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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

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

  1. Marjorie Robblee

    April 24, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Majorie – we do not tolerate or allow vulgar language at PEN or PEN’s forums – if seen, the post will be deleted. Please repost without the vulgar language. PEN

  2. Miguel

    April 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

    How true

  3. Thomas Mummertz

    April 25, 2015 at 10:59 am

    This is not new…the fact that no one has ever done a thing about it is a crime. Supervisors and Postmasters allowed to operate under their own rules (at the craft employees expense) has been going on for decades. When they are “caught”, it’s as if they are a pedophile priest within the Catholic Church. Move them around, up and down…anything but opening the floodgates of getting rid of them and beginning the process of revamping the work place actions of management in the Postal Service.

  4. terry

    April 25, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Unfair treatment is one of the most problematic thing i see with mgmt.constantly pushing you to do more in less time and when you rush to please them your likely to miss sometime or make something untimely then they threaten your job. And if you complain or file a EEO your a target.
    I HAD a prejudice PM. we’ll just make up a name “keith coleman” who thought it would be funny to take my stool knowing i was a disabled veteran. He said i didnt need it and when i filed a eeo and refused to settle at redress tge next week i was removed. And fired claiming i made a threat to a sup.life
    So much for complaining. I was off 8 months without pay till i hired a lawyer
    I’ve. Seen over 7 people die over 20 Years and many were work related
    Its a horrible place to work

  5. Kevin

    April 26, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Early on in Arlington Virginia, around 1985, after a series of run ins with my delivery supervisor, he told me he could “take my life from me.” I am 6’4″ and he was about 5’4″ wearing lifts. I also had another employee state that he was going to bring in a gun and shoot his supervisor and shop steward. I was the NALC steward at the time.
    In 1995 while working in Frederick, MD and going through a divorce another, delivery supervisor was busting my chops about being on time. I stated that I was having a hard enough time not blowing my brains out much less being on time. He said I could “blow my brains out before I came to work or come to work on time and then blow my brains out.” When I put in a leave slip for emergency annual leave when my now ex wife had taken off with my 4 year old daughter and disappeared, he disapproved the request. I still have the leave slip. I got sent to a postal contract shrink, Dr. Potash, in Baltimore for a fitness for duty exam. He said that I was okay, just under a tremendous amount of stress. Going forward to around 2012 and working in Cumberland, MD the SDO told me he could pick me up and pile drive me into the ground. I told him that he could try. I am not saying that I am easy to get along with in a work environment. I have trouble dealing with people constantly doing stupid stuff and I tend to let them know just how stupid they appear to be. With this latest idea of MMP the environment is like working on a ship that you can’t get out or off of that has a self destruct sequence that has begun. Toxic? How about radioactive?

  6. ed cramer

    April 26, 2015 at 4:59 am

    I am a postal sub being the second sub in a small rural office. That gets me about one day work a pay.when hired there was alot of time available up to full time. Now there is none. I went to a large nearby office having express mail and found work 4 hours a day. But since my primary obligation was to the smaller office and the express shows up late often. There were oft times I was reprimanded by a supervisor. I was given two routes without any training and no knowledge of the area. Reprimanded again. Now I am back to one day a pay. I am an individual that shows up early never late,good employee always. But the lack of training reprimands for things not my fault, and atrocious attitude has left me wanting other work. I thought the post office was a good place to work. But I guess not

  7. Jeannine Richards

    April 26, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Wow! All of these 18 years I have been the target of bullying by management and the employees. At times it seemed more than I could bear. I’ve always known and voiced the fact, but of course, I’m pinned with the stigma of being crazy. It’s almost as if they wish to push me to suicide;however,I refuse to give them the pleasure. This revelation of the truth is greatly appreciated and will enable me to endure the few years I have left. An incident which occurred about 15 years ago would probably have warranted a lawsuit but they had me so psychologically beaten down, I just took it. Hell i have to withstand being groped if I seek union representation…..If I yell sexual harassment, well, I’m just crazy Jeannine so I just keep my mind focused on the reason I’m there, which would be my family. Again, thank you for verifying what I already knew…….if anyone reads this and can help me put a case together send me an email.

  8. Renal Willians

    April 27, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Thank god l have retired from that hell hole..Managment need to go to school to be taught how to treat the employees,l demoted myself from being a supervisor because l was told to taunt the workers,and l would not do that. Also you have people working there for years that did not do their job and was not punished for it,but would punish someone that was doing their job.Why is the post office so hostile .God help them

  9. Deborah Miles

    May 3, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    I filed an EEO complaint because I was treated so poorly by a supervisor, it went all the way to an administrative hearing…My fellow employees were interviewed and it was determined that although my claims of poor treatment were valid, that the supervisor treated everyone bad and that he was just a nasty person, and its not discrimination as long as everyone is treated poorly ……

  10. Em

    May 5, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Every cca or casual or temp postal worker should quit. No job is worth your sanity or your life, no matter what. You are modern day slaves.

