It’s not the image one might expect from the world’s No. 1 business school: the esteemed dean losing control in a meeting and resorting to argument tactics more appropriate for a playground sandbox than a world-renowned educational institution. But that’s just what one former high-ranking Stanford Graduate School of Business has described in a Wall Street Journal article published today (Oct. 2).
The story follows a series of articles published in the past three weeks by Poets&Quants which had detailed an exodus of staff from the school in response to what current and former employees describe as a hostile workplace under Dean Garth Saloner. Nearly four dozen current and former staff at the Stanford Graduate School of Business had signed a letter last year to Stanford Provost John Etchemendy, charging that Saloner had created an abusive workplace especially discriminatory toward women and older people. But until now, those claiming Saloner’s actions had forced them from the school had kept mum on the details.
Saloner last month announced he would resign from his deanship, apparently in response to in impending expose by Poets&Quants that revealed details of his affair with a professor married to another professor, and a lawsuit by the professor-husband alleging Saloner had railroaded him out of the B-school.
FORMER HIGH-RANKING STAFF SPEAK OUT AGAINST SALONER
Today, in a Wall Street Journal article, two former high-ranking GSB staff members, both women, have broken the silence around the hostile-workplace claims. Kriss Deiglmeier, in 2011, had been executive director of the school’s Center for Social Innovation for some seven years when she sat down in a meeting with Saloner and colleagues. A U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA, Deiglmeier had come to the GSB after five years as chief operating and strategy officer at Juma Ventures, a youth-development non-profit, and as a consultant for Kila Consulting for a year.
In the 2011 meeting, Deiglmeier told the WSJ, she and Saloner had disagreed over spending plans for money earmarked for the social innovation center. Deiglmeier said Saloner began “yelling and screaming” at her in front of her colleagues. Deiglmeier left the GSB in February 2014, and is now CEO of Tides, a social- and environmental-impact organization.
Joining Deiglmeier in speaking out against Saloner’s leadership was Sharon Hoffman, who told the WSJ she was one of an “exodus of women” in senior roles who suffered from a climate of “toxic leadership” under Saloner. Hoffman, a GSB MBA, had been the school’s MBA program director and an associate dean for almost 11 years, after nine years as senior associate director of MBA admissions, before she left the school in June 2012. Staffers say she was well-liked an highly admired by her peers.
“Garth absolutely forced me out,” she told the WSJ.
AN IMPOSSIBLE REASSIGNMENT ALLEGED
She suggested in the article that her exit followed her reassignment by Saloner to a role she couldn’t possibly fulfill. She said the dean had become frustrated with her over students’ response to a school crackdown on partying in 2010, although the article failed to make clear her role in addressing that problem, or the specific reasons behind Saloner’s frustration. However, she said, the dean removed her from her job directing the MBA program and its 70 staff, and put her in charge of a one-year master’s program and three employees. The new job demanded extensive travel, she said, and she had three young children, so she quit the school.
Hoffman, the WSJ reported, was one of the so-called “Group of 46,” current and former GSB staff who signed the letter to Provost Etchemendy. The letter alleged that Saloner had presided over “an increasingly disturbing pattern of inequitable treatment in the form of reprimands, censures, curtailing of responsibilities, demotions, retribution for expressing concerns or raising issues, offensive behavior and decisions that have led directly to tangible employment actions such as dismissals, undesirable reassignments, forced resignations, and inequitable access to promotion opportunities.”