A course in ethics is a crucial component in a business education program. Undergraduates and MBA candidates alike benefit from classroom lecture, discussion and study of right and wrong in a business context.
Of course, real world exposure to the consequences of ethically-questionable behavior is also helpful in hammering home the importance of doing the right thing on the job.
National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program recently aired a story on a trip to federal prison the University of Maryland’s business school takes its graduate students on. The day-long visit with former professionals now imprisoned on white collar crime convictions offered students the chance to see how situations can spin out of control when just a few bad decisions are made.
The interviews with the prisoners were touching and troubling. They talked of ruined lives, destroyed families and deep pain for their families and friends. It would seem, however, that most of them have learned a few valuable lessons. One also hopes that those students learned something important, too.
Most business folks are honest and work hard to achieve success. But temptation exists. Cutting corners, massaging numbers and manipulating situations and personnel are often seen as easy answers to challenging situations.
After all, the most profitable deals are often the ones that aren’t covered in a classroom. They’re also the deals likely to lead a business down the road to ruin.
Choosing wisely, and ethically, makes the most sense for individuals and businesses, and that’s a valuable lesson worth remembering every business day.