In response to increasingly negative public opinion regarding business managers, a group of 25 students graduating with MBAs from Harvard Business School have created an MBA Oath, “pledging to lead professional careers marked with integrity and ethics.” The oath is intended both to guide MBA holders in their business decisions as well as to help convince the public that MBAs are “professionals, who look after the best interests of their clients, customers, employees and shareholders.”
Max Anderson, one of the team members, explained that the oath is based on a draft by Professors Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana that was published in the Harvard Business Review several months ago; the oath is voluntary, and states, in part:
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 build alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term.
The group had hoped that 10% of HBS’s graduating class would sign the oath, but were pleasantly surprised that as of June 8, 2009, more than half of the new MBAs put their names to it. Moreover, over 200 students at other big name business schools like Stanford, Oxford, and Wharton have signed it–and they Harvard group has also received a request for a Spanish translation from a business school in Colombia.
But will the MBA oath positively affect behavior? Anderson noted that “[s]ubstantial research suggests that public commitments of this kind do influence behavior, even in the absence of a ‘stick’ to punish non-conformity to the principles.” We’ll have to wait and see what happens, of course, but the further professionalization of business management certainly can’t do any more harm as the business world attempts to regain the public trust.
What do you think? Should MBA graduates take an MBA oath?