Really?

Yet another b-school guy (read UD’s LONG category on this blog titled Beware the B-School Boys) wrings his hands about the criminogenic nature of some of America’s business schools… Which is to say that many MBA programs (in particular Wharton) seem to groom and then graduate real bad asses. What to do? What to do?

Like most of the other hand wringers, this guy’s introducing another whole new revolutionary approach to taking men in America’s most hyper-capitalist educational settings and turning them into women.

See the headline on the guy’s article?

CAN YOU TEACH BUSINESSMEN TO BE ETHICAL?

Forget businesswomen. Either they don’t exist, or if they exist they’re … ethical …? The whole article is men men men.

I guess businesswomen are ethical because they’re not businessmen.

So then the point would be to make businessmen businesswomen. No competitiveness here! We’re collaborative. And if you fuck up and act assertive in class…

MBA programs could ditch their heavy reliance on class participation when assigning grades – a standard that unfairly rewards extroverts and fosters competition among students to impress the professor. Instead, students could be asked to grade each other on their level of professionalism in class. A few of us at NYU-Stern have begun doing this, and we find that it discourages grandstanding and encourages students to build on each other’s comments.

Shh! Don’t say anything, Susie! Just keep your eye on Babsie and tell me whether you think she’s been abnegating herself…

********************

Ecoute. Collaboration in b-school means Raj Rajaratnam meets his co-conspirators there. B-school brings like-minded criminals together.

It’s embarrassing, but

The daily scandals that expose corruption and deception in business are not merely the doing of isolated crooks. They are the result of an amoral culture that we — business-school professors — helped foster.

Look at the dean of Columbia University’s business school, for goodness sake.

B-school people seem to think that if they keep producing worried rhetoric and new ethics institutes we’ll forget the nature of the amoral culture their schools reflect and many of their graduates inhabit.

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5 Responses to ““Anything we do to foster a culture of collaboration, rather than a culture of competition for scarce resources, is a way of training the elephant.””

  1. JND Says:

    So — I’m at a small, church-affiliated, traditional liberal arts university in the hinterlands, and I teach management in our college of business.

    We have BBA and MBA. I don’t think we have an amoral culture, although I obviously could be wrong about that. I got my MBA at Wharton in 1982. I didn’t find the culture there to be any more or less amoral than I found my workplaces to be in the army and in a Fortune 500 industrial firm. (On the other hand, I majored in management, not in finance).

    Linda Trevino and Michael Brown published “Managing to be ethical: Debunking five business ethics myths” in the Academy of Management Executive in 2004. Reading that paper and writing a summary with an application to the student’s workplace is the assignment for each student in my Introduction to Management class for Monday morning. Trevino & Brown’s final recommendation is “that ethical conduct be managed proactively via explicit ethical leadership and conscious management of the organization’s ethical culture.” I don’t have a better solution; I’m trying to get it right with my students.

    We are so much lower on the business school totem pole than Wharton that there is a pretty good chance no one on the Wharton faculty even knows we exist. I’d go out on a limb and guess that we attract a very different kind of student. I’d likewise guess that the firms that hire all those unethical graduates of top-tier schools wouldn’t even talk to a graduate of our MBA program, much less hire one. And, oh yeah, there is zero chance I’ll ever be on the faculty of a top-tier program.

  2. david foster Says:

    “MBA programs could ditch their heavy reliance on class participation when assigning grades – a standard that unfairly rewards extroverts and fosters competition among students to impress the professor. Instead, students could be asked to grade each other on their level of professionalism in class”

    …an approach that likely reinforces cliquishness, conformity, and general suck-up behavior among students.

    And if someone cannot develop sufficient “extraversion” to ask a question in the relatively safe environment of a classroom, what are the odds that he will challenge an unethical and/or dangerous decision (‘OK, the O-rings don’t seem to be a problem…I think we should proceed with the space shuttle launch. Any dissenters?) in a professional environment.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    JND: It’s true that when people talk about, uh, ethically challenged business schools and business school students, they’re usually prompted to do so by the more spectacular money criminals. People simply cannot help noticing The Wharton Tradition, stretching from Michael Milken through decades of high-profile miscreants up to Raj & Co., because these people do SO much damage before they’re put away. The scandal of Wharton is that these are the world’s business leaders, global movers and shakers. What they do reflects on the moral culture of this country, its form of capitalism, and the way its best universities are run. Wharton has a well-established tendency to produce first-rate business minds obsessed with bottomless personal greed. Very dangerous.

  4. JND Says:

    The Wharton Tradition! Ouch! I’ve got to remember that.

  5. charlie Says:

    UD, in the above post, you referenced Columbia University and their b-school dean. Funny dat, Columbia paid a fine of over $1 million to settle with the NYAG for the school’s financial aide fraud. Somehow, the school is suppose to instill some moral responsibility with their grad students, while at the same time scamming their undergrads. Since b-school is all about case studies, maybe Columbia can use themselves as an example of white collar criminality…

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