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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

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

  1. kenneth l. smith

    January 11, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    I was recently fired from USPS on my 85th day which was 10 days before Christmas. I had 2 days off during those 85 days then was fired for being to slow, I was evaluated on driving the LLV , But I drove the 2 Ton truck 95% of the time I was there, I feel very bad about the way I was treated and to top it all off I’m a disabled Vet I made $8,100 in less than 90 days if I was so slow why was I working so many hours. I feel that this is truly wrong and just would like to know can anything be don about this.

  2. Steve Deputy

    January 13, 2015 at 7:09 am

    There is a “Good old Boy system in the Suncoast”. I am a Post Mater Relief in Florida. The Post Master position opened up September of 2013. I had already had the Post office transferred to me July of that year. I have 6 years of college, 6 years of military. However when the selection of a Postmaster was done, a person who did not want to come to the office with no college, no military, not familiar with the system applied, he got the title. The office was never transferred, nor did the person ever work there, other than two 2hour shifts a couple of months later to put mail up when I went on vacation. I was told we were equal but the other person had more seniority. I did not see anything equal about us, nor did I get any explanation as to why someone would be considered for a job they did not want to report to and than to be hired over someone doing the job!!

  3. jana eichwald

    February 8, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Have been a city carrier for over 20 years and have loved my job until recently.
    2 weeks ago, I became the 2nd (my boss was the 1st) employee to be accused of assault by a fellow carrier. All that I did was brush his shoulder on the way to the bathroom! I did say “Excuse me”. This happened after I had clocked off on a Saturday and, Monday morning, I had to meet with a Postal Inspector. Since then, the assault allegation has amounted to nothing but I am stressed everyday in the office. Do not know about “stress leave” but am considering looking into it. The union president told me that I can’t file an harassment grievance against the fellow carrier.

  4. T McKenzie

    February 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Recently I had been railroaded by the union and the arbitration process. I was not informed of my rights nor the representation was not trying to keep incontact with me. The hearing went on and I had no clue. The current union Pres. said,”…we didn’t have a good number for you.” well how was I able to talk to HR and they have the same contact info everyone else has. My phone number hadn’t changed in 5 years. I’ve been bullied and harrassed and the Managers and union don’t help. They sent me to EAP (CRAP) for paperwork purposes but no real solution to the supervisors following me and omitting information and adding false statements to the records. I have witnessed the harrassment first hand, and the same supervisors are on the job NOW! If there is anyone that can clean this type of issue up- their help would be greatly welocomed!

  5. Kevin

    February 9, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    My wife works for the Post Office in Michigan as a RCA. She became the office union steward about 2 years ago. She has been targeted several time over a number of different reasons. To the point that she comes home in tears on a regular basis. In addition another carrier brings her daughter to work on a daily basis for over 3 years. She stays in the office and has her how code to the Post Officer. Several employee’s have expressed concern over this, and my wife has taken it to the PM he supports the idea. This same girl was arrested in the parking lot by the Michigan State Police the PM knew about it and did nothing, continues to allow her to be present in the office with access to the secure cage. It came to a head this week when as the steward she filed a grievance about a safe work env. and the employee girls mom cornered her in her case and make threats. She reported it to her PM he did nothing, that afternoon upon returning from delivery again cornered, she had to call the local pd in order to get the inncidents documented. Today she was called into the office to and she was given an investigatory interview for causing a disruption on the work floor. After 2 threats in a day she got disiplined. I don’t get it. We have called her bosses PUM, the postal PD, and tried to follow the chain of command with no help. How can I help my wife get relief. I have an extensive history management and the union side of things. I have never seen practices like this. I have at a lost for words with the obvious intent with no accountability. Thanks in advance for any advice.

    Kevin – first let me say that PEN is NOT a legal advice site nor a union advice site so we cannot advise you on this problem. If your wife is being threatened we believe she should report this to your local police department IF your local postmaster and union will not handle the situation.

    She may also want to contact the postal inspection service – here:


  6. melissa

    February 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I have been at post office for two months I have been given impossible deadlines, its never fast enough I never eat cause I don’t have time and I am never given a day off unless I am sick. I have been harassed repeatedly by other employees because I am not getting the route done quick enough and I have been shorted on two checks. do not work here please

  7. Shawna

    February 13, 2015 at 8:22 am

    I am currently a CCA in Greensboro, NC. The unrealistic goals of the post office is just ridiculous. All they care about is looking good on paper. Employees don’t really matter to this place. If you want a life, don’t work here. I highly warn anyone considering working for the post office to research and really take in the comments of fellow and past employees. I sure wished I did.

