Written by Joanna Hughes

MBA programs are largely focused on creating the world’s future business leaders, but are they overlooking the needs of front-line workers in the process? This is the assertion of a recent Globe Magazine column penned by current MBA students. Here’s a closer look at the issue.

Are Front-Line Workers Getting the Short Shift?

After talking with a “rank-and-file” worker at a restaurant chain, three b-school students, Jeremy Avins, Megan Larcom and Jenny Weissbourd, realized the struggle she faced to survive on her paycheck. The worker’s eye-opening words? “Somewhere, decisions were made in the boardroom with no regard for us,” she told them.

Perhaps more alarmingly? The worker wasn’t alone. All over the country, front-lines employees feel the same way “largely because aspiring managers at business schools like ours are implicitly trained to ignore them,” Avins, Larcom and Weissbourd contend.

Rather than continuing to treat front-lines workers “as an expense to be tolerated instead of as an asset to be valued,” the MBA students suggest that b-schools should shift focus to supporting the “balance of power between executives and workers.”

Looking to the Past to Fix the Future

According to the article, MBA programs didn’t always disregard the plight of the worker. In fact, b-schools were once actively involved in helping to give workers a voice.

Over time, however, the sense of urgency declined and was replaced with the “rise of an ideology that places shareholder and executive voices above the rest.” Not only that, but the authors further propose that “business schools helped shape that worldview.”

While most people agree that there’s work to be done, b-schools are eager to point out that they do offer coursework covering workers’ issues, including front-line worker management. At the same time, they’re eager to extend the conversation.

Professor of work and organization studies Tom Kochan said in an email to the Globe of his plans to address management courses at a faculty retreat, “One topic is focused on what we might do to expand our online teaching, and I will report on our experiences in linking our MBAs to the workforce.”

 

 






Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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