Maybe we’re a little cynical, but there’s something awfully silly and infantilizing about having business school students take an “I will be ethical pledge” upon graduation. Then again, considering some of the rotten apples that have come out of the Harvard Business School (they earned the worst grade in our Magna Cum Lousy ranking of schools), maybe they’re just trying to do whatever they can.
THE MBA OATH
As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognise my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.
Therefore I promise:
- I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
- I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
- I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behaviour that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
- I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
- I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
- I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
- I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
- I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.
Now technically there’s nothing really that awful about the content. Being accountable to this or that is good. And yes, we’d hope that MBA students would uphold laws and contracts.
But honestly, we’d rather hire one of the 80% that didn’t get kow-towed into signing the oath — not because they’re more likely to be greedy or ruthless — but because they feel confident enough not to attach their name to a meaningless oath that ultimately means very little. There’s something similar here to when people think they’re brave for saying “I don’t believe what you’re saying, but I’d fight to the death for your right to say it.”
It sounds all nice to the ears, but it absolutely confers nothing about the individual saying it, except that they’re prone to meaningless pablum.
The list of oath takers (and we wonder, do they, perchance, were a special ring that they take off when they’re about to do something ethically hazy?) can be found here.
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