  8. Martin Hayes

    February 15, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Maybe it would be better that the postal service be sold. That way the
    postal service would have to follow the laws like other companies. I have
    been treated with disrespect from management and the union officers,
    over 10 years and the union knows are part of it. Their is a conflict of interest with the union. That is because the union time is on postal money. They are not accountable for their time and don’t carrier there routes. I always say “if what I say is wrong or incorrect, respect is built
    with honestly. So if I say something and I am wrong , I feel you have a right to state you case. If your right , I will respect your opinion and change (wrong) my opinion. After all these years I don’t recall that happening in a long time.This is not written very good ( adhd) this is a problem that is got me very emotional with no help from union or management.

  9. John Bob

    February 16, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Just started working here; after 3 days of actual letter carrier ‘training’, not counting the driving days, (more like lectures & campfire stories), I have reported for work. My last two days which were also my first have been horrendous.

    I moved from another state with a very secure job to pursue this employment with the USPS as I was told this was a great career opportunity, and that I possessed the skill-set necessary to do well.

    Being of strong body and capable mind I set out to make this happen, however, I have found that after the extremely limited and brief orientation I have been thrown into the mess of things with very little knowledge or preparation to make this a good career.

    There is no standard for carrying, as most of the carriers I have met each do so in their own different way. The company is in shambles, as employees are in constant competition with each other, and the management seems to hold itself apart.

    I’ve been on two different routes on my own so far, and although I work as hard as I can to achieve my goal of completing the route, I have not been able to make it through without depending on other carriers. I do not take lunches, or breaks, just to do as much as I can. When I asked some of the carriers who have relieved me of a portion of the route many have said to disregard safety practices to ease time constraints, use a ‘pee’ bottle, and not take breaks.

    Really let down by this organization. I have a child to support, I have left my career for this ‘opportunity’, and bills to pay. I will continue to do my best as honestly as I can without cutting corners, as that is simply not my nature. I do things honorably.

    However, as I cannot depend on this organization to provide me with the opportunity they promised I have already began looking for a new job in the area as frantically as possible. I highly advise anyone interested in this as a career path to seriously consider all other choices before this.

    The pay is tempting, and the promise of good hours, but the reality is the workplace is chaotic; you will be forced to fend for yourself from the get-go, and you will have no fair representation if you should need any inside this organization.

  10. Mona T.

    February 19, 2015 at 11:07 am

    It really saddens me to read that people everywhere who works for this organization is experiencing the same thing, and yet and still, NOTHING is being done to change the atmosphere of this place. I wish I could say that life as a mailhandler in a Baltimore area post office was any better, but it is not. I have been a postal worker for the past 7 years and I am losing my mind. I was working on a B.S. degree when I started 7 years ago, and due to the stress of the environment, I have had to drop semesters, or take a class at a time. I hate to say that I am still working towards that degree to get away from that place. I have been injured doing my job and I’m in constant pain, and this company does not offer short/long term disability. It is so bad that my fiance is looking into finding another full time job so that I can quit this hell hole and focus on school full time so that I can move into a career that won’t physically or mentally drain me. If anyone is considering employment with the USPS, please understand we are not bitter or incompetent workers. The job is full of good, hardworking people; but we are so mistreated and it makes you angry and depressed. The comments the people are leaving are real, and I could go on an on with anecdotes from my location, but I won’t. Please seek employment elsewhere.

  11. Hope

    February 21, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    It’s sad to see that so many have experienced these conditions all across the nation in the U.S.P.S. I have over 25 yrs. and I’ve been lied to, disrespected many times, discriminated against, sexually harassed numerous times, given unrealistic deadlines, shorted of pay & higher level pay and too many things to list. I’ve sustained many injuries and the health clinic the po sends you to works for them. They send you right back to work with your injury telling you that you are fine & minimize your work related injury. Management “rules” with intimidation & fear and most are just putting in their time till retirement. If I could turn back time, I would have never worked for this company. After all these years, I am broke up, depressed, stressed & unhappy. I have a family to support so I’m putting in the next 5 yrs. hope to get out and live my life. The LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Those that are in mgmnt or want to be, will try to steal your joy and it seems they their goal is to use you up then intimidate you into leaving. Meanwhile, they will step on anyone & do anything to move up the ladder & make more money. I wish those that ended their lives would have quit instead, as for the others keep hope alive that as workers begin to speak up there is hope for change for this organization. btw the Voice of the Employee survey omitted the comment section so employees are discouraged from voicing their concerns..

