Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ethics and b-schools

There have been well publicised ethical failures in the industry that have been attributed to b-schools. There is a big discussion in the United States, and it appears as if the infection might be spreading to India also.


There is a feeling that MBAs are unethical. Let us ignore my personal indignation at such a sweeping stereotyping. Logically it means that a) people became unethical after going to b-schools; and b) b-schools take in unethical people and fail to make them ethical.

It is my firm opinion that the priority that people give to ethics is intrinsic to them, and the external environment is only incidental. Ethics, values and morality are the things that should be taught at home and before you enter college. Therefore, by the time people come to b-schools, their ethicality is written into their DNA, their mind is already corrupted (or not).

It is very surprising that people expect that b-schools can somehow make people ethical. As mentioned before, when people join their b-school, their mind is closed and there is very little that b-school can do in changing their mentality. The only exception is if they practice a spiritual system that cleans them at a very low level inside out, in which case they become more ethical. And this happens very rarely.

But, b-schools and most of the universities and companies, can be accused of taking in unethical people. That is the problem that probably can be addressed to a certain extent by psychometric tests, essays, etc. I don't see anybody following them.

Therefore, MBAs are as ethical or unethical as just about any person. But, why is the fact about unethicality of MBAs highlighted ? Frequently, their work is at a level where it will have high impact on others. An IT services company employee billing the customer for an hour of work that wasn't done, is as unethical as plagiarism is. CV embellishment happens quite a lot. People have brazenly lied in my face when I was taking their interviews.

Another interesting hypothesis is that people who are attracted to the power and control and who are smart enough to use all sorts of tricks to get to the top. They think of MBA as a means of getting to the top. This means that many MBAs are attracted to power. This is probably true, but that in no way, excuses the stereotyping of all or a majority of MBAs as unethical.

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