MBAs despondent

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The Independent Online
THE continuing struggle against recession has left managers depressed and disillusioned, according to a survey by a leading business school.

A small group of optimists believes that Britain has a brief chance to prosper while Europe, Japan and the United States struggle with the economic downturn. But the general view of the Warwick Business School MBAs questioned is that instead of the heady days of the late 1980s there is 'an unsettling no man's land' in which businesses are waiting for something to happen. Half of them fear redundancy in the next year.

The study of the views of the Warwick alumni association was conducted as background for a pre-Budget seminar, 'The Outlook for Britain's Economy and Investment', to be held in London tomorrow. The speakers are: Colin Mayer, Professor of Economics and Finance at Warwick; Edward Denham, corporate planning director at British Steel; Peter Davies, BP's chief economist; and David Miles, economic adviser to the Bank of England.

The recession has clearly left a bitter taste for many. Although 15 per cent agree with the popular perception that hard times have sorted out the lame ducks, considerably more believe it has forced sound companies into liquidation and led to too much emphasis by managers on short-term survival.

'Most of the lame ducks went in the last recession. This one has hacked at the core capabilities of British manufacturing,' one respondent said.

The depth of the disillusionment is best demonstrated by the finding that 24 per cent of respondents are considering working overseas in the next two years, most for ever rather than on short-term projects.

Although they acknowledge the world recession, the usual reason for leaving is to improve quality of life. Only a tenth cite pay as the most important reason, contrary to the widely held view that MBAs are primarily motivated by high salaries.

However, the survey found that MBA salaries have held up better than expected, with nearly half receiving an increase of at least 5 per cent in the past year and a fifth more than 10 per cent; 22 per cent received no rise at all.

The general picture of despondency is completed by attitudes towards the Government. One manager said: 'One is tempted to say that anyone could do better than this lot, but I'm not sure.'