It’s a strange life, at times, for many Partners at HBS. Many change jobs in mid-career to come to a new city; all are up-rooted from friends and family and their “former-life”. While it’s true that some Partners find their time at HBS as enriching as it is for the students, others will depart with the graduating class of 2003, with bitter memories.
This view is supported by data collected in an on-line survey of nearly 200 HBS Partners during the last week of April this semester. The survey was conducted by David Morris (EC Partner), with input on question format and design from 7 other Partners.
Morris said, “We wanted to find out the true nature of what it’s like to be a Partner here at HBS, and also to collect data on demographics, work issues, attitudes and experiences. I believe that the data is the most comprehensive ever collected because no-one in the Administration knows who the Partners are, or how many of them there are.”
The good news is that when asked if they felt “…welcomed and integrated as part of the HBS Community,” 60% agreed or strongly agreed. However, 45% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, that; “On occasion, some HBS students have treated me rudely or without respect, because I am a spouse/partner and not an HBS Student.”
Morris continues, ” The real nature and extent of the issue is only fully revealed in the text responses to the question: ‘What have been the 3 best/worst things about your experiences as a spouse/partner at HBS?’ Some of the responses are shocking.”
Examples of these responses are:
1. “Students treat spouses as if they are not part of the ‘in crowd.’ Students see spouses as lacking the intelligence needed to carry on a conversation. Spouses are often ignored in social situations.”
2. “Treatment by my husbands classmates (female in particular). Walking into a party and feeling invisible. Feeling “alone” in my apartment while my husband responds to e-mail after e-mail after e-mail from his classmates.”
3. “Orientation. A pretty horrid experience for partners as all the new students are busy networking themselves to death.”
4. “Not being acknowledged or recognized by my wife’s classmates. Lack of courtesy on campus, no responses to hellos, no thank you’s for holding doors, etc.”
These comments appeared in some cases from respondents who had also indicated having had positive experiences such as:
1. Meeting great people. Sharing a wonderful opportunity with my husband. Lots of fun social opportunities.
2. Experiencing Boston and US with my Partner. Meeting like-minded people. The beach.
3. Watching my partner develop and learn. Developing new ideas with my partner. Making new friends.
4. I met new friends. I am learning English. I am learning the US culture.
If some students think that the partners’ sacrifice is rewarded by the opportunity to give up working because of the post-MBA salary potential, the data presents that 70% of partners would “…continue in my chosen career path.”
It’s really not the kind of image that HBS needs as the Class of 2003 disperses around the world. For the graduating class members, in these days of teaching moral leadership at the corporate level, remember the importance of the basics. Remember manners and consideration for others and remember that many partners made significant sacrifices to support your classmates.
Likewise next semesters EC Students would be well advised that when you see that spouse/partner with whom you haven’t previously spoken, at the party, or in Grafton Street, go and say, “Hi” and invite them to your next dinner party or golf outing. It’s just what leaders do.