Jim, a 40-year-old EMBA student pays for his cup of coffee at the drive-through window. On his way to his first EMBA class of the second semester, he is dreading the experience. More and more he regrets his decision to enroll in the EMBA program.
He reflects on his decision. This program was his top choice, his family was supportive of his starting the program, and his employer agreed to pay the program’s cost. In addition, his boss, a graduate of this program, wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for him to include in his application. Finally, he recalls the excitement and relief when the program’s administrators sent him his early-acceptance letter.
While driving away, he asks himself, “Why the second thoughts? Why now?” His mind races through his first semester experience. Is it the other students, most of whom do not live up to the expectations set by the EMBA program’s recruiter? Many of them lack maturity, intellectual curiosity, a commitment to the program, and quality leadership experience. Is it the teaching faculty, most of whom do not have any real-world work experience? They lecture but never discuss topics relevant to work or the real world. Is it the study group? They never agree on anything, seldom do they all attend a group meeting, and there is always at least one group member who never completes the work they are assigned.
Driving into the parking lot, Jim concludes that he really does dislike his EMBA program. More importantly, he thinks his dislike may be affecting his work, his home life, and his attitude toward his classmates, faculty, and study group. Walking across the parking lot, he asks himself one more question, “What should I do?”
Exactly what should Jim do?
Most MBA students do not find themselves unhappy with their MBA program. However, many do find that, during their pursuit of an MBA, they develop an attitude or feeling of disapproval of certain aspects of the program and they find little pleasure from their participation in the program. In the short term, such attitudes or feelings can adversely affect a student’s learning, while, in the long term, they can affect student and alumni advocacy for the program.
In Jim’s case, he dislikes the program. In other cases, students simply do not like certain aspects of their program. Fortunately, there are things that Jim and other students can do to address the less than positive attitude and feelings they have toward their MBA/EMBA program. Suggested activities include:
1. Acknowledge – Acknowledging your dislike can provide a stimulus for taking action; and without action, nothing is likely to change.
2. Identify Perceived Causes – Program dissatisfaction is usually associated with multiple causes, such as increased workload at work, team dynamics, or family dynamics. Identifying the causes that have an immediate and strong effect provides a starting point for mitigation of any one cause and this action can then lead to a reduction in MBA program dislike or dissatisfaction.
3. Establish Priorities and Plan – Order the causes according to their importance or urgency and also the extent to which resolution is possible within the near term. Then, develop a path forward for the cause having the greatest impact.
4. Take Advantage of the Situation – View the circumstances as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership or to learn.
5. Provide Feedback – When provided properly and given the right situation, feedback can bring about change. More importantly, it is difficult for faculty members and program administrators to resolve issues if they are not aware that these issues exist.
6. Compartmentalize –When ignored, MBA program dissatisfaction can affect work, home life, and the attitude one has toward classmates, faculty, and study group members. Making a conscious effort to keep MBA program issues from affecting work and home life is one option for handling the spillover effect in the short-term.
7. Seek Peer Input – While the causes may appear unique, others in the class are likely experiencing similar issues. Talk with classmates to see what concerns they are dealing with and how they are addressing them.
8. Have Conversations – More than likely, family members, co-workers, and bosses know something is going on. Engage them so that they become part of the solution. The following MyeEMBA articles may be helpful: MBA Students Need to Meet with Their Family Members, MBA Work-Life Balance: Meet with My Boss and Manage Co-Worker/Direct Report Expectations During Your MBA.
9. Resist Changing MBA Programs – While the sources of discontent may relate to a particular MBA/EMBA program, there is no guarantee that switching to another program will resolve the issues.
10. Fight the Urge to Withdraw – While abandoning your studies may be an easy, short-term solution, there is a high probability that doing so will adversely affect your future career advancement.
11. Keep a Learning Perspective – MBA program participation is about learning. While the teaching faculty, the curriculum, classmates, and other program attributes may not meet your expectations, there is always an opportunity to take ownership of a concept and apply it outside of the classroom. In other words, create your own learning opportunity.
12. Do Something – Avoiding action is not an option. Toughing it out by oneself may sound good, but unfortunately, in extreme cases, the cost of doing so can mean job loss, divorce, or course failure.
Being dissatisfied with your MBA program is not an out-of-the-ordinary condition. My twelve suggestions are but a starting point for discussion. Perhaps you have better suggestions. Please add them as a comment so others can benefit.
Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP