18 May 2015 14:44 IST

How to save MBAs from themselves?

Kinds of behaviours B-school graduates should steer clear of

Business education in India has caught up big time. There are varying data points showing that anything between 4,000 and 4,500 business schools are granting MBA degrees. However, the quality of the management education imparted in many of the B-Schools is an altogether another issue that needs to be debated.

From functional specialisation in the past, where MBAs specialised in Marketing, Operations, Human Resources & Finance, today, MBA programmes have become more and more industry-oriented, such as those offered in retail, healthcare, banking, energy, and infrastructure. This is a welcome development for industry as more and more qualified managers are shaping the agenda and building the business.

However, we also increasingly notice that a significant number of B-school graduates are not able to live up to this challenge, both at a personal and an organisational level. It is easier to deflect the reasons towards how organisations utilise and groom them. While that is for the organizations and the HR leaders hiring the MBAs to pay attention to, in this article, I will focus on the reasons that are preventing such B-school graduates from effectively participating in the organisation and building the business. Some of these are listed below, along with ways to overcome them:

Overpromising and under-delivering: Many rookie managers are keen to prove that they are equipped with supernatural powers and that they can achieve a lot in short time. Small wins are very significant for sure, but in their anxiety to prove that they are extra-smart, they shoot themselves in the foot and take on more than they can chew. They should instead look at executing a few projects well and demonstrate their capacity.

Contempt for the long-serving non-managers in the system: Inadvertently or otherwise, many rookie managers tend to behave indifferently or insultingly towards the non-managerial staff in their departments. At the end of the day, it is these experienced staff that have to teach these managers the tricks of the trade and help them sow seeds of their success. Senior managers who hire rookies seldom have the time to handhold and help. Ignoring long-serving, non-managers or insulting them because they are not managers is a sure-fire strategy for disaster. Instead, establishing healthy friendships and relations with these very talented staff would prove more rewarding for rookies. .

Being and behaving over smart: A tad different from over promising and disappointing, this has got more to do with behaving as if they are the smartest people around, by flaunting their language or analytical skills and trying to prove to the colleagues around that they are “specially gifted.” Instead of winning admiration, this gets them into isolation.

Colleagues choose to cold-shoulder them and sometimes even laugh at them for their flaunting behaviour. More often than not, the management grads may not even be conscious about this attitude and may tend to mistakenly exhibit their enthusiasm and energy in this manner. It pays to be modest and extra humble.

Getting to play a bit of politics: Politics is part of any organisational setup. However, young managers will do well to stay completely out of it. It is like playing with fire. Politics may take many different forms in the life of a rookie manager. Some of the forms which may appear as normal but in reality lethal are: Trying to get into what they believe as more powerful camp in the company, playing one-upmanship with fellow colleagues, cracking jokes on bosses, criticizing company culture and practices in public and the like. Management grads are better off focusing on a clear learning agenda instead and keep away from anyone conning them into these games.

Prying too much colleagues’ personal information: Inquisitiveness about other colleagues and their personal information can hurt a lot. Many rookie managers have hurt their career by going into the social media details of colleagues and talking about these in their office corridors. Privacy is still the norm in corporate culture and particularly when you are not yet part of the ‘main’ system. It is better to stay away from prying into personal details and showing a pronounced curiosity and beating one’s chest about how much you know about your colleagues.

Offering opinions where silence is golden: Organisations immensely value the fresh point of view from young grads from b-schools. However, knowing when to share and when not to share opinions is part of the maturing process in the initial several months. For example, when employees discuss the promotion policy and criticize it, over-enthusiastic rookies tend to add their “two cents” often unwarranted and unsolicited.

On policy matters and other sensitive issues, unless specifically asked, silence is the best policy.

Indiscriminately sharing experiences on the social networks: It is not uncommon to come across situations where you feel compelled to share everything you experience in the social media. It is one thing to share what you experience in a movie theatre or customer service centre or even in a restaurant. It is completely different to comment on the organisation or its policies and programmes or comment on managers and such other sensitive matters. Vent alright, but discretion is key.

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