  11. S H

    May 7, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Thank you for posting a professional opinion about the toxic work environment. After 14 years as a carrier, I often had panic attacks on the way to work and began taking anti-anxiety meds just to cope. My postmaster tried to sabotage my route inspection by telling the inspector that I had said the inspector was dumber than a box of rocks! I was consistently proven to work an hour faster than was required, yet was constantly told that I was not working fast enough! I obeyed all the rules (buckled seat belt, door closed, vehicle locked, etc.) yet I was treated as though I did nothing right. As person who respected, even feared, authority figures, I did my best every day just to please them. It never worked! It was amazing to me that the “slow” workers were left alone by management. Everything was there to make a person go crazy. I finally left 6 years before I could retire. Best decision ever!

  12. suzie queue

    May 8, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    all these comments are FACTS.::::: YOU cant say anything because once you are “labeled” as a TRUTh SPEAKER and you stand up for yourself. They are out for blood and revenge in any form that they can get it. Postmasters make the supervisors in their image. They become the nastiest people you ever want to be around. What’s even worse is the DISCRIMINATIION!!! oH yeah that’s a ‘postal rule” as well that isn’t followed. the racial tension is horrible. We work off the mood of the postmaster and if his morning isn’t good, we (carriers) have hell to pay. Forget the fatigue, disrespect, lies, dishonesty, scandal and the likes, that trickles from the head down, all the way to the shop steward. None of them can be trusted, because they “rub elbows” with the Postmaster and deals are made and you have no idea about anything. It’s sad but the money is good, but is it really worth losing your life for???

  13. suzie queue

    May 8, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    One last comment: I had been going to EAP, because of the stress, and disgusting treatment of the work environment. My LCSW stated that over 80% of his appointments were postal workers and all the issues revolved around management and the treatment or rather the lack of treatment and favoritism that took place….SMH

  14. Rian Alex

    May 12, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    For me, I have had bad experiences working in the post office at first but learned to have tough/thick skin. I would have coworkers who would curse “bad words” like they meant nothing to other coworkers and to customers. They were extremely rude to customers and even argued with them which I was told is a no-no. They were very rough. When I began I was 20 years old and the youngest person working in my station. The vets were loud, obnoxious and rude at first. They started warming up to me because they saw that I was not like them, and I guess they respected me. To be honest I am a very easy going person but DO NOT push my buttons or I can be nasty. At the time I was going through financial difficulties and I could BARELY afford new shoes. I had to wear old boots that smelled really bad, my coworkers would laugh and joke about the “smell of something” and I knew it was my boots. It just made me feel very bad because I really could not afford to get any other shoes until I started working more hours and had extra money. I mean these people were in their 40s and 50s and stil acting like high school people. Why instead of making fun of me why didnt you all donate like 5 bucks to me to help me get new shoes, but no they rather be mean instead. When I first got there I had no idea when I would be taking breaks and for how long. I would work all day with no break no lunch or anything. Finally one day I asked a Supervisor how the breaks work and she told me “you got to take your breaks nobody gonna tell you when” but no one told me about breaks at ALL! After this I took my break always and on time. I went for window training and I passed my test which everyone was surprised about because a person that was there before me failed and they kept warning me about it. I passed and everyone was so excited, or so I thought. I was new to the window and most of the time when I had questions they seemed annoyed to answer them. At one point they were like “you’re doing good” then talk about how slow I was behind my back. One clerk took me under her wing and told me how the post office operates, she only did this after she found out I was from the same “background” as her. After a few months I ended up being transferred to a much smaller station where they cut the employees and would have the little bit of employees that were there doing 3 TIMES THE WORK!!! In that station I knew I had to leave the post office. It took me a year to find a job. But when I did, the pay was lower but I had the potential to make more money because of the hours I had. The post office would be a much better place if coworkers were actually nice to one another and not just trying to do the least amount of work possible while others must suffer. I hated being on the window taking 10 customers (when I did become faster) while another coworker chatted away. I hated having to stay on the window past my expected lunch break because senior employees decided that even though they punched for a 30 min break they were taking almost 2 hours at times. Then coworkers pretending they don’t know how to do “GLOBAL EXPRESS GUARANTTED” or something else that they think is too much work like REGISTERED MAIL and telling the customer to go to your window. You make hundreds of money orders per day and count thousands of dollars and only a small percentage of the money is for the Post Office. I am not even sure how much a money order is anymore but I know it is not past $2.00 yet! Scanning thousands of packages and sorting them all like a robot. The post office can be a much better place if people learned to work with one another. We all get tired, we all have doctor’s appointments, school plays, times where we just want to be off. Learn to work with one another and maybe there will be less stress, less killing, less suicides. Some people cannot handle the pressure of a postal job. You just never know who people are, I wouldn’t consider myself “suicidal” but a lot of people who do these things probably were not considered in that way either.

