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

468 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.

  3. C. Lopez   December 9, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Kim, I am an RCA. I have been for almost 3 years now. I can totally relate to what you are saying. I started at Christmas time and basically was just thrown on a route and told get it done. At least you got some training. Recently I’ve been working 7 days a week 12 & 14 hour days. I know it’s the season I get it. However, recently I went into work at my usual 7 am with good intentions I loaded the truck for a parcel run as there were so many I couldn’t get to my case to case mail. I left on my parcel run and the next thing I knew I was like where am I. I had totally driven past the neighborhood I was delivering to. I turned around finished my parcel run and headed back to the office where the same thing happened. I passed the office up twice. Anyway, I finally made it back to the office and started casing my raw mail. Now mind you this is a route I know like the back of my hand. I couldn’t figure where the addresses were. It took me an hour and a half to do 20 minutes work. Realizing I was suffering from exhaustion I went to my supervisor and told her I would try to finish the raw mail but after that I was going home to sleep. She said OK. I get home and I am almost asleep when the acting postmaster calls and tells me to get back to the office now! I told him I wanted to be tested for exhaustion he said oh I’ll test you for exhaustion all right. Get back in here now or suffer the consequences. I told him that unless he was sending me to a doctor I was staying in bed at which he replied consider yourself terminated. So yes I understand what you and every other postal employee is going through.

  4. Bernadette   December 13, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Kim,that is exactly how they are treating me right now.I walked in on Saturday and they wear talking about me.My post master doesn’t care either, I want this job but they are so rude and disrespectful never letting up..If I heard hurry up or go faster once ,I heard it 500 times…. ..Telling me if I miss the truck I’ll have to drive it to the processing plant which is a hour and a half one way…

  5. Lee   December 17, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Kim, I am a new RCA here as well, just did my days. I dont think you can blame the regulars. Its the post office itself. Christmas time is over burdened. I did my half routes yesterday and today, and was told I was too slow. I finished todays half route a lot faster than the day prior. And around the same time my regulr finished the whole route I wanted to be upset. I wanted to be angry. Its not easy. Its enough to make you want to quit. But thats the whole problem. Give yourself slack. When my postmaster looked at me and said he didnt think I could do the whole route myself tomorrow, my heart sank. I couldnt help it. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be fast. I wanted to go above and beyond. But researching and cutting myself some slack really paid off. I feel better. Ignore the evaluated time for now. Do the best you can do. You dont have the experience they do. You dont have rhe route memorized to every name and mailbox, or the way your case is lined up. And you are getting to do this around christmas! There are regulars in my office on 6-7 hour routes not coming in on evaulation. Do not sweat this. I know its not easy to drop thay feeling but you have to. Everyone in that office is on a deadline, and the postmaster and supervisor just pushes it out

  6. Lora   December 19, 2016 at 12:43 am

    My former USPS Manager is a racist sexist bigot. My job was abruptly abolished after he chose to get rid of me for refusing to have sex with him. I had excellent reviews and the job was recreated and immediately given to a white male. No one at headquarters or anywhere else will deal with him. It is the entire representation of the USPS – nobody cares.

  7. Terrie   December 20, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I am a regular Carrier and have been with the postal service for twenty three years. Twelve of those as a regular. I started working there when I was thirty years old and one month after I started, I had a heart attack. The stress was just too much. I have now learned to deal with it because of having good bosses up until not long ago and we got a new one who yells at us constantly. I am now back under as much stress as I was when I had my attack. Hopefully I can retire soon and not worry with it anymore.

