Monday, February 8, 2010

Ethics, Or Lack Thereof...

Certain MBA programs have certain requirements. You know, like its expected that you take an accounting course so that if an accountant tries to run a money laundering scheme within the company, you, as a CEO, can catch it (right, Jeff Skilling?). Well the same is true with Business Ethics. Its a required course, and after having my first class, I can easily see why its seems as though, after discussing our first case, that about half of the class would probably give up their first born child if it guaranteed them some extra zero's in their paycheck. Seriously.

Well OK, maybe i'm exaggerating just a little bit, but after my first Ethics class, I can tell that there are definitely some Bernie Madoff Jr's in our class, and what you will find is that this is true in almost every MBA program. Why? Ive often asked myself the same question, and to be honest I really cant come up with a solid answer. Maybe because the Business and Finance world is so cut-throat to begin with that a culture of Darwin-like "may the strongest survive" mentality is ingrained in Business culture. Whatever the reason, MBA's have the potential to attract the type of people who have that "succeed at any cost" mentality.

So heres what happens in Ethics class. Every week we read a case (usually a Harvard Case) which depicts a scenario where an employee in a company is facing an ethical dilemma. The end of the case usually ends by asking what the reader would do if they faced the same situation. We basically argue over the course of an hour what is the "right thing to do" vs. "what is legal". Sounds fun right? Well it is, but, even after just one week, some of these kids in the MBA program, to quote Trainspotting, "are clearly lacking in moral fiber".

So whats our first case? Basically it deals with a consulting company with an employee who is forced with a difficult decision of whether or not to lie to her client or not. If she lies to this client and gets the information she wants, the consulting firm will be happy and she gets a promotion. If not, the employee of the consulting firm will most likely not get the promotion she has been seeking. Simple enough right? It would be wrong to lie to a client...why sacrifice your integrity to make a quick buck? The case also mentioned that she was burned out at work, and that high turnover had been occurring over the last couple of years at the company (warning signs, if you will)

So what did most of the MBA students vote for? 50% said she should lie, the other 50% said she should not, and possibly think of quitting the company. Yes, you read that correctly, the class was split about lying to a client. One kid went as far to say "Who hasn't lied in order to get the job done?". Wow. Words cannot express how much I loathed hearing that comment. I have a feeling this kid will be doing the perp-walk in no time...

So watch out entering MBA students, your definitely going to meet some classmates who will put their welfare over your own if they can make a quick buck or gain some type of competitive advantage. Im starting to figure out why they call Business school "The Shark Tank". Until next time...

1 comment:

  1. Some brutally honest comments. I love this blog! Thank you!

    - Alex.