Professional Management Code: The MBA Oath

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Ethics and Responsibility > Best Practices > Professional Management Code: The MBA Oath

Professional Management Code: The MBA Oath
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Doctors and lawyers have been taking a professional oath for many years. A similar initiative (on a voluntary basis) is recently started for MBA graduates, by a group of Harvard Business School Students.
If you graduated from any business school (whether recently or years ago), you can take the following oath (short summary) on
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 create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.
Therefore I promise:
- I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
- I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
- I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
- I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
- I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
- I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
- I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
- I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.
Are you welcoming this initiative? Should it be extended to include all (senior) managers? Why (not)?

MBA Oath - an Added Value
Anthony Belon
When values are what we believe in, then the values govern how we behave. The MBA Oath is an innovation to create value for holders of MBA - sounds good and fine!!
The acid test is not in the Oath but in honest answers to the questions by those oath-takers: (i) "Who do I lead and serve?", and (ii) "Where to and for what?" - As a man thinks so he is!

Continuous Ethics and Altruism
I believe that integrity and practice of ethics and altruistic service, all the time, continuously, in all of our current and daily tasks with ourselves and with others, shall bring the world to a new and better order of things.

Ethics Oath is Meaningless Without Consequences
This oath has been around for years. The number of MBA under/graduates that are willing to sign this oath are incredibly small. Ethics and the lack of them is a major problem in all areas of business and government. The Hippocratic oath is taken in China, but it is meaningless as there are NO consequences for its breach.
Maybe there should. Maybe the consecquences of unethical behaviour in business should have dire consequences as the effect on the general public is just as serious as doctors'. Have a look at the present predicament. Much of it has been caused by unethical and illegal behaviour.

Ethics and Responsibility Depends NOT on Oath
Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane
Yes, the progress and development of any society, company and country depends on the practice of people to follow ethics and responsibility. It depends not on oath, or any signed paper, but in the cultural lessons and inner conscience of people.

Use What is Available
Keith Spicer, Management Consultant, South Africa, Member
If saying these words gives someone a nice warm feeling in the pit of the stomach, then let them find solace within. But anyone who is basically unethical, genetically or through upbringing, will gleeful mouth the words and proceed on their merry way. There are ‘partially’ scientific ways of assessing a person’s level of ethics and integrity. Until we have more reliable methods, use what is available, by force if necessary, to prevent rotten apples from growing upwards and reaching the tops of the trees.

Code of Ethics of SCCE
Paul D Giammalvo, Professor and Consultant, Indonesia, Member
While I think Codes of Ethics are a good thing, I tend to lean more towards Keith or Leigh's views.
The Code of Conduct/Code of Ethics that I like and am advocating project managers adopt is the Code of Ethics from the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics. These are the people who LITERALLY "write the books" on corporate ethics. I urge you to download this and pay special attention to Paragraph 1.4. This is the ONLY Code of Ethics/Code of Conduct I have EVER seen that expects the subscriber to actually quit his or her job if the company fails to follow her/her advice.
There is also a very nice (albeit long) discussion about this code of ethics.

Ethics & Competition in Industries
Each industry found it´s values. But in 2009 what we really understand is that stuff (service & production) must be made or provided where it can be done best and for the best price. Our industries' ethical procedure are reduced to that fact. I believe so.

Ethics Movement in South Africa
Patrick Crockett
Corruption is the scourge of South Africa - and, perhaps in many other countries as well. It has been said that for evil to prevail good people must just keep quiet. In South Africa a movement called Unashamedly Ethical has been started. I would urge any who are concerned about ethics to visit the website.

MBA Oath and Servant Leadership
Bulisa Nazo
The Oath is a good thing, only when those who take it respect, abide and live by it. The challenge that we are faced with, in the African Continent, is the answer to this simple question: What is the 'why' of my existence as a leader?
We are truly struggling with getting things done through people using the values and other codes of excellence as instruments to inspire people to create value for our companies. As for servant leadership: it seems to be resident in MBA books and materials and seldom in the hallways of corporate. However, we need to start somewhere and I guess the Oath is a good place to begin...