  8. LAK   December 21, 2016 at 2:33 am

    I have just witnessed a new trainee be given the choice to quit or be fired. She chose the latter. After all the postmaster went thru to hire this individual, you would think more patience and understanding could be employed. Unfortunately this is not the time of year for newcomers to learn this job. It is stressful even for seasoned carriers. I personally believe regulars can do more to lessen the burden on new RCAs: make sure all your mailboxes are marked; create a street list by case and row for casing, put it in alphabetical order; implement a uniform way to mark forwards on the case. Some of these cases have never had their labels updated and are littered with so many post it notes, flags and illegible handwriting that it boggles the eyes and mind! Regulars, you do this everyday. Think of ways to make things clearer and easier for your relief. You may just get to keep your sub that way. Oh, and support them, directly and to your Postmaster. I’ve known regulars who purposefully run off RCAs just because they’d rather get the overtime. The Post Office is a whole different world…it’s not just the actual work that takes acclimating to, it’s the environment, as well. Recall your first days (year even!) and cut the newbies some slack!

  9. Hank Horodyskyj   December 21, 2016 at 10:18 am

    I am a retiree- city letter carrier. I have a myriad of things to say. 1st and foremost- the 2 tier pay system was the worst thing that was implemented. People making $12 ph less for doing the same thing.2nd- Most delivery supervisors are 204b that are on restrictions or could not do the job- I was at my station for over 20 yrs, and can honestly say that I saw only one instance of a good,letter carrier being “promoted” to Titled Supervisor. And now- this- I retired because I could no longer work with the caliber of people being hired. Most-most- would not have seen a 2nd interview 20 yrs ago. Most are looking for a place to fall. The CCAs get together among thselves- plot out what needs to be done to get restrictions. Cant work if its too cold- cant work if its too hot. What- I have to WALK to deliver mail. I had a walking route my entire career. Was also on the ODL. Supervisors would give me an hr extra walking- after doing 9 on my route- while these lazy asses got mounted for overtime. I understand that the NALC has to represent ALL employees, but these people never should have been allowed to get their 90 days in.And THAT is on both Mngmnt and the Unions.The route inspections that are done are a joke. In my office, there were routes that Ray Charles could have done under 8 that were classified as 6 hrs in the field and 2 1/2 in the office.

  10. J Myers   December 21, 2016 at 10:23 am

    I know 2 people who committed suicide because of the Postal Service and countless workers who have started taking meds for anxiety due to the stress of working for the USPS, including myself. No one should have to work like this.

  11. Distressed   December 21, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Kim, I’ve been an RCA for nearly three years and I totally understand where you are coming from. It’s incredibly frustrating to work for the USPS. I too always do my best but never good enough. Something is always wrong no matter what! To make matters worse, $17.02 is not the actual hourly pay because of “evaluated” time. lol! I worked an 11 hour 35 minute day on Saturday (pay is for 8 hours and 20 minutes) and then worked 10 hours 30 minutes on Tuesday (pay is for 8 hours). Therefore, I worked closed to 6 hours for NO pay! My postmaster told me that this is what I signed up for!! And I am scheduled again for evaluated time on Saturday (Christmas Eve). Really! Something is totally wrong with the USPS expectations and treatment of its employees! No Respect!!

  12. Kim Stedding   December 25, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    This is Kim, and I just wanted to let everyone know that I was told to come in at noon the Friday week before Christmas. So, after not having been on the schedule since the previous Monday when I did the express mail evening run, I went in expecting to help with packages, but I was totally blindsided when my supervisor was waiting for me to inform me that I was being let go because according to him, I was not picking things up fast enough and he said everyday was like starting over. My thoughts…well I guess so considering that I was home more than I was on the schedule to work since I was hired! But, the other person hired same time as me is still employed even after numerous serious mistakes including missing the evening express mail delivery and taking the mail home with her in which the post master had to drive 80 miles to the next express mail office at 3 a.m. the following morning to make sure it got there. And, including losing the scanner and truck keys…not sure if they found or not, how this person is still employed, but I am not because of a supervisor and postmaster’s opinion that I’m not cut out to be a carrier. Bull if I ever heard it…lol And, this other new carrier also telling everyone that she can not see at night. But that person is considered a good fit and still there… I am really speechless as we were all told that speed will come later. Focus on accuracy. Well, my post office, apparently that’s not true. And, I managed to make a nice Christmas for my 3 children with my next-to-last paycheck from the post office.

