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The U.S. Postal Service is a Toxic Work Environment

Dr. S. Musacco - Beyond Going Postal

April 14, 2010
by Dr. S. Musacco

Dr. Steve Musacco is a Ph.D. in organizational psychology, a M.S. in Counseling, and a B.A. in psychology. He’s been licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist and completed Coachu’s coaching program. He also worked for the postal service for 30 years.

Dr. Musacco said:

Prior to my retirement from the USPS, at a former district I worked for, there were three suicides within a two year period that I concluded were contributed to in significant part by how these employees were treated in the workplace. The third employee, a city letter carrier, fatally shot himself in a postal jeep and left a letter stating that he could no longer take the job. The night before he committed suicide he told his wife he did not know if he would be able to handle his job anymore. How do I know? His wife told me this one day after his suicide. He was one of the best employees in the office. The District Manager and I interviewed his coworkers after his death, and they stated he would urinate in a bottle while on delivery route for fear he would not meet an artificial deadline set by postal management. During the interviews, one of the postal supervisors told the District Manager and me that the day before the suicide she gave a letter to all the city letter carriers in the station, noting that any future over time used for their routes would be considered unacceptable performance. The suicide at the Gastonia postal facility was the second since December 2005.

Many people have asked: Why is there so much stress and workplace tragedies in the U.S. Postal Service? The answer to these questions is because the postal culture embraces and reflects core values that center on achieving bottom-line results with little or no regard for employee participation, respect, dignity, or fairness. Additionally, there is little or no accountability for the actions of top management in the Postal Service. Many postal facilities consequently have toxic work environments, and they can be a catalyst or trigger for serious acts of workplace violence, including homicide and suicide. The associated rewards system for behavior consistent with the postal culture core values, moreover, enables systemic organizational and individual bullying of employees at all levels of the organization.

I define a toxic workplace environment as a workplace where there is a high incidence of stress-related illnesses. These stress-related illnesses are manifested by psychological and physical deterioration. In other words, these types of environments seriously erode employees’ health and well-being. The primary factors contributing to a toxic workplace environment are high job demands, low job control, and low social support. Low social support generally entails a lack of respect and validation of employees’ dignity by their “superiors”. It also oftentimes includes organizational practices and methods that encourage the bullying of employees to meet corporate goals.

Dr. Steve Musacco
Beyond Going Postal

Submitted by:
Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com

266 Responses to The U.S. Postal Service is a Toxic Work Environment

  1. Michael

    July 25, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I’m a RCA 2 months in and realized that I gave up a full-time 10hr job for a job that I thought all get more then one day a week. I quickly realized that the only way to get hours is willing to drive to a different station and do a new route everyday. What sucks is regulars hardly callout only on weekends or holidays. I won’t be a regular for 6 years that’s a joke. So I’m suppose to make this job my life but this job doesn’t pay the bills

  2. PM

    July 27, 2015 at 12:51 am

    A lot of negativity. Did all the career employees posting here forget about their 4-5 week vacations they get fronted every year that rolls over? The accrued SL that doesn’t cap out? Fers and tsp with multiple saving options with USPS matching up to 15% before tax? The 60-70k you make a year with OT while only needing a high school diploma? Dental and health coverage? EAP? Don’t like extra work? Don’t sign up on the OTDL, do your 8 hours and go home. Cca’s yes it’s hard work, that is gone over in great detail during orientation but you probably didn’t believe it. We all started at the bottom, work hard get a career position. Rural carriers, how can you complain you have evaluated routes that are rushed through everyday and go home under evaluation. Work is what you make it, if you’re a good employee no one will bother you if you are not you will get attention, that’s with any company. Don’t like it? No one is forcing you to stay, correct? Cca’s, you don’t like the pay rate? Don’t take the job.