  15. Kim Anderson

    May 19, 2015 at 8:16 am

    I’ve worked with the Postal Service for years and all I saw was Management stressing employees out because they was told to , some of the supervisor and upper management bring their personal attitude to work because what’s going within their homes , why stress employees out , when they talks about UNITY DAY , employees are not animals they are human being , they would be treated as such , treat people like we all wants to be treated , , it will make excellence productivity, and get the job done better and efficiency, some take it personally if they don’t like you they the managers and supervisors makes it harder when there are a lot of competition out there, we all are human please make this place a better place , people depend on they mail and it needs better employees and better management as well , work together and get the job done and stop taking it personal please .

  16. toni huddleston

    May 22, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I have been an RCA for 6 years and been onba hold down for 2 years. I am not offered insurance, savings, or the pay a regular carrier makes. I called in sick and the next day my supervisor tells me my dr excuse is no good because it doesnt state the nature of why i went to the dr. The dr office says its illegal the post office says there nurse needs to see it. She isnt my dr or in charge of my health. When is the abuse going to stop.

  17. Lolo

    May 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I agree. This is the problem in a nutshell…

  18. marcus

    June 6, 2015 at 11:22 am

    No comments will be posted that contain vulgar language. PEN

  19. Chris

    June 24, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. There are only two other places in the country that treat people like the Postal Service: the military and prisons. I cannot stress enough how disrespectful and undignifying the employee treatment by the mostly unqualified ex-military supervisors is. I am a committed and hard-working employee for more than 12 years but, since I spoke up to unfair treatment and filed complaints, I am being singled out, harassed and bullied all the time. I don’t know where to turn to anymore because supervisors and managers all stick together. Thanks Renal and Suzie for your comments. I feel the same way.

  20. One Fast CCA

    June 26, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    I am a CCA in a college town in Yolo county, CA, and I have witnessed incidences of all of the comments above. My office leaves me without words at times, and nobody really seems happy. Physically, delivering the mail is such a simple job on my part and I love it. Customers are always happy to see a carrier even if he/she is not the regular.The lack of training or willingness to train new hires is the only thing that slows us down. I cannot say enough good things about my trainer and all of the other regulars who have helped me out; however, my strong work ethic and willingness to do a good job at whatever I do just seems to be tested with every passing week. This is a very uninviting work environment for noobs. Most of the supervisors here are good people, but I think that it is just the system itself. It is what it is. Buyer beware. This job is not for everybody.

  21. JoAnn Swanberg

    June 30, 2015 at 4:36 am

    So glad I took the USPS early retirement offer in 2013 . Had I not, I’m sure I would of either been locked up at the state crazy ward or dead by now.

  22. hank horodyskyj

    June 30, 2015 at 5:54 am

    i retired from the PO in Nov of 2015. I agree with a majority of these comments. A few observations, if I may. (1) Training is horrendous- they bring people in- 1 or 2 days training in house and then left on their own. (2) Unit mgrs are invariably 204Bs that were garbage carriers. There are way too many others to mention. The 2 tiered pay system is terrible. The NALC also needs to be called out. They protect jobs of people that should not be there. Carriers with 20 + yrs on the job working 60 hrs per week while CCAs have restrictions that get them off of walking routes- temperature restrictions. Cant work if its over 80 . Cant work if its too cold. Physicals not required to get the job. At my former office, We had CCAs show up on the 4th day with knee braces on, telling mgmnt that they can only do mounted Routes. The job was fine up until the last contract, when they got rid off the PTF designation and brought in people that were not fit to man a fryer at McDonalds.

  23. Tilman

    June 30, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I understand the workroom stress. I had a acting supervisor who was trying to get brownie points who consistently harassed me over little trivial things that I went to PAR and started talking with someone to relieve stress. So 6 years ago when the retirement bonus came I ran like hell to mental freedom.

