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MBAS Aren't Taught How to Care


Many would argue that compassion is not such a high priority on the business school curriculum. They concentrate on processes and theory rather than people and feelings. I’m not so sure that this is a good thing.

Much of their learning is based around promoting selfishness and self-interest: Get out there, take no prisoners, drag your people along for the ride, but get rid of anyone who slows you up.

However, no matter what our star-studded MBAs are being taught, the role of care and compassion at work is slowly becoming the hot management topic of the 21st century.

There is an impressive amount of neurological, psychological and sociological research over the past four decades that shows the traditional model of business actually had “other-interest” rather than “self-interest” as its base. Gallup has carried out extensive research to prove that business productivity, profitability and customer loyalty are all enhanced when employees feel cared for and supported at work. There is even one of Gallup’s famous Q12 questions: “Do You have a friend at work?”

If Gallup see it as so fundamental to the success of an organization that they include it in the Q12 questionnaire, why can’t our venerable business schools spend a bit more time educating the leaders of tomorrow?

The problem is that, most current business leaders (who are often paying for their employee’s MBAs) could still see ensuring that their employees have a “friend at work” as an afterthought in the priorities of running their daily business. The effectiveness of the “compassionate manager” has not been fully proven, there is not enough concrete research for it to be categorically measured (if it ever can be), and they would rather spend their investment and time on concrete actions and concrete results.

To gather enough research in order to categorically change the mentality of current business leaders would take a long time. The issue has to be approached from the other side.

Today’s MBAs are the leaders of tomorrow. They will have a disproportionate influence on the world of business, and business culture will be driven forward by their beliefs rather than someone else’s “fluffy” research.

That is why it is so important that they should be encouraged to increasingly study the softer sides of business, as well as the more measurable ones. In tough economic times it is a knee-jerk reaction to fall back onto the tried and tested “inflexible” management theories – survival of the fittest is drummed into them. If they were taught at first-hand about the role of compassion in retaining and developing the best talent for their organizations, they may start to understand that there are also huge benefits for their precious bottom line.

MBA students supposedly have the biggest brains on the planet, and they are taught how to use them to maximum effect. If only the same were true with their hearts…