Recently, I suggested that MBA programs might want to develop a “no asshole rule.” In response, one Associate Dean at a major university created a blog post asking his readers if their MBA programs needed a “no asshole rule.” While there may be a need for such a rule, not all MBA programs will establish one. Without a “no asshole rule,” the burden of managing behavior shifts to individual MBA students and a good starting point is one’s own behavior. The key is to make sure others do not perceive you as an MBA asshole.
Your Behavior as Viewed by Others
Defining the “no asshole rule” in terms of how ones behavior affects others is important. This means that whether or not you think you are an MBA asshole is less important than what others think. While certain behaviors may not make you a certified MBA asshole, some behaviors can cause others to think you are or at least refer to you as one. Why is this important? “Hundreds of studies by psychologists show that nearly all human beings travel through life with distorted, and often inflated, beliefs about how they treat, affect, and are seen by others.” (Sutton p 109-110) Thus, it is easier for MBA students to see how others in their class are affecting them than it is for them to see how they are affecting others in their class.
Over the years, I have had MBA students tell me that one of their classmates is an asshole. The question I would often ask, “What makes you say that?” They would immediately list three or four things that when taken individually are in most cases not significant. However, taken together it is perhaps understandable why they could refer to a classmate this way.
Here are some of the things that may cause others to change their perception of you:
- You Arrive Late – a late arrival is disruptive and signals that the class/program may not be a priority
- You Miss Meetings/Classes – missing meetings/classes without letting anyone know you will not be attending may be interpreted as showing a lack of respect for the other attendees
- You Complain About Workload – complaining about workload can indicate that you think you are the only one that is trying to balance work life, family, and the MBA program commitments
- You Discount Comments of Others – discounting the comments of others during class could mean a lack of respect for the opinions of others
- You Respond Arrogantly – responding to instructor questions with an air of inflated self-worth can suggest to others that you think you have superior intellect
- You Do Not Follow Through – failing to fulfill commitments to team members can indicate a lack of respect for the team’s work or an unwillingness to be a team member
- You Create Sidebar Conversations – constantly engaging in sidebar conversations during class suggests that what you have to say is more important than what is going on in class
- You Do Not Participant – not participating in after class social activities may indicate to others that outside of class they do not matter
- You Answer Calls – leaving class to engage in phone conversations can be interpreted that you have more important things to do than attend class
- You Criticize – constantly pointing out the shortcomings of instructors, the classes, and the program can suggest to others that you are a complainer
Remember, it may not be any one thing that shapes the impression others have of you. More than likely it is several things you have done over time. The duration of most MBA programs provides peers the opportunity to observe your behavior and develop an accurate view of who you are and how you behave. While my observations are anecdotal, they may be a useful starting point for you to reflect on to see if any of your behaviors are influencing how others see you.
Are there other behaviors you want to add? Please add them as a comment.