Indian MBA Students' Perceptions of Ethics & Society: A First Level Analysis
The objective of this study is to understand where MBA (PGP) students stand on ethical issues. The study was driven by a need to understand the students better so as to be able to design courses on business ethics and human values more effectively. In the context of an increasingly competitive environment for admission to top business schools like the IIMs, being able to keep track of the changing ethical values and beliefs of our students will also be of use in other aspects of programme design. A questionnaire to measure "Perceptions and Attitudes about Business and Society" consisting of 37 items and 17 items on "Religious and Spiritual Beliefs" was developed for this study. The questionnaire was administered to 175 first-years students and 146 second-year students of HM Bangalore. It was also administered to 51 students of a private management institution affiliated to Bangalore University. The students on the whole appear to be idealistic when confronted with general statements but put in a bind when required to make trade-offs between potentially conflicting factors. They are caught between ideals ami the world as it is. They come out as somewhat self-centered and individualistic but not in a vicious sort of way. They are clearly performance-driven and have imbibed much of the ethic of modern capitalism. IIMB students are found to fall in three clusters - one cluster willing to do "anything for performance", another "ethical but practical" and a third "aggressive moralists". Compared to other management students, IIMB students are more business-oriented, self-oriented and performance-oriented. They are also much more willing to do whatever it takes to make a business successful and less questioning of the ethicality of issues. At the same time they are more idealistic as far as bribery or ethical conduct are concerned. By the end of the first year of the MBA programme and summer training at IIMB, the students have less belief in the social responsibility of business (or just a greater faith in unbridled capitalism). They are more willing to do whatever it takes to make a business succeed, whether it be sifting through a competitor's garbage or breaking apart a competitor's product to study its working. At the same time, they see a slightly larger space for personal conscience and values than before. Women are more sensitive than men to human issues. They are less tolerant of unethical behaviour. They see a higher role for conscience and individual values. They are more particular about what is acceptable, whether it is in the realm of advertising or business intelligence. While believers in God are less willing to accept the primacy of maximising shareholder wealth over all other goals, they are at the same time less hesitant to bribe. Implications are drawn for the teaching of business ethics and further research.