  12. Louis Hychko

    February 23, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    I am new at the post office and can related to the abuse and lack of respect towards us as people. Pray for all the families. No disrespect to anyone but I need help trying to find a lawyer for a workers compensation claim and I don’t know where to turn.I am in the state of Ct.

  13. moe

    February 25, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    My 1st day and I don’t think I will go tomorrow. If I do it’s to tell them that the job isn’t for me. Today I unloaded 4 cages if mail ALONE!!!! I am a very small girl, weigh about 110 pounds. There are like over 15 carriers (men) standing around watching but nobody offered to help yet they all complained about me taking long. I didn’t meet my post master until 10 minutes before it was time for me to leave and even then she only said about 10 words to me which was report to work the same time and I will be doing the same thing tomorrow. I had to go isn’t he bathroom 3 times to cry. That work environment is just so negative and unorganized. They don’t care about their employees all they care about is things getting done. They don’t care if you break your back while doing it they just want It to be done. Like I can describe it as best as I can but it’s something you has to experience or see to believe me. I literally rather clean crap off of a toilet. Today was seriously they worst day of my life.

    USPS and the unions do not allow employees to cross crafts – so, if any carriers were watching you they were not allowed to help you. If you were/are a mail handler then yes, USPS does expect you to do the job that you’re hired for by yourself. Sorry it did not work out and yes, working for USPS is MUCH harder than the public will ever know.

  14. cindy

    February 26, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I am a postal support employee and have been with the USPS for 2 years now. Since I began I have been sent from post office to post office covering, while my supervisor does bargaining unit work at the post office I am assigned to. I’m constantly running because my supervisor does everything from po box, flats distribution tasks, etc. I recently complained and was threatened by my supervisor and postmaster. I involved the union and nothing has been done. I am upset and stressed out. I’m an Air Force Veteran and a very hard worker. This is unbelievable.

  15. Amanda

    March 6, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    I’m a Rca and the post master told me today I’m bring disaplined for 6 months. What does that mean?

  16. Barb

    March 23, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Wow. I didn’t think that this many people really understood why you shouldn’t work for the Post Office. I have been there a total of 31 years and it is waaayy worse now than 15 years ago. No customer service, no caring about the welfare of the people that go out and make the money for the upper management bringing home 6 figures. Management won’t let us “peons” get away with anything, but management can do whatever they want. Like right now, there is an employee working the workroom floor in an open-toed boot. In December, I was told I couldn’t step foot on Post Office property with a boot on, let alone come in the office and actually work. It really hurts too that the management bringing home 6 figures is one of the reasons we are in so much money trouble. Don’t have the money to buy us new scanners or even give us vehicles that work, but yes let the Post Office give a secretary to a POOM making 6 figures. (and the secretary is making the 6 figures too). DO NOT ever tell me that the Post Office isn’t making money. After the last 2 years and what I have seen and heard, we have money to burn. It just isn’t getting put to good use anywhere. All upper management wants to do is take, take, take and treat us like we are robots with no feelings, conscious or blood.

  17. Regular Letter Carrier

    March 24, 2015 at 8:47 am

    I’m a regular carrier and been on the job 9 years, toxic is a perfect word to describe to the USPS workplace. And let me warn you that if you get hurt, even if it was caught on camera and it wasn’t your fault the Dept. Of labor will still find a way to deny your claim. I’ve never worked with such unprofessional people in my life, from manager to co workers. It looks like a juneveile detention center..
    And on top of it all, you put in 30 years or so and get a crappy $1500 pension for all those years of wear and tear and stress??? I think not, I’m ready to quit. I feel for the new low wages hires.

  18. Rjay

    March 24, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Someone pls help me find a better job! Im a RCA been working for this company since 2008 transfered to different offices trying to find management that makes any damn sense, have not found it yet. Im a Marine veteran the only job i could find when i got out, someone pls help me get out of this hell hole company!!! To much stress under appreciate lack of commonsense ahhhh crap is crazy. Too much idiots and backstabbers.

    Post edited by PEN for language.

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