Sunday, July 29, 2007

August Holiday: Open Forum

Its almost August when everybody in Paris, New York and the Valley goes on vacation. Flagstiffed is posting this open forum for you to post your news and views. This is a moderated forum (like all the others) so when you post your message it won't appear until I've approved it.

Stay cool/kewl!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mental Health Watch: Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Good Mental Health
Dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Flagstiffed provides this feature as a public service to help employees deal with a difficult personality type.

The general description of the personality disorder comes from AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc.

We consulted with a professional who has extensive clinical experience in both individual and group psychotherapy settings to offer a commentary that is written in blue italics.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Like most personality disorders, there are many factors that may contribute to the development of symptoms. Because the symptoms are long lasting, the idea that symptoms begin to emerge in childhood or at least adolescence is well accepted. The negative consequences of such symptoms, however, may not show themselves until adulthood.

(Conventional psychotherapeutic models of the narcissistic personality tend to attribute it to a psychic wound inflicted in childhood. For example, an abusive father may produce the disorder in his son for whom the narcissism becomes a form of protection against the father’s emotional assaults. Narcissistic disordered patients are often ACOA [adult children of an alcoholic parent] whose narcissism was developed as a protective shell. Narcissistic adults frequently seek out other narcissistic adults as their mates and partners since they both view the world as a dangerous place filled with people who are out to get them.)

The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:
1. Revolve around a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and sense of entitlement. (The narcissistic patient frequently surrounds himself with people who flatter or praise him and rebuffs those who criticize or disagree with him.)

2. Often individuals feel overly important and will exaggerate achievements and will accept, and often demand, praise and admiration despite worthy achievements. (The narcissistic patient often displays emblems of success and admiration, no matter how trivial or insignificant, such as awards, certificates, and prizes, or brags about supposed accomplishments, which are often exaggerated or are actually the product of others’ labor.)

3. They may be overwhelmed with fantasies involving unlimited success, power, love, or beauty and feel that they can only be understood by others who are, like them, superior in some aspect of life. (The narcissistic patient blames others for problems for which he is responsible and is unable to accept responsibility for mistakes or to apologize for harm he has caused.)

4. There is a sense of entitlement, of being more deserving than others based solely on their superiority. (In a curious twist, this sense of superiority can be masked by a false pose of humility while simultaneously existing as a symptom of a fundamental insecurity.)

5. These symptoms, however, are a result of an underlying sense of inferiority and are often seen as overcompensation. (Underlying all of the narcissistic patient’s bragging and displays of supposed accomplishments are a deep, abiding, and intractable insecurity, sense of shame, and fear of being exposed to ridicule.)

6. Because of this, they are often envious and even angry of others who have more, receive more respect or attention, or otherwise steal away the spotlight. (The narcissistic personality can become very paranoid, questioning the loyalty and motives of those around them. They also tend to “infect” their associates with the same paranoia and sense of emergency or urgency in stressful circumstances.)

Treatment for this disorder is very rarely sought. There is a limited amount of insight into the symptoms, and the negative consequences are often blamed on society. In this sense, treatment options are limited. Some research has found long term insight oriented therapy to be effective, but getting the individual to commit to this treatment is a major obstacle.

(The narcissistic patient abhors situations where he appears to have made a mistake, blames others for his personal problems or for problems that he has caused, feels himself to be the object of undue scrutiny, and in some instances exhibits a paranoia in which he imagines others are out to get him. He is unable to acknowledge the extent to which he is the cause of his own problems or the extent to which he causes pain and suffering in others. Therefore, when his disorder causes others distress, he is unlikely to acknowledge the pain and suffering that he has inflicted on others, much less to apologize, to remedy, or to change. Seeking treatment requires an individual who has some degree of self-awareness, empathy, and ego strength, which the narcissistic personality typically lacks.)

Prognosis is limited and based mainly on the individual's ability to recognize their underlying inferiority and decreased sense of self worth. With insight and long term therapy, the symptoms can be reduced in both number and intensity.

(Narcissistic personality types can be very dangerous to those associated with them. When asked how one should deal with a narcissistic personality, the clinician’s best answer is, With as much distance as possible!)

Copyright © 1999-2003, AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Anatomy of a Deficit (Part Four)

Swing a Cat, Hit a VP

Employees who read Flagstiffed have reported concerns about the number of administrators that the college has and as we have reported in a previous article they are expensive. So we asked one of our readers to look into the matter to make sure that we report the facts. Here is that reader’s report:

The most expensive part of the college’s budget is personnel services, including salaries and benefits. However, as college enrollments and income have increased, you would think that the college would invest in more full time faculty. But you’d be wrong.

For several years we have noticed a disturbing phenomenon. Enrollments at the college have increased over the past decade, but the number of full time faculty has remained about the same. The number of administrators has increased over the past decade, but the number of full time faculty has remained about the same. If enrollments are increasing, wouldn’t it make sense that the numbers of full time faculty would also increase proportionately?