MBA Oath also for Non-Profit Use
Osano Kute
The Oath is perfect for government officers and there is also need for reward and consequences for or failure to abide. With very few modifications, it can fit perfectly under work ethics attached to a government structure.

MBA Oath is not the Main Issue
Benard S. Otube
The main issue is not about not taking the oath. Anybody and everybody can take the oath. But as it were, out of a man's heart comes out the issues of life. Oaths can't change a man's attitudes. It is the man to change himself and his perceptions then he can change the world around him. It's only a changed mind that can appreciate the meaning of this oath. Indeed if only leaders could realize that we are all but stewards of all that has been entrusted to us by community, we would act differently. We'd be more responsive to their needs and would take better care of their resources.

MBA Oath should be Mandatory
In present days of total self orientation and globalization, the MBA Oath is to be made mandatory for all the MBA people. One should understand that business is nothing but life. The ISB's and JNTU's should frame course contents for MBA in tune with the oath.

Management Has Nothing to Do with Ethics
The simple fact that such a thing emerges from Harvard Business proves how unscientific all this MBA and MBA alike schools are.
People do MBA "studies" just as a personal investment in order to grow on the "value scale" within the corporate and society hierarchy. That is also the unique selling proposition of these schools. Management has nothing to do with "ethics" and "ethics" as such is an empty box which everybody can fill in along his personal values and ambitions.

Mba Oath Vs. Today's Financial and Business Realities
Salvatore Decarlo
As I read the MBA Oath above MBA are held to a standard ethical standard requiring basic honesty, fairness and focus the long term greater good. Unfortunately too often in business personalized benefit and focus on the short term. This is supported when one reviews today's financial and business realities.

3 Stages in Ethical Way of Working
P Kamesh
The mere thought of an idea like the MBA oath has been projected because people felt that there is something that is happening which is not professional by MBA graduates. The feeling expressed here is that taking an oath will help in ethical working. Other professionals have taken the oath but but how many are following the oath? Here the negative side is not being looked at. The ethical way of working develops in three stages:
1. The bringing up of the child.
2. The education system that one follows
3. The work culture understood at the professional course.
The Principles of Management already teached us in 1916 to motivate, team build and assure our place in and for the organization. That is more important. Oath taking is a ceremony and it remains as such. Although an oath has always to be respected and followed in letter and spirit, it is like rules and often it is said that "rules are made to be broken".

MBA Oath Brings Long Term Profit
Prince Philip
Ethics will bring long term profit.

MBA Oath Meaningless Without Determination
Ajaegbu Uzochukwu
Many people in government offices or in places of responsibilities who take oaths breach the ethics of these oaths. MBA oath will be meaningless if those who take it do not first determine in them to hold their professional callings high and in good standing. The oath on its own would not suffice, it would amount to mere words. Deciding first to abide by a high ethical in the workplace and in serving outside the workplace is what is likely going to give credence and value to the MBA oath.

Take an Ethics Course Besides the MBA Oath
Any oath is meaningless if the person taking it has few ethics in his personal value system.
On my MBA course it was a requirement to take an ethics course. That in my view would have more value, as people with few ethics in their personal value system would be forced to face their shortcomings.

Treat Ethics as Branding
Patrick Heenan
Ethics I feel, should ultimately be synonymous with branding. In recent times, companies that state clearly on their products that materials are ethically sourced in some way and benefit the producers as well as consumers have shown strong competitive advantage. Health drink companies or similar are a good example. Treating employees fairly and operating the business along 'moral' thinking is a close second to consumers recognizing ethical behaviors. The strategy that drives this approach is to be clear in communicating this as a corporate entity; both in products and production.

Oath Taking
Olamilekan Kayode
Oath taking has no relevancy in the current macro-economic stabilities. Because of non-implementation by those in the decision-making level, either in public sector or private sector.

The Value System Determines Adherence
Pam Davou
Oath taking is something anybody can do without having any sense of responsibility. What is most important is the value system of the locality where such an oath is taken. In Nigeria for instance, public leaders take oath of office, yet they never adhere to it. Its taken as part of the rituals for taking office. In essence, the value system of the locality and the personal conviction of the individual will determine the level of compliance to the tenet of the so called oath.

