Can we teach MBA’s to do the right thing?

I came across this blog on business ethics which I thought was pretty appropriate considering the things we’ve talked about in class over the past few weeks. The blog first mentioned an article found in Slate magazine to address the question of whether or not we should be teaching ethics in business. In the article that the blog introduces, MBA students were asked why they would want to become a CEO. The first two responses are “I want to make a difference” and “I enjoy a challenge.” The third reason anyone would want to be a CEO is of course, “Making gobs of money.”To answer the question of whether or not we can train MBAs to do the right thing, the blog author James Pilant, including myself, are under a mutual agreement. Business ethics isn’t something we can learn by reading a book or taking an exam for a Pass or Fail score. Many business leaders think they understand what is right from wrong, but in all actuality, there are dozens of unethical CEO’s who are more concerned with their own self-interest rather than the good of the company and economy. I do think that we should be teaching business ethics, but perhaps in a different fashion than the Slate magazine article suggested by handing the reins over to the professors to assign a paper or two regarding the topic.

The blog author James Pilant makes a number of good ideas on how we should be teaching business ethics in training MBAs. James believes that giving business students the opportunity to develop their own moral landscape is first and foremost the key to their future. The kind of moral or immoral human being will be has pretty much been determined up to this point in our lives and our ethical decisions will be based on how we have been brought up, what experiences we have encountered, and what we personally believe is right from wrong. James uses moral problems in teaching business students that involve airline crashes, economic disasters, fires, and murders, which I think we touched on in class one day. According to Pilant, self education and self creation is the most effective means of education.

I definitely have to agree that our own self education will determine what kind of CEO we will become. Will we be another Steve Jobs or a Phil Knight? Will we engage in ruthless and unethical behavior to pursue our own self interests? Or will we follow the rules and help build a company known for its adherence to accounting principles and benefits to society? By the time many of us pursue an MBA, the fate of the future companies we will work for will already be determined. Learning right from wrong from a business standpoint will be beneficial, but the real determining factor will lie in our own moral compasses.

4 thoughts on “Can we teach MBA’s to do the right thing?

  1. I believe practical ethics instructions would be a really great experience. Maybe these students could shadow a bank’s Compliance office to see the types of problems that exist in the real world day to day.

  2. I think this is really interesting. It would be interesting for MBA students to present their opinions on different ethical situation and how they would react if they were a top manager or executive. I think that our moral values do demonstrate what kind of leader or manager we would be, like you presented in your questions. Which of the students would just try to get themselves ahead and help their own selves? Simple exercises and constructing a code of moral conduct for the individual could show that. The problem may be that people would lie, which would be unethical (ha ha). It would be difficult to tell if students were being truthful or if they knew the right answers to get ahead!

  3. Good idea Joe. Real world experience is definitely the best way for people to learn and understand business ethics.

  4. I love this blog. I know that this may only apply to undergrads and not MBA students, but MGMT 101 was a good way to experience practical business ethics with people we would have to continue to work with and see after the class was over (meaning however you chose to deal with an issue, you had to make sure you did not hurt anyone else in the process). Unethical practices come into effect when you cannot see the people you are negatively impacting, but with MGMT 100, we can see how our actions impact our fellow “co-workers” and the company. Maybe MBA students practice some of the concepts they are learning and see their results.

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