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

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

  1. Lyle   December 1, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I am in the midst of being removed from the postal service because i am accusing a supervisor of creating a hostile work environment…my last run in with this idiot, i called him a jackass and thats why im being fired….no one week suspension….no 2 week suspension….no last chance agreement….just straight to dismissal….haha

  2. Kim   December 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    I am a new RCA, and from reading this article, I can totally understand it. I’ve been with the post office for 2 months now. I spent a lot of time in new hire training or waiting to attend training. The little time I have had to actually work, I’ve been told to come in on this day…would get there and be told, oh no, you aren’t on the schedule….. or to go in told to do one thing, and get there and find out no, we changed our minds… you are going to do this or that today. I have had little time actually working on the route I am assigned to. I’ve only cased 3rd class mail alone for several afternoons. Before this past Monday, I had only attempted delivering 1/2 the route maybe 3-4 times with someone else having cased the mail and sorted the parcels for me. So, this past Monday I was told I was going to do everything myself. So, of course I was nervous. This is the busiest season at the post office. So, first time attempting to case all the mail. The entire time, I had the post master sitting at the desk behind me telling me I needed to step it up…come on time is passing and I had to get it done quickly. Then, she sent in an experienced sub to “help”. So, it was pretty much like, move out of the way…. while she cased pieces of the mail. I was standing there because now she was in my way because I’m still trying to remember where things are in the case. By the end of the casing period, the sub had totally stepped in and was like, you need to step it up now…. well, the stress got to me and I couldn’t hold back my tears. I told her I was doing my best… she had no empathy at all for me. I was trying to hide my tears as I was embarassed that others would see me. She organized all the parcels in the cart and flagged them on the case. So, I have never had the experience of “doing this part myself” either. The supervisor was nice enough to come out and try to give me some advice as to how to load my truck which I took in every word and was grateful. However, I went out on the route, and for reasons I can’t explain, it still takes me about the amount of time to deliver only 1/2 the route as it would the entire route for an experienced carrier. They sent 2 people to help with the rest of the route. I was happy. I figured I have never tried to deliver the entire route myself alone, so the next days would get better. I went home and thought about ways I could try to improve in speed. I was scheduled off Tues, but my carrier was off Weds, Thurs, and Fri. I was scheduled to take all of those days myself. However, I got a voicemail message from my supervisor that said, “you are way too slow. I saw no urgency in casing the mail…. it took you the amount of time to do 1/2 the route that it would take for the entire route of a regular… we are taking you off the schedule because you obviously don’t get it and you need to be retrained again by your carrier sometimes next week.” SO, that really hurt my feelings. Especially that I was not showing any “urgency” to get the mail cased when I was so stressed about getting it done as quickly as I could that I broke out into tears….. And, I’ve been deliberating in my mind that I should probably start looking for another job while I still have this one since it’s easier to get hired if you are currently employed. I just don’t think I can handle the constant pressure to get everything done so quickly, yet told to take my time so I don’t make any mistakes. What a contradiction that statement is!!!! I don’t see how I’m going to be able to learn all that there is while being careful not to make mistakes, yet having the urgency to rush through the day to make it back by the time the truck leaves. And, forget trying to get anything done when it gets dark outside! That was a nightmare. I spent 11 hours on Monday from the time I got there trying to case, pulldown, and only delivering 1/2 the route with the last few streets in the dark. And, not having a steady schedule of when to work. One day I’m on the schedule to work, the next day they’ve erased my name… etc, etc. I need a steady income to support my family of 5. That compounded on top of the stress and the way they treat you just isn’t worth the $17.02 an hour they pay me. I have tremendous anxiety esp at night when I’m trying to sleep. I wake up dreaming that I am delivering the mail! So, before they decide to can me, I have my eye out for something better to come along.

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