Ensuring Adherence to Professional Ethics
Paul Ojambo
An oath can only be meaningful if there are stringent measures in place that can ensure that people always leave up to their promises. I think what should be done by our academic institutions is to penalize graduates who misuse the authority given to them. That way, people will work with a bit of caution.

Ethics, Code of Ethics and Behavior
Zen Benefiel
As I understand ethics, they are the behaviors we show up with in any environment and are consistent with our values. The disparity, if any, reveals the gap in our values.
I facilitate road and bridge construction partnering workshops in the US, mainly in Arizona, and one of the processes I lead is establishing a 'code of ethics' that the stakeholders create on-the-spot. Most common:
- Honest and open communication
- Honor and respect for each other
- Be good stewards of the environment, people and resources
How does that show up?
+ Value engineering
+ Project finishes ahead of schedule and under budget
+ Marvin Black Award winning project
+ A general impact on organizational culture is that people need less supervision and have better productivity.

Ethics in Business
Mehak Vaswani
An oath is a guiding factor for our code of conduct.
We all do believe in integrity, trust & doing our work with utmost honesty & sincerity. It's an initiative in the right direction.

Ethics Can Not be Taught
Ethics can not be taught, it is an inherent value which comes with the way of upbringing, otherwise all the top managers would show highly ethical acts free of scams.

Ethics Can Be Taught
Cesar Alexis Viteri Perez, Ecuador, Member
If human beings cannot learn new things and behaviors... Then mankind has not any hope.

Oath and Ethics in Business
I consider that MBA graduates have influence on society development, as other specialists have. The health of society depends on doctors, it's us that determine its welfare. The present oath will allow people to realize that they are in a condition to change the world….

Professional Ethics
Mohammad Basharat
It is a strong basis for long term trust building, whether it is in a business, profession, society, games, friendship or any kind of relationship. Without ethics, life would be terrible. Though ethical practice is essential in every aspect of life but in particular, when it is a question of human rights. It is much more important for a person to adhere to ethics who has power and authority because it is going to have an impact on a bigger society.
Professionals must have an association with professional bodies and commit to the code of ethics of those bodies. This we improve the standard of life for us as well as of all connected with us, directly or indirectly.

MBA Oath is Too Broad and Inconsistent
Radha Raj, India, Member
This MBA oath is too broad and sometimes conflicting, as interests of all stakeholders would not be the same. As director of a business school in India way back in 1999, I had motivated my students to take a one-line oath saying that when they started earning, they would support the education of at least one child from a disadvantaged community. My students learnt to give back to the society right from the outset, not when they hit the mid-life blues.

Ethics Oaths are Sound Bites or Maybe Just Being Naif
Isabel Silva Carvalho, Director, Portugal, Member
Is it truly possible to accomplish, for instance, "... Strive to create sustainable economic, social and environmental prosperity" with "I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders..."?
I don't think so, because managers, as other employees, strive in their work for an asymmetrical power relationship with employers.
This oath is built up of sound bites (Editor: ~brief statements, which due to their brevity often overshadow the broader context in which it was spoken, and can be misleading or inaccurate) which are fashionable in a time were everybody acknowledges managers unethical decisions and behaviors. But it won´t drive a second level change in decisions and behaviors based on pursuing self-interest and profit maximization. Unless society agrees these in laws that limit organizations in taking actions causing harm to the collective good.

Ethics and Mankind
Samir Desai, Manager, India, Member
@Cesar Alexis Viteri Perez: Human being has progressed, because mankind learns. There may be a sense of despair or hopelessness, but no one can doubt the innate strength of mankind to learn and better itself.
Where even the Geeta, Bible, Quran seem to be failing, how can mere oath taking can inculcate/improve the ethics in individuals.
However, isn't it a fact that today, world over there are more agitations against immorality of people in power than before, there are more social groups trying to bring in the transparency in all walks of life. I am sure, If we do not learn today, we ourselves will be teaching us a lesson tomorrow.

Ethics Oath can make a Difference
Radha Raj, India, Member
This ethics oath is good, though far reaching. Even if some managers remember, think and act accordingly, they can make a difference in their work environment. Yes, there are workplace dynamics and stresses but the truly committed person will try to rise above these. He will not wait for extraneously pressure to mend ways.

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