Dec 16, 2005

MBAs and ethics

Rashmi posts about ethics of MBAs specifically about the news that Vivek Prakash of Samsung India Electronics had duped his company of Rs. 18 crore (that's around US $ 4 million!).

The brouhaha is about the fact that Vivek is a graduate of one of India's premier MBA institutes, IIM Bangalore.

My view is that it's all right for B Schools and organizations to 'teach/preach' ethics but the ingrained values of ethics are inculcated by family, and reinforced by the culture of the organization and if people "walk the talk" there.

There is no way as MBAs or as Indians we can ensure corruption and unethical practices do not take place other than not participating in it and strongly denouncing it whenever it takes place. There are Indian organizations where ethics are paramount to tasks. Once an employee sees that unethical behavior is not tolerated no matter how good/bad you are at your job, the incentive to indulge in corrupt practices goes down significantly. On the other hand, there are other organizations that turn a blind eye to corrupt practices with a view that "this is the cost of doing business in this country". Unless the cultures of these organizations change to total non-tolerance of these behaviors, we would have more cases like Vivek's.

One of the toughest first jobs I had to do in my HR generalist role is to fire two people for incorrect medical bills. The protests were that "everyone does it", "it takes place in every organization", "these are good performers, can't we let them off with a warning?"

Unless an organization takes these questions by the horns, ethics will continue to be a word in corporate booklets...and an MBA from a fine institute is no guarantee of a great moral character.