• Today's Office: The Study of Power, and Politics

11/12/2008

The office can be an anthropologist's dream study. There, power, politics, and personal lives all mesh together in an organization, and affect the behavior of the work force. That behavior is just the kind of thing Professor Colette Dumas and her students examine in MBA 610: Organizational Behavior. The course, part of the MBA core curriculum, was developed by Dumas in order to teach her students the types of behaviors to expect in certain situations and how best to handle them. But Dumas doesn't simply lecture the students about how behaviors affect business, they play an active role in teaching themselves through classroom exercises like role-playing and by lining up their own guest speakers to bring diverse voices with real-world experience into the classroom. Choosing their own speakers, says Dumas, is a way of ensuring that her students hear from people whose jobs or leadership styles interest them—it's also a way of allowing students to network with individuals they may not otherwise get to meet.

On Oct. 29, another student group brought in former Senate President Robert Travaglini who spoke to MBA 610 about his style of leadership—a style that has gotten him calls from Ted Kennedy and Boston Mayor Tom Menino asking for advice. "[Travaglini] sought out skilled people and gave them the responsibility and freedom to live up to their potential," says Dumas. "It was with the understanding that they'd get the job done, and they'd get it right." The following week, a third student group brough in Arianne Lynch, a lobbyist in Rhode Island, who uses a highly effective networking approach that gets results for her clients. The diversity of the speakers just goes to show her students that there's more than one way

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