MBA Pledge: What About the Other 80%?

Comedian Robert Klein has a routine where he grabs a consumer fruit drink that claims “contains 10% fruit juice,” and asks: “What about the other 90 percent?”
And the graduating class of Harvard MBAs last week had a special new code, A Promise to Be Ethical in an Era of Immorality that 20% of the graduating MBAs signed. The New York Times reported:

Nearly 20 percent of the graduating class have signed “The M.B.A. Oath,” a voluntary student-led pledge that the goal of a business manager is to “serve the greater good.” It promises that Harvard M.B.A.’s will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.

And I can’t help asking: what about the other 80%?


  • Charles Robinson says:

    @Tim – Unfortunately that’s not for dramatic effect. Thinking about every person I have worked with who has an MBA, there is not a single one I could say behaves in an overall ethical way. Maybe that’s me having unrealistic expectations or a warped world view. Maybe it’s where I live and the people who live here. Maybe it’s the kinds of companies where I find myself working. I’m willing to consider all those, as well as the possibility it has something to do with the kind of people who go into MBA programs.

    I truly don’t mean this as an attack against you. I know *of* some people who have MBA’s are are not unhinged narcissistic sociopaths. I just haven’t worked with them and don’t know them personally.

  • Audrey Wyatt says:

    Perhaps the 20% are future social entrepreneurs who will use what they learned at Harvard to transform communities by creating new systems of economic sustainability.

  • John Peden says:

    So those that didn’t sign are basically saying that they will act unethically in the future.

    I think that’s pretty disgraceful given the level of power these people are hoping to achieve.

  • Garrick Infanger says:

    When I was finishing up my MBA at Maryland I had dinner with a lawyer friend from Duke. I told him about the ethics program at Maryland that included a Q&A with a US Attorney and a trip to a minimum security prison to discuss white collar crime with the inmates. I told him I thought it was a great program and I learned a lot, but then my friend interrupted and said, “Wait, they talk about ethics in business school now?”

  • Tim Berry says:

    @Charles whoa there, don’t push. Exaggeration for effect, I hope. Tim

  • Charles Robinson says:

    I will be magnanimous and simply say that in my mere 15 years in corporate America I have yet to work with an MBA who was even the slightest bit ethical. Based on this I’m not at all surprised that 80% of MBA graduates don’t want to sign a “do no evil” pact.

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