  3. SP

    July 30, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    This is for PM. Your absolute idiot!! You must be a supervisor. I have 20 years in and am more stressed now than when I was a PTF. I have never been on the odl and am forced daily. I make more overtime than the the guys on the 12 hour list. They will not allow these guys to make more than 1 hour. We are short staffed daily. I have small kids that I have to pick up at a certain time so I basically have to run and absorb all the time or I’ll be written up. I’m an excellent employee who has saved the postal service thousands upon thousands of dollars over the years and my damn reward is more work while the lazy ass carries are left alone.

    SP – the remainder of your post was deleted to your vulgar language – PEN does not allow this type language and it will be deleted if seen. PEN

  4. CJ

    August 3, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    The amount of stress you have to face as a carrier on a day-to-day basis is a joke. The job itself is not that difficult, but management and screw up at the plant make it otherwise. I started with the postal service back in 2007 as a casual that became a TE a few months later. The pay was great (19/hr) and the office I was stationed at was small, but had nice people, including management. Fast forward to today, and it is a never ending rat race to get you to carry more and more, but with less time. My pay was cut in 2013 which leaves me in worse shape than I started. There are no real benefits, as the healthcare is far too expensive to participate in after the change I’m left with in my paycheck.

    The environment IS toxic. Other carriers are always complaining and stressed out. Management yells at us like we are kindergartners misbehaving. It’s nearly impossible to do your job correctly and still not get yelled at for something beyond your control.

    Anyone reading this, do yourselves a favor and go back to school like I did. Get your degree and leave. It’s a dead end job with no real future. #byefelicia

  5. bev back

    August 10, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    it used to be not so bad in the early days when i started the post office. i am a clerk. we used to have plenty of clerks, but as years have passed and people retire, they are not replaced. its constant go, go , go with management staring at your every move. if you go to the bathroom, you invariably hear, “where is she?!” as if youve gone awol or something. the pressure is immense, if you miss one scan, its like youve committed a felony or something! and i cant speak for all stations, but in mine, its like city carriers and clerks are against each other, one side blames the other, and i wish everyone would realize we need each other. i try to do good work and i would stay til im 65 if it were a rewarding job, but everyday i go in there, i cannot wait to get out! yes, the pay is very good, but if youre unhappy it becomes a trap. ya caNT LEAVE, THE PAY IS GOOD, SO YOU TOUGH IT OUT. YOUR FAMILY depends on you, so ya feel stuck. too old to leave and get a job paying that kind of money, but unhappy… so retire asap and advise young people to get a degree and never take a postal job

  6. Marie

    August 11, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    The post office need to become Corporate immediately…..most NOT PROFESSIONAL PEOPLE in management and would be fired immediately ….you have good employees, you keep abusing them. You cannot talk or treat employees like they’re not humans.
    @ ‘PM’…..you can have all the benefits in the world does give you the right to mistreat others, you guys are only concern about you and your clicks (other mgmt). you get your higher wage so you could care less…. I HOPE everyone (craft) gets on 8 hour restrictions so they go home to their families like they are suppose to, half of you guys (mgmt) are miserable with your personal life, so you come to work and treat employees like crap.
    And forget about trying to get ahead, you want us to treat craft employees like crap to get there…..SMDH

  7. Rick

    August 12, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I have 26 years of experience as a city letter carrier. Good pay & benefits, plus the possibility to transfer, have made this a good career choice, on paper.

    I (actually) do have a solid work ethic & have done well above the minimum required (skipping breaks, working while sick, working off the clock, being conscientious, giving good customer service). I had many jobs before the USPS where I was noted for working hard, was promoted, encouraged, and appreciated ( normal stuff in most private workplaces).
    I have never in my life seen people treated so poorly by management while being good, hard workers. It is -literally- that we can WORK HARD & FAST, skip breaks, skip lunch, work off the clock (the last three technically illegal & easily observed by management, especially with GPS) AND make or beat the computer estimate (if it is even reasonable with ALL variables input) AND THEN BE TREATED LIKE SLACKERS AND INEXPERIENCED CHILDREN AT THE END OF THE DAY AND THE VERY NEXT MORNING.

