Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Yo Professor! A Model for Improving Business Students' Professional Behavior

Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Yo Professor! A Model for Improving Business Students' Professional Behavior

Article excerpt


A common concern among college faculty today is that their undergraduate students are ill mannered and rude, as well as unprepared for the rigors of college work. Examples of these behaviors range from the lack of basic etiquette practices, to the absence of a positive attitude, to the inability to communicate respectfully with professors, to the incapacity to recognize and moderate emotions. Business school professors may be particularly concerned about these deficits because of their belief that students be equipped for all aspects of their future careers-including soft skills, professionalism and emotional intelligence. Several recent studies report that soft skills, emotional intelligence, and professional behavior are more highly valued by employers when hiring new employees than knowledge of one's specific major. Professionalism, soft skills, aptitude, and emotional intelligence are vital to initial career transition and to continued career progression, perhaps even more so than knowledge acquired in academic coursework.

These deficits or gaps in a student's development have been attributed to a variety of societal issues ranging from changes in the K-12 educational system to changes in the home environment, such as, two parents working or an increase in single parent households, etc. The decrease in at home dinners where much information and instruction was once conveyed may be partly responsible as well. Whatever the reason, students are graduating from college ill prepared to enter the professional world of business.

Few colleges try to directly improve student performance in soft skills, emotional intelligence, and professionalism. This article presents a proposal for a co-curricular program that addresses business students' deficits in these critical areas.


What behaviors and skills should be the focus of a co-curricular program for business students? Several studies were found that attempted to identify the skills employers believe business school graduates should have. Rassuli et al. [2012] surveyed 50 of the top employers in their area. These employers reported that crucial skills in the area of management and marketing included the ability to work with others in teams, interact appropriately with customers, effectively manage teams, and make ethical business decisions.

Another survey by Otter in 2003, sampled 500 employers to identify desired learning outcomes of business degree programs. Respondents replied that the ability to demonstrate self-discipline, behave ethically, work with others, accept criticism, and work alone were among the most important outcomes [Hall & Berardino, 2006].

Finding similar results, Tanyel et al. [1999] surveyed both college faculty and employers to determine the importance of various skills that graduates should possess. Both the faculty and the employers ranked interpersonal skills, ethical values, and responsibility as most important.

A recent article in The Washington Post [2015] states students are not ready for the world of work. Employers find new hires are lacking in problem solving, decision making, and prioritizing tasks. A particular soft skill set may well be more important than the specific skill set. For example, Enterprise Rent-A-Car hires more entry-level college graduates each year than any other U.S. company [Selingo, 2015]. Their preferred new hire is a college athlete. Why? Athletes know how to work on teams and how to multitask. Enterprise's VP of talent acquisition, Marie Artim, said "This is a generation that has been syllabused through their lives. Decisions were made for them so we're less likely to find someone who can pull the trigger and make a decision. [Selingo, 2015, paragraph 3]."

A recent Gallup Poll reported that only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agreed with the statement that college graduates had the necessary skills and competencies to succeed in the workplace [Ebersole, 2014]. …

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