How to Get Ahead: Lie and Cheat?
post # 197 — September 22, 2006 — a Careers post
Steve Shu brought my attention to a fascinating article reporting on a study of 5,000 MBA students from 11 graduate business schools in Canada and 21 schools in the U.S.
The study is entitled â€œAcademic Dishonesty in Graduate Business Programs: The Prevalence, Causes, and Proposed Actionsâ€. It was conducted by management professors at Rutgers, Washington State and Pennsylvania State universities, and will appear in the next issue of the Academy of Management Learning & Education journal.
The study found that 56 per cent of graduate business students admitted to cheating in the last year, compared with 47 per cent of non-business students.
Jim Fisher, vice-dean of MBA programs at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said he wasn’t surprised by the results, since MBA students are highly competitive and have a high need for achievement.
To dampen the impulse to cheat, students at Rotman must sign a form every time they submit course work for grading to ensure they comply with academic honesty policies. When MBA students work in teams, they also must sign forms stating that they didn’t cheat, nor did their teammates.
“Those numbers are probably under-reported,” said Donald McCabe, lead researcher on the study and business strategy professor at
Rutgers. Since the survey was voluntary, more dishonest students were less likely to fill out the survey, and those who did complete it may have under-reported how much they cheated, McCabe said.
The study suggested that MBA students were more likely to cheat than others because they were focused on “getting the job done, versus how they got it done. They will suggest, in the business world the emphasis is on getting the job done at any cost.”
â€œThere is also employer pressure to get high marks,” Larry Wynant of the University of western Ontario said. “The past few years there has been tremendous pressure to get jobs, because the employment outlook has not been as rosy (for MBA graduates) as in the past.”
I read this at the same time that that the â€œ20-somethingâ€ daughter of some good friends was telling us about her new job as a personal assistant in the world of public relations. She pointed out, with great discomfort, that it was not unusual for her boss to say â€œI worked on the XYZ account for 4 hours but bill them for 20.â€ Thereâ€™s even a word for this form of lying in PR firms, accounting firms, consulting firms and law firms: â€œvalue billing.â€
I have no problem billing a client BY AGREEMENT on what a project was worth, but the casual acceptance of lies astonishes me.
We have crossed over into dangerous territory. When there is the normal expectation that most other people will cheat (given the opportunity) things WILL rapidly descend into the expectation that everyone will. We then have a distrustful, society based on the expectation of corruption — and everyone becomes super-defensive.
I wonâ€™t say I have never, ever sinned, especially when I was young and stupid. But what kept me on the true path was the overwhelming sense of guilt and the consequent vow that I would never lapse again. It is one thing to succumb to temptation. It is another to give up oneâ€™s very belief in principles and pass that cynicism and skepticism on to those around us and to those who report to us.
What happens if, in school and in the first job, we raise a generation of people who think lying, cheating and stealing are the ways you get ahead?
Carl Singer said:
The key concern is that they will bring this same level of integrity with them into the workplace. …. and that some of us might tolerate it.
Bullfeathers — re: job competition / high grades. The would-be teacher, scientist, lawyer or artist also is a job seeker in a competitive marketplace.
It’s a pleasure to work with “straight shooters” — and profitable too. Life’s too short — working with devious people just isn’t worth is.
Interesting that when there’s a cheating scandal at a military academy it’s front page news — at a B-school it hardly worth a yawn. I believe this, unfortunately, reflects society’s expectations.
I will not lie, cheat or steal — or tolerate those who do. Sound familiar?
posted on September 22, 2006