    APPRECIATE THE GOOD SUPERVISORS & WORK HARD FOR THEM. DO NOT GIVE THE 80% OF MANAGERS A REWARD, who deserve little respect, by making those extra efforts..,they will demand it without acknowledgement & still abuse you like a defective, interchangeable cog. After 26 years this is what I regret the most: naively rewarding those people at the expense of my health, & therefore also at the expense of my family. This is based on my experience with possibly 40 or 50 supervisors & postmasters in the four main towns where I have worked.

    REWARDING ABUSIVE, INCOMPETENT MANAGERS IS SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE FOOT & ALSO NEGATIVELY AFFECTING FELLOW EMPLOYEES. How I wish we all were strong enough psychologically to resist this management culture, but it is difficult for many of us.

    The great majority of supervisors are relatively uneducated & brainwashed into thinking they are doing their job to stress out employees. OR too often they enjoy it, or don’t care. I suggest looking up “sociopath” & see if I am not correct. They don’t know or don’t care about the principle of Business 101 which is to treat employees fairly & with respect & they will work better.

    And use your sick leave when you need it, in an effort to stay healthy physically & mentally. The small amount you will receive in retirement is not worth your health. 2000 hours of saved sick leave will get you about $50 per month extra in your pension. Less if you don’t work until 60 in most cases. But if you can save sick leave, do it.

    Do not allow management to corrupt your character. If you don’t have good character, that is on you.

  8. Dazed and Confused

    August 16, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    I stumbled across this site while looking for other job opportunities. I have been an RCA for 12 years now. I absolutely love my job and I’m damn good at it. In reading the posts, I see my own situation, thoughts and feelings in almost every post. The people that suggest to just “get over it…you get paid well” have no clue or havent been in long enough. Again, I love my job. I started with the post office when I was in college pursuing a nursing degree. I left college because I loved the postal work and honestly didn’t have time to do both with the hours I was working. Hindsight…..worst mistake ever. 12 years later I’m still a RCA though I have always worked full time hours. Now they are hiring many new RCAs in order to keep me from getting hours and obtaining health benefits. I would love benefits…after 12 years of employment don’t I deserve it? But this is not my main issue though I would not have stayed for 12 years only working 1-2 days a week but on call every day. After 5 years in the PO I transferred to another state. I went from a very small office to a large office. Management in the small office was bad but in the larger office was horrendous. My first 30 days in the new office, I carried 33 different routes with no training. No big deal, its my job. I got my first inkling of how bad it was going to be when I asked for a line of travel. My manager told me “you’re a seasoned carrier, don’t you know how to follow the mail?” Of course I did but I didnt know the area…all I needed to know was how to get to the first box. I soon learned of the “favorites”…The subs that never got pivots, that always got Saturdays off, the subs that always had misdeliveries or lost packages and was never reprimanded, and the subs that never got called in or answered call ins. I did what I was told with no complaints, always asked if anyone needed help before I left for the day. Was sent back out quite often to help the “favorites” because they had a party to get home to or for a pivot because they didnt show up for work. Management in my office will talk about employees personal information on the work room floor where everyone can hear. Employees are talked to on a daily basis like they are children. I was still loving going into work until about 2 years ago. We had a huge snow storm. Heading out to my route, a fellow carrier had slid in a ditch and the truck was basically sideways. I stopped to check on them and call it in. The carrier was in hysterical so I stayed until manager arrived. I was told I was delaying mail and to leave. When I was returned to office I was called to managers office. She tried to write me up. I told her that the carrier was upset and I didnt want to leave her…..her exact words were..”oh boohoo…she slid in a ditch, get over it and get the mail delivered.” Ive had some instances myself with management over the years but let it go. When I passed out in the PO parking lot going in to work….thats when I became dazed and confused literally. I was out of work for 2 weeks because of high blood pressure. Even though I was released by doctors, my manager kept me out of work for another month. She even sent me a certified letter…TO THE WRONG ADDRESS.. requesting additional medical information which she isnt entitled to. I finally went back to work but was only scheduled for 1 day a week. I actually was punished for getting sick mostly because I got sick during a busy holiday. I was literally stunned. I have worked for the post office most of my adult life…I started when I was 24…I have checked up on, assisted, and trained new RCAs off the clock, done clerk work, volunteered for extra work outside my field, have even done carrier payroll entries, and done any and everything that was asked of me. I have been told by my union rep that I am to do what management tells me and that my manager can keep me out of work if they feel the need to. WTF? I have many more instances of prejudice and mistreatment but I have spouted long enough. Thanks for being an ear.
    For those thinking of employment at the USPS…..honestly the money isn’t worth it. I’m in a situation where I am just fed up due to the treatment of management but I’m stuck. I have no other skills because I left school to work at the PO and I have young children. At the PO hard work and dedication mean nothing.

