Wake Up Call For U.S. Postal Services
Dr. Steve Musacco: "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.
[Beneath The Spin]
(Part three of an investigative series)
The federal law is clear. 18 U.S.C. § 1001 reads as follows:
"Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully - (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both."
If that is indeed the law of the land, then why did the postal service and the Office of Inspector General allow Station Manager Marci Luna to falsify Ms. Joann Snow's clock rings and insert three hour lunch breaks that she didn't take? Then, when it was reported to the OIG, instead of the appropriate action being taken against Ms. Luna, Special Agent Reid Robbins of the OIG interrogated Ms. Snow. He treated her like she was the criminal for allowing it to be reported (Who is the guy who reported this? How do you know him? Didn't you know that working without pay goes with the job?).
They placed so much work on this employee that by the time she was finally ready to close the station, she didn't have to because the morning tour was showing up for work. And instead of going home, she checked into a motel across the street from the post office.
Then, while still at the motel, she received a conference call from Station Manager Luna and Area Manager Tyrone Williams wanting to know why she hit the clock to be paid. When she told them that they had placed too many additional responsibilities on her, Area Manager Tyrone Williams is alleged to have told her that she simply wasn't using her time wisely - this, to an
employee that's been doing the same job for 21 years with nothing but praise for her efforts.
I ran this message from one of her former managers in my last column, but I think it bears re-visiting:
I was the Manager of Customer Service at Bicentennial Station in Los Angeles from 1997 until I retired in 2001. I was Ms Snow's manager during this time. Prior to coming to Bicentennial Station, the two previous managers, Lloyd
Curtis and James Barnett had apprised me of Ms Snow's supervisory skills and total dedication to duty and company. Upon coming to the unit I was not disappointed and found all they had told me concerning Ms Snow was true.
Ms. Snow was one of my closing and weekend supervisors. She had an exceptional knowledge of the overall operation and excelled at running a difficult unit and she required little to no supervision. She could be counted on to work beyond what was normally considered an average work day without complaint. She always finished her assignments no matter how long
her day was extended and this included weekends. She has excellent interpersonal skills which you need supervising the diverse workforce at Bicentennial Station. Ms Snow exceeded my expectations relative to handling my business customers and resolving complaints. In addition to all of this, Ms. Snow would routinely call the office on her scheduled off day to see how
things were going and offer her assistance if needed.
Joann Snow proved to be an invaluable asset and even now in retirement, I often think of her and thank her when I talk to her for helping make my tour at Bicentennial successful.
One reader contacted me last week and asked, didn't she set herself up by setting a pattern of working off the clock? So I asked Ms. Snow about that, and she was quite pointed in her response:
"I take pride in everything I do, because I feel like anything worth doing is worth doing well. So if I have to give a little of my time to make sure I've dotted my I's and crossed my T's, that's up to me, and no one else. In the past, professionals like Mr. Eugene Jeffries and James Barnett understood and appreciated that, but we've got a new breed of managers here
now who seem to take kindness for weakness.
"I might be all bubbles and smiles on the job, but that's only because I understand that a smile goes a lot farther than a frown in keeping our employees motivated to do a very difficult job. I know what the employees are going through. When I first came into the post office I was poked in the nose by a manager, and he paid a very severe price for it, as will these.
"They've made a very serious error in the judgment. I may sound like a valley girl, but I didn't raise two successful kids while living in the ghetto by being weak. Beneath the surface I'm a very strong Black woman who is as hardcore as they come. I just know how to pick my fights, and now that I've chosen this one, I guarantee you, they're going to have their hands
"I believe that everything happens for a reason, and so has this. I've watched postal employees being abused for years. I've never liked it, but up until now I didn't think there was anything that I could do about it. But now, through no fault of my own, I've been placed in a position to try, and I have no intention of passing it up. Although I feel hurt and put-upon that the postal service would treat me this way, I'm almost excited to be placed in a position to strike a blow for every postal employee across this
"I'm not worried about this situation a bit, because these people can't hurt me. When Tyrone Williams told me I sounded like one of the carriers, his arrogance let me know just how they feel about our employees. Saying that I sounded like a carrier was supposed to be an insult, but that wasn't an insult to me at all. What's wrong with sounding like a carrier? Letter carriers are carrying me, him, and the entire postal service on their backs to every home in America six days a week . If he was half as productive as any letter carrier, the postal service wouldn't be in the shape that it's in today.
"I'm proud to be back among carriers, and if I have any chance of helping improve their lives in any way, I'll be more than happy to stay here until I retire. Tyrone Williams thinks he's punishing me, but that just shows me how shallow he is. All he's done is given my life purpose."
I was struck by Ms Snow's statement. Tyrone Williams' statement regarding carriers relates directly to the managerial arrogance that's destroying the postal service. What people like Mr. Williams fail to realize is that they don't run the post office, the employees do. And as long as they don't respect the people who actually touch the mail, they'll never meet their goals.
Eventually the powers that be are going to realize that they need true professionals in these positions - people with common sense and insight. The cronyism that has landed many of the people running the Los Angeles district simply has to be abolished. They have people up there trying to run the district who aren't even qualified to run a supervisor's desk, and everybody in the district know.
A prime example of that is what's happening with Marci Luna. For years, before she was demoted from area manager, she was on the third floor passing down edicts and telling people what they need to be doing. But now that she's in the position of having to run a station, it's one of the worse run stations in the district.
These are not managers - they're dictators. Instead of assessing the district's customer service problems and coming up with viable strategies to address them, they're simply calling the stations and saying fix it or we'll find someone who can - but whatever you do, don't spend any money. In other words, move the building over six inches or else. That's not managing.
I understand that they just walked a manager out of Village Station in Westwood over delayed first class mail. I don't even have to hear the details to know that it's not that manager's fault. The reason that the mail was delayed is because they're telling the manager to get the mail delivered, but you better not spend the money necessary to deliver it. Steal it from the employees. That's the dysfunctional management style that led to Marci Luna's problems with Joann Snow. Now Ms. Snow hasn't been gone a week, and I understand that they've had a zero bundle (missed connection) already.
Dr. Steve Musacco is a Ph.D. in organizational psychology and the author of "Beyond Going Postal."
He also worked for the postal service for 30 years. He says the following:
"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
Well, I guess that just about says it all - except for the impact that this "toxic environment" has on your mail. I'll address that issue in my next column.
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