Let’s do the numbers. We’re going to use FTES (full time equivalent students) because that’s what the college’s appropriations are calculated on.

3,745 FTE students
23 college administrators
0 vice presidents
0 associate vice presidents
About 100 faculty

4,879 FTE Students
29 college administrators
0 vice presidents
0 associate vice presidents
About 100 faculty

5,201 FTE Students
39 college administrators
8 vice presidents, a provost, and a special assistant to the president (a cabinet post)
5 associate vice presidents
About 100 faculty

So in ten years, enrollment at the college has increased about 39%, the number of administrators has increased about 70%, and the number of full time faculty has remained about the same.

Let’s compare those executive numbers with a nearby neighboring college. In 2005-2006, they enrolled 15,613 FTE students (three times more students than our college). So how many executives do they employ? They have a provost for each campus (four provosts) and five vice presidents, a total of nine cabinet executives. If they used our ratios they would have a cabinet of about 24 executives!

Does it make sense that increased enrollment during a decade requires only the same number of full time faculty but a vastly larger number of administrators? How does the college afford those executive and sub-executive salaries, not to mention administrative support staff (clerical workers) for each? How can the college justify increasing administrators while full time faculty numbers remain almost constant?

The secret behind this increase lies in the fact that most administrators at the college are just passing through town. The college is a stepping stone on their way to bigger and better executive positions. And one of the ways to pad your resume before you move on out and up is to increase the number of “direct reports” under you on the organizational chart. Faculty and staff who have served on the myriad of executive and sub-executive search committees this past year have reported that statements about the “direct reports” who worked for applicants figured prominently in applicant’s job application letters and resumes as well as in interviews.

Increasing the number of executives in the cabinet and increasing the number of associate vice presidents, deans and directors reporting to vice presidents does not serve a growing student body. The increase only serves executive incumbents when they seek advancement by moving to other colleges. In some circles it is known as “featherbedding” or feathering your own nest. Here at this college it should be known as “ka-ching!”

What’s the cost? Based on data from the VCCS, vice presidential salaries at college our size can range from $94,000 to $125,000; provosts, $96,000 to $128,000 (both VP and provost salaries are based in part on FTES); and associate vice presidents, $56,000 to $105,000. Tack on 50% more for each to include the cost of their benefits. Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

And you wonder why there’s a budget deficit?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Anatomy of a Deficit (Part Three)

Business Econ 101

{This is the third in a series on the college's financial difficulties. Flagstiffed has relied on reports from people with knowledge of the situation. Some sources have confirmed other sources but Flagstiffed has not asked the college's administration for comment.}

At a town hall meeting for employees, later in an email to employees, and after that in an article in a local newspaper, the president’s story about the college’s deficit kept changing. One version of events provided by the president (the deficit is the product of the college’s success with growing enrollments) can be easily discounted with a simply lesson in business economics, which has been provided for us by a business economist whose analysis was sent to us by one of our readers:

Putting an additional student into an empty desk for a single 3 credit course adds more than $225 to the college’s revenues. Yet, the marginal cost associated with that additional student is relatively insignificant---unless there are no empty seats to be had. However, that's not the case at the college. Very few classes are full (i.e., without a single empty desk in the room). So, in the vast majority of cases, adding another student to a class will generate a fair amount of revenue without incurring any significant additional costs.

Can you imagine a CEO in the business world telling shareholders that a firm's financial problems stem from having too many paying customers? Who would accept such nonsense at face value? Yet, that's exactly what the college’s president has done. If an organization's marginal revenue greatly exceeds its marginal cost at its current level of output, is it likely that it would lose money by expanding output a bit more? Given this scenario, shouldn't we suspect waste or fraud---or, at least, managerial incompetence---if an organization DID lose money under these circumstances?

We don't really know how much of a student's tuition the college gets to keep. But, given the minimal marginal cost of adding a single student to a particular class (i.e., providing a syllabus, a Class Schedule booklet, a student email address, and some "employee" time processing the registration and payment), it's a certainty that the college should be coming out ahead. A brand new student who goes through placement testing and counseling would be more expensive; but most of them end up with full loads, so they'd each generate $900+ in revenue their first semester.

What readers should find amazing is that in Fall, 2002 (less than five years ago), the college was charging $40.46 per credit hour for tuition. And they didn't seem to be going broke. They’ve raised tuition more than 79% since then (to $72.50 per credit hour)---and now they can't make ends meet! Where is all that "extra" money going?

If an organization has plenty of customers but still gets into financial difficulty, mismanagement is the likely cause. Fifty-three of the lowest-paid college employees had their hours cut with virtually no advanced warning. Some of them live paycheck-to-paycheck. Now we learn that summertime adjunct faculty will not get paid until July 1. Could you make ends meet if your take-home pay was cut in half tomorrow or you paycheck delayed by half a month? Administrators will never know. And there are many administrators at the college.

Next time: Swing a Cat, Hit a VP