  9. Going Postal

    August 17, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Dear God no. If you’re thinking about working for the post office, DON’T. The pay is NOT worth the stress. The toxic work environment (emotional AND literal, my building hasn’t had a full cleaning in ~15 years) the staggering incompetence of management, the mismanagement of personnel, and the long stream of washouts, serial harassers (both sexual and non), drunks, junkies… You name it, it’s there.

    If you have ANY other options for employment, TAKE THEM. The PO is NOT WORTH IT.

  10. Morgan

    August 18, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    I just got hired as a CCA, on my shadow day they put me on the stations hardest route. August in Florida is no joke, I brought plenty of water, they told us about heat injuries in class. About 1/2 way through the day on this 15 mile park and loop route I get a splitting head each, my clothes are soaked with sweat, I ask if this was normal. He says yes and that a new CCA before me nearly passed out. I had heat exhaustion big time. I finish up all my training and last Saterday is my first OJI day. Same route same temperature, 98 inside the truck, 91 outside. Again I make it about 1/2 the day, headache,dizzy, nausea. OJI says that’s just the way it is. I write up a hazordous condition report, I mention that the PO was just fined $70,000 for the death of a veteran carrier. The judge said there was willful disregard to employee safety and an attitude of “heat doesn’t matter”. So what happens after I file the incident report…?
    I’m fired the next day. I worked for the USPS for 3 weeks and found the petty little uneducated managers to be complete tyrants. All employees and the union rep are scared of management. I feel bad for hard working folks who have to grind that job out for 20 plus years. USPS is a sick organization with horrible management. Thanx for firing me so soon, truly a favor. Much respect for letter carriers, that is a hard job.

  11. Hot Case Queen

    August 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    I’ve worked at the post office for 36 years, and counting. (Offer your condolences for I being in the post office so long! {The post office…What a JOKE!})
    If the post office isn’t privatized, I would ONLY recommend working at the post office TO MY WORST OF ENEMIES!

    From my years in the post office, I’ve often noticed A PLUMBER THEORY with management (and above)…….”CRAP GOES TO THE TOP”! The first post office dislikes the person (even the individual’s behavior) who they hired. So the first office PROMOTES the person to the second office…The second office promotes the individual to the third office, etc.
    One supervisor wanted out of the office I work in, for years. She decided to do extremely little work….She was then promoted to another post office!

  12. Hot Case Queen

    August 19, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    I have to add…An emotionally disturbed supervisor harassed me to no end! From the bits of information, and that this AWFUL CUSTOMER COMPLAINT ABOUT ME (which this complaint was never told to me by anyone over me, in position at my work {What happened to the constitution on I having the right to know who my accuser is?}), I have a feeling this emotionally disturbed supervisor is the person who wrote a false complaint about me! This false complaint (since there are no cameras in this small post office, and this supervisor can tell {on her computer} when my coworker is on his lunch {thus I have no witnesses}) has had an extreme impact from I working in joy, to I working in misery in the post office….36 years at the post office, and this is what I get!

