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The impact of a humanitarian disaster on the working approach of accountants: a study of contingent effects

Carungu, Jonida, Di Pietra, Roberto, Molinari, M. (2021) The impact of a humanitarian disaster on the working approach of accountants: a study of contingent effects. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 34 (6). pp. 1388-1403. ISSN 0951-3574. (doi:10.1108/AAAJ-08-2020-4789) (KAR id:90782)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how a humanitarian disaster as Covid-19 shapes the working approach of accountants. This research is motivated by the call for more in-depth analyses of how Covid-19 affects the work, role, and human condition of accountants. The study aims to discover the contingent effects, based on the contingency theory, on accountants’ work due to a disaster like Covid-19.

Design/methodology/approach – This is a qualitative study with an action research approach. The research relies on semi-structured interviews and the active participation of a co-author in a professional organisation under investigation. Data collected are analysed using thematic analysis through an inductive interpretative approach.

Findings – The contingent shock embodies both a reactive and adaptive approach in the accountants’ professional work. From a theoretical perspective, this study identifies nine contingent phases related to shock. The accountants’ experience helps to understand how the Covid-19 pandemic contingently shapes the working approach of accountants with both short-term and long-term organisational implications.

Originality/value – Based on the literature survey, this is the first study to adopt an action research approach to engage with the complex dynamics involved in the social context of Covid-19 by discovering the effective actions, reactions, changes and solutions to problems experienced by professional accountants. This approach helps to build knowledge that enhances professional, and community practises by answering the call for multidisciplinary contributions in accounting to address the global Covid-19 crisis, its impacts, and opportunities for future research.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1108/AAAJ-08-2020-4789
Additional information: This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact
Uncontrolled keywords: Humanitarian Disasters, Accountants, Shock, Contingency theory, Italy, Action research.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Accounting and Finance
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Matteo Molinari
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2021 10:49 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2022 14:54 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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