A second look at controllers as “business partners”: bringing watchdogs back in business – a discourse analysis

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Controllers have been promoted as business partners. This suggests that traditional bean counter and watchdog roles may be somehow suspect. I argue that promoting business partners is politized action; managers desire controllers to be business partners, not watchdogs - which could criticize them. Managers regulate controller identity so that controllers are made business partners. Controllers themselves have also enjoyed the business partner role and associated identity.
This theoretical paper argues that particularly watchdogs could be integral to company success on one hand and morality on the other. Such watchdogs should thus be appreciated. The paper suggests treating the watchdog role as an integral part of the controller’s identity. Ignoring the watchdog role may result in succumbing to management demands, and the paper takes a critical stance on those demands. The paper acknowledges that the politicization of business partners serves the interests of management. For this reason this politization takes place. These needs do not always result in increasing company effectiveness.
Having a business partner as a “pet” increases managerial autonomy: it gives the manager a loyal ally who can conveniently approve decisions. This ally increases the perceived managerial competence. This also makes a manager feel good about his/her social relations in the organization. A watchdog may decrease managerial autonomy when questioning managerial decisions. The manager may also be perceived as less competent when criticized by watchdog. The business partner role gives controllers competence (in business-related affairs) and positive rapport with managers. However, the autonomy of a business partner controller could be diminished compared to that of a watchdog controller, although this is not always the case.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2020
MoE publication typeNot Eligible


  • Controller
  • Watchdog

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