  13. ptfore

    August 19, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I just want to know if a level 20 ptfs suppose to go to a ntft if so how long does it take i have been a ptf for 3 years nothing has changed. i have been using annial to get my hours.
    who do i need to contact.

  14. never again

    August 26, 2015 at 6:08 am

    I am working for the post office since 2006. I transfererred a few times from one office to the other because i was promised more hours (who can live of one day a week?). Not only diid i lose my seniority..i also lost more hours. In the end inwas working for 4 offices at the same time…learning new routes…which was very stressful. Not only you have to constantly adapt to changes to the routes…you also have to do things that the regular dont feel like doing..(leaving all sorts of boxholders for tou to deliver,,,that he or she doesnt feel like doing) So…if the route is evaluated with 8 hours…you probably will need a few hours more to get finished…not to mention the pressure you are under…so stop right here: Do the math! THAT WILL BRING YOUR HOURLY WAGE DOWN! You will also get blamed for everything wrong on the route…because you are only the SUB! Working a day aftr a holyday: Everybody that works for the postoffice knows what that means. Double work! Seriously…i havent had a good holiday in years. I have dealt with management that wasnt able to do their job since years. I have watched them coming in to our workplace in suits and with tag..walking around and forcing rules on the workers that were more that unhumane. 30 seconds to deliver a parcel to a customers door etc…sitting in the hot truck for hours without ac…. pestering the carriers about their evaluated time….not giving a damn if the carrier is struggling all day long just to correct the things that went wrong all day long. We got dps on a daily basis from the plant…upside down…misdelivered to another office…bundles of flats busted..thrown in the hampers…late mail trucks…and so on. The count is a joke too. Its so outdated! That system doesnt apply antmore! Hello management…times changed! People are getting more letters in these days…also more parcels. Where is all the mail during the count? Really? Yes…sure..by miracle it shows up after the count…..Thats really an insult on the carriers intelligence….Another thing: I am very much for customer service. But if some things should be thought out before put into action. The customer tracking his parcels are a good thing…but it also backfires on the carriers. We have people calling in in the morning asking us to look for parcels that the tracked down. That takes time out of our work schedule too…nobody thought about that! Every single minute is accounted for. Ahhhhh….working in all weather conditions…another thing. They expect you to work fast in very hot weather…(trust me…its hhhhoooottttt in the truck) …and they want you to work fast in ice and snow…( Safety first? yeah right…a joke) And heaven forbit if you fall..because you want to make evaluated time…because you are tired of them asking why you didnt make it….( they actually tried to write me up for it). i will will spare you the rest…this would be a never ending story. I am sure some of you know exactly what i was talking about…the others that like their job….more power to you….you guys are lucky…and i hope it stays that way. T all the other ones that think they want to join the team….DONT!!!. Most of you will be sorry….

  15. Bongbong

    August 27, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I have been working in this post office for 5 months. I put in a request for Saturday off to watch my children play football for the first time since I was in the military for years and have been deployed numerous times and I was never there. They approved it only for management to tell me that they can’t afford me not to come into work the afternoon before. So I gave my 2 weeks notice in 2 weeks ago. I get a call today from my fellow RCA who is also a veteran saying that management “misunderstood” my 2 weeks notice and put me on the schedule anyway. Postmaster even “threatened” me that if i didnt put my 2 weeks notice in he will give me a bad mark and that i will have a hard time finding another government job. I worked my butt off for them, came into work on my days off to help, help other carriers with their route (after I have finished my route quickly to pick my children up from school). Too much work and Sunday work for 5 weeks straight. My last supposed day is tomorrow, going to do my scheduled route and im done. Bad mark or not, I’m done. I have a new job lined up which is a government job. I feel for my fellow RCA’S and regulars whi have no other skills to back them up so they can get a better job with weekends and benefits (medical is too expensive for a part time job in the post office).

  16. Dee

    August 29, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    What a complete psychological physical nightmare I have lived at the Post Office. I’m talking to my Senator. It’s time for a change at the USPS. Accountability!

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