  13. krst   December 26, 2016 at 4:21 am

    The powers that be keep us living for some reason, I dont know what. But it’s a painful life!@

  14. Jimmy C.   January 4, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    The future of the is more of what we see going on right now. Lower wages at entry level positions will eventually even out as retirees come of age. The need for a skilled and knowledge based workforce is gradually being eliminated. In order for full retirement some employees must work well over thirty years. That is awful. You have a lot of hard core attitudes molded over decades of pathetic leadership. You have people who know the system well enough to get by with the least amount of effort because that is the program. Exceptional performance is not recognized unless you are being groomed by a lustful manager. Supervisors allow their own emotions and personal feelings to govern their actions. They know that there is no recognition or accountability just like the working class slobs know it. The whole crew from top to bottom is just treading water until the day they can leave with full retirement.
    All you have to do is say yes ma’m and yes sir until they walk away and the tell them to go f themselves after they’re gone. If you do something wrong, who cares. Just say you won’t do that again and all is well. Act like you care for five minutes when you get in trouble then tell them to go to you know where later. If a supervisor or manager ever asks what you need to do your job and a year later nothing is done you know they didn’t actually give a crap in the first place.
    This is how the system is setup. Upper level managers tell the lower level to act like they care to the employees because of the poor feedback of the employee surveys. They don’t care. They don’t even act like they care. They might say they do once or twice but you know it is all B.S.
    You’ve got people with the potential to do great things here but instead they rot away inside a system of no accountability or recognition. One bad manager can corrupt and mistreat dozens of good employees. How do you think that affects their performance for years to come?

  15. CYNTHIA   January 6, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    I was told I had 2 weeks to speed up my performance or I would be removed because I made a mistake. I was never given a key code for buildings and always had to call around.When you ask for help that’s a bad thing even if you are new. When I fell and hit my face they said it was my fault.I don’t think the post office cares about new people. The post office doest give you the feeling of lasting they threaten you daily. I never felt welcome more like a burden. I never noticed how badly they treated people tell I worked for them. My two jobs I had before treated me respectful now I wish I would of stayed with them.

  16. Felix Yarbrough   January 11, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Judging from most of the complaints I’ve read it shows proof positive that no one is held accountable in the post office. Too bad the Sarbanes Oxley Act doesn’t cover issues such as these.
    A government owned, government run institution is froth with unethical caretakers.

    Adding insult to injury it is likely that nothing will be done for decades to come until a republican led congress finally and decisively privatizes the entire operation.

    There is no other remedy that can extinguish the entrenched coal bed of wasteful management. That fire has been burning much too long to be simply put out with a mere fire hose. It must be unearthed, raked out, doused and scattered until nothing rises from the rubble not even a wisp of vapor.
    Employees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
    Rebuilding this institution from the ground up is the only means guaranteed to succeed.

  17. Teresa   January 17, 2017 at 9:59 am

    There needs to be class action filed representing employees worldwide for hostile work environment among other things. USPS continues to violate OSHA, wage and hour,ADA, EEOC laws. In all my life I have never seen anything like it. Former PSE

  18. plr   January 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    I am a recently retired city letter carrier who after 30 years on a walking route in the same postal office and same route can fully empathize with the comments made here. The USPS is probably one of the absolutely most hostile organizations one can work for. In my career in the USPS I have witnessed more forms of employee abuse than I ever believed any employer could get away with.As a union shop steward I constantly had to defend carriers against managements vindictive discipline over the most trivial matters.Supervisors and managers continually lie in their accusations against carriers while getting no discipline themselves for their lies,mismanagement and total disregard for the basic dignity that should be afforded to all employees.Hey who knows maybe someday they will promote people who have integrity and an understanding of leadership qualities instead of the current ongoing practice of promoting the most incompetent people on earth to management positions!

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