how confidences and gossip can be successive steps that structure informal reporting information flows and close social interactions helpful in dealing with tensions arising from attempts to manage interdependencies and to achieve individually specified targets. The article contributes to the literature on the dynamics of management accountants’ dual role by showing how they overcome the tensions between conflicting expectations through tactful and judicious distribution of information. It shows how the articulation of confidence and gossip creates a specific format of accounting talk which facilitates compromise through the succession of private one-on-one discursive spaces. It also complements the literature on management control systems (MCS) by giving a nuanced account of the virtues of secrecy in order to mitigate some of the unanticipated adverse effects of performance evaluations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)15-26
    Number of pages11
    JournalManagement Accounting Research
    Early online date17 Jan 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


    • Confidences
    • Gossip
    • Management accountants
    • Secrecy
    • Simmel


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