  24. Elnora Seabrooks Fluellen

    June 30, 2015 at 8:30 am

    I used to be President of my local APWU and Vice President of my state union but my doctor advised me to leave the post office because he felt it was detrimental to my health. After 18 years and fighting everyday for my rights and the rights of others I left, froze my retiremen, and am a better person. The last straw was when my supervisor deliberately put me on leave without pay and my bi-weekly check was short almost $1000. I had no warning and after five days of him and the HR manager lying and laughing about an adjustment being made “tomorrow.” Tomorrow never comes so as a single parent with two children who depended on me to provide for, I ended up having a panic attack and never returned. The irony was that I was a good employee. Received numerous suggestion rewards and customer comments about how much I helped. As a veteran, it was and is painful to see how some manager’s treatment of the vets was allowed. PTSD is real at the post office. Prisoner of War and Post Office Worker sadly have the same acronym.

  25. Lynn

    June 30, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I would like to put all this in the public eye! I have an Editor Friend who would love to do this story. I will promise if we can get a group together he will ensure identities, faces and voices are obscured from public recognition. Please email me with your contact number and email. I will call you back

    Lynn, thanks for posting – any writer may submit an article to PEN for consideration of publication. Articles must not provide any personal names. If you know someone who would like to submit an article just have them send same to us in simple text format – they may submit their article in an email sent to us via our contact page here: http://www.postalemployeenetwork.com/contact.html – the article must be ready to publish and cannot sell any product or service and cannot contain any links – we cannot edit submissions.

  26. Cassandra

    June 30, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I totally agree I’m pushed to my breaking point daily it’s awful in one year I’ve been threw so much I question how long I’ll last everyday!!

  27. Beverly Randall

    June 30, 2015 at 11:03 am

    As an employee with the USPS for the last 17 years, I am in full agreement with the article…The Postal Service is a Toxic Environment in which to work; however I must work and I like the “living wage” that the Post Office pay me. With that being said, I have learned to compartmentalize my life. What I mean is that I recognize that my job is “what I do” to earn a living and it is NOT “who I am”. It’s important that one doesn’t get these two aspects of themselves “twisted”. I don’t allow my job to “define” me. I have seen that there is a mindset that a lot of people at the Postal System possess,from the top management on down, that is very toxic. These people have gone into management and have “adopted” this mindset that probably was in place before they ever got into management. They are like sheep and have followed and fell into this way of thinking without examining whether it’s healthy or not. But believe me, they are are being held “accountable”, maybe not by their colleagues, but by their health, their lack of integrity, their lack of character and most importantly,a Higher Power.They are not very smart people. So what I have learned to do is NOT to allow myself to be embrace this toxic mindset or to be negatively impacted by this mindset.I go to work,do a good job,get my money and enjoy my life outside of the Post Office. If they have a problem with my work or with me, I address it. If it’s a “fair” criticism, I correct it and move on. If it’s an “unfair” criticism, I consider the source and the mindset of the person that’s lodging the criticism and don’t entertain it…remembering that they don’t define me…I know who I am and where I am going. So for anyone reading this article and these comments…remember don’t allow the Postal System to define who you are or how you are going to act or react or feel about yourself.

  28. James Livengood

    June 30, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    The post office is not a place I’d want my kids,friends or even my enemies to work.Management push you to work harder every day.The harder you work the more they ask of you.I found out early it doesn’t pay to give the job 110% a day because,the next day, it won’t be good enough. I gave them a good 8 hrs work for 8 hrs’ pay, and for that I got called sandbagger, threatened, and shoved by my supervisor.I shoved my supervisor back, but it didn’t do any good.I finally told him to stop or I’ll file charges, and he did.He stopped calling me sandbagger after I told him my name, and that’s how I want to be addressed.They manage by intimidation,and always have.I’m surprised there aren’t more shootings in post offices.I’m so glad I’ve been retired out of there for 5 yrs. Life’s good.


    June 30, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    This is to Ms.
    Jeannine Richards

    If these things are occurring with you and nothing is being done, please contact NAPFE. 202-939-6325 ext. 247.

  30. Doug

    June 30, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    About a year ago I was in the ER experiencing Stage 4 heart failure. Since I forgot to call the sick leave hotline on the ambulance ride to the hospital, I had my wife call the station manager to tell her what was going on. Her only response was, “Will he be to work tomorrow?” They ain’t human.

  31. Nancy

    June 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I had to take a early retirement because of the stress. I was no longer able to work, due to harassment from manager (which I lost my EEO) I have to prove I was harassed, they do not have to prove they didn’t. I was followed on my route for everyday I worked for 2 straight months. I finally had a nervous breakdown at work.

  32. Jane D

    June 30, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Worked for 39 years and while I actually had some awesome bosses I had some awful bosses. My last Postmaster in my small town was the worst. I took the incentive in 2013 and my customers call me all the time and tell me what a horrible place it is now. My fellow coworkers still experience harassment and ineffective leadership. Complaining to upper management does no good. I’m sure if I had stayed any longer working for her I would be in major trouble.

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