WATCHING ADAMS COMMENTARY – 4/24/17
Like any ecological system, every office culture has its own species of employees. This is particularly true of organizations in a state of dysfunction or crisis; as conditions worsen, people tend to naturally fall into comfortable roles for group cohesion. Here are some of the most common species of employees at Adams State University, some with overlapping traits:
The Silently Suffering – While they seem to be quiet but content, have a beer with them after work or catch them in the parking lot at the end of a long week and they tell a different tale. They are desperate and in despair, beaten down and have given up on all the prescribed channels. They either tried everything and were discouraged at every turn, or they are rightfully afraid of coming forward for fear of retribution. This is probably the most common ASU employee.
The Professionally Trapped – This is someone who started working at ASU many years ago and would struggle to be hired elsewhere. This is particularly true of faculty. Due to ASU’s longstanding pattern of poor academic performance and the more recent violations of academic integrity as well as financial decline, nobody does well with ASU on their application or CV. Worse still, ASU has such limited professional development and teaching loads too demanding to focus on research and publishing. As a result, many have become out-of-date in their field or non-competitive in their publication record. After ASU, there may be no place else to go for a full time professor. Watch out! They are more than willing to step on anyone else in order to secure their own footing.
The Personally Trapped – Whether due to family ties in the San Luis Valley, financial debt or simply being too entrenched in their situation to leave, some ASU employees just don’t see enough practical value in working elsewhere. Given how rural the region is, there are few other higher education teaching opportunities. With slim employment alternatives readily available, they may stay and tolerate a great deal of stress and anxiety at ASU. They are just thankful to have a paycheck, at least for now…
The Superior Suck-Up – This person is both smart enough to figure out the culture of administrative authoritarianism and also willing to sell their moral compass in exchange for a raise and a shred of power. In order to advance into a senior position (without “resigning” within a year), many employees have determined that sucking up to their superiors is an effective means to job security and financial benefits. They may once have had a principled outlook on their careers, but they realized ASU’s McClure administration has cultivated a workplace of repression and tightly-controlled spheres of influence.
The Covert Crusader – Some ASU employees are quietly attempting to improve the university. The most skilled and perceptive of the group, these employees have realized there are sometimes hidden back channels to fix problems without attracting administrative ire. Either they are so stealthy or simply ignored as a non-threat, these are the people who may be recognized someday for their critical eye but are currently an underground network only. This website is populated by many of them!
The Overt Crusader – Every so often, an ASU employee gets this crazy idea in their head that making public proclamations of their distaste for ASU’s administration would be effective. Though such naive and well-meaning efforts may have worked in a functional and openly-communicative institution, this is an act approaching career suicide at ASU. That is because as an organization, ASU vilifies its critics and is too deeply insecure to genuinely embrace new ideas from outside the administration.
The Narcissist in Chief – ASU’s top position and potentially several others belong to the most superficial, insecure, and image-obsessed employees. At first placing an emphasis on forming shallow friendships to cover for ineptitude, they make extreme demands for loyalty and conspiratorial thinking. From hanging mirrors casting spells on their enemies to inventing watch lists that don’t exist, narcissists require constant validation and view any criticism as an attack that must be cast aside. Reality is negotiable to them and controlling perceptions is paramount.
The Government Goon – While not true leaders or suck-ups, these are the ASU employees who serve as shock troops for the administration. They are willing to exert whatever authority they have, exceed it, and bully people into subservience until they comply or leave. Whether banal or confrontational, they tend to be kept around in middle management positions to keep the subordinates in line. They aren’t likely to budge despite bad behavior because the administration installed them into these positions in the first place.
The Career Ladder – They have no interest in staying at ASU but you won’t find out about this until they accept a job at a more prestigious institution (doubtless at higher pay) and skip town for good a few weeks later. Don’t expect them to look back because most of them are quite happy to put ASU in their rear view mirror. For them, ASU was a charitable contribution they made to higher education because they believe in serving rural areas and disadvantaged populations. They are mostly high-minded but understandably commitment-adverse to the institution. To put it another way: they just aren’t that into you, ASU.
The Lifer – At work come rain or shine, they aren’t very invested in ASU and just put in enough effort to collect a paycheck. Unless they fall below the prescribed production of educational widgets, the administration is happy to keep them in their inconspicuous 9-5 routines. They intend to stay at ASU regardless of how long the school stays at the bottom of national rankings and with mounting structural problems. They will follow orders – even if they put ASU on academic probation or violate academic integrity. They often hold a doctorate in apathy with an undergraduate degree in risk-aversion. They try to avoid “office politics” at all costs and implicitly assume others will do the heavy-lifting of improving the university.
The Pathological Optimist – Another administration favorite, the pathological optimist is a true believer in the Cult of Adams State. They are either totally unaware of ASU’s culture of intimidation or willful ignorant of it. Likely because they are being coddled in the privileges of administrative grace, they are eager to sing ASU’s praises as paid propagandists. Other times, they are simply uncritical of administrative power in general and see their best contribution as gleeful subservience. Go Grizzlies!
The Hope-For-The Best – A more jaded and weathered ASU employee, they recognize the severity of the problems the institution faces but are cautiously hopeful things can be turned around. They may meander between several other groups, but have a good-natured personality and find themselves hoping for the best. They are conflict-averse but will quietly support the efforts of others to make change possible. They may not publicly support reforms but recognize they are needed. What else can they do in the Valley of Fear?
The Corporate Education Profiteer – Generally amoral and without a strong opinion about how ASU is or should be run, these employees signed up to make major dollars. They generally figure out how to double-dip as administrators and online instructors, overload online instruction whenever possible, gloss over their duties while taking on more of them, and cultivating fee-for-service relationships with administration to pad their salary without raising any alarms. Whether ASU succeeds or fails, they will be laughing all the way to the bank.
READER QUESTION: If you currently or previously worked at Adams State, which of these best describe you? If there are species of ASU employee our field guide missed, please leave a comment to let us know!