By Mel Carriere
When words fail me, when the Post Office has been treating me in a relatively benign fashion for a few days, when one of my Supervisors hasn't done something incredibly stupid or uninspired that I naturally have to share with the whole world, I can still turn to an incredibly deep well of comments made by people on my various blog sites for inspiration. Since many of these commenters are CCAs, they always have some woe begotten story to tell that, while sad and frustrating to read, in a way serves as a useful outsider's view of the Post Office looking in. We old time regulars have become so accustomed to life in Postal Hell that we have thick protective callouses growing over our souls. What other people might perceive as stressful or abusive we regard with a "suck it up, Buttercup" attitude because we've been through it so many times. When you have a painful Kidney stone slowly passing down your urinary tract, like I have had, the first couple of weeks are hell, but after a while you become inured to the pain. Such is life wallowing around here in the Postal Service urinary tract; you become so adjusted to the misery that every once in a while it is a good idea to bring a newbie on board to remind you that this can hurt.
Not all of these CCA newbies are kids, a lot of them have been around the block a few times, and a lot of them have been immersed in levels of stress and outright danger on the field of battle that would make our whining about disapproved overtime seem a bit infantile. But these battle-hardened CCAs still suffer when they join the Postal Service, because they have learned the hard way what real leadership should be and they find it difficult to conceive how an organization such as ours can have such crappy leadership and get away with it.
Yesterday such a CCA, I will just call him Anonymous Mystery CCA, graced one of my pages with a comment that cuts to the core of what is really lacking in the Postal Service; the substance, or lack thereof, that leaves a lot of these newbie CCAs scratching their heads, then throwing up their hands in frustration and hanging up the satchel for good. I'll shut up and let him speak.
"Thank you for the response Mel.
Well I'm halfway through my probation and have done far exceedingly well compared to those that came before me, according to my Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde supervisor. The problem is one that "piling on" part you've mentioned. You do well, they add on. And then you have a bad day and it's suddenly, you're incompetent all over again. But on all the good days, rarely do hear a "good job" from my supervisor. If anything, I just want to make it through probation, if anything just to prove to myself that I can do it. Not out of love for the USPS, but out of courtesy for some of the good carriers there that needs the help. After that, I'll likely leave simply because of the poor leadership alone. As a former platoon leader, I'm aware of the importance of orders and how they have to be carried through. Even then, I don't impose or ridicule members of my squad when they can't accomplish the impossible i.e. when it takes longer just to walk a route, let alone deliver the mail and be back at the hour "expected." I'm a fast walker thanks in part to my "rucking" days in the army. Yes I do stick my head out for my team. But such is not expected from the leadership at the USPS. There is no compassion, no understanding, and no empathy for us ccas at my office. I'm the last cca out of four and recently three new faces just showed up. I pity them, but wish them the best.
Part of me wishing to leave is because moral is so low at office. The only time when employees actually smile is when greeting customers and that itself is a rarity."
Here's more from Mystery CCA:
"...one is expected to outwork and outshine the regulars. Case in point, I'm expected to do a full route in 4 hrs. Yes! You heard it right 4 hrs!!!! And be back before the regulars do. Did I mention starting out an hour later than the regulars too. Ha! The one regular that did the right before I got on even told me it was impossible. He went to the union and they worked it out, where he got moved onto a more "reasonable" route. So I come aboard, and it's all deja vu again as I'm tossed onto that route. I may have to go to the union as well. I rather not, if reasonable heads can prevail. The last thing I want is to cause unnecessary tension in the work place. Guess what, I managed to get that route done in just a little over that 4 hrs. How was it possible then? It took all the right condition to make it work. Minimal mail volume, no third bundles, many houses not getting mails skipped, minimal parcels, registered mails, certified, and express mails too. And best of all, I worked through my 2 ten minute breaks. Even then I worked up a tremendous sweat to the point where homeowners were offering me bottled waters. I got back and left before the regulars got back. Even then, days like this are rare and few in between. You'd be lucky to get a day or two like this in a week. Otherwise, the mails keep coming. Even when the mail is light, you still have to walk the loop so consider that. The majority of the time, it is not possible. But management don't want to hear about it, despite knowing all about it."
... I got a call from my supervisor telling me I should've been long done already. Told him, I'm working my best. Long story short, I got back to the office at the same time all the regular career carriers got back only to get repeated earfuls. I've pretty much tuned him out the moment I got back inside the office.
Synopsis is I've done a full route, plus an extra swing, bypassing breaks and lunch at the same time starting an hour later than the regular carriers, yet I was the "bad guy" supposedly "milking" the time I was told. That's gratuity for you. One can't make this stuff up."
Anonymous Mystery CCA sums it up with these words:
"To which I can only smile and tell them, the expectations and demands of the USPS is just that rigorous and walk on by. The public interaction along with the challenge of creating harmony out of anarchy once the last tray of mail is dished out are the only things I enjoy about this job. Aside from that, morale inside the post office resembles that of the morgue. This is a fact that the public does not see. The dark side to working at the USPS."
I love that "harmony out of anarchy" line. I wish I had thunk that myself. That part about our morale resembling that of the morgue makes me wince, but I guess I can't argue that it is probably true, at least for our overburdened, under-appreciated CCAs.
Let's see, are there any other parts of what this already jaded CCA with not even three months in the Postal Service has seen that I can relate to, now that he has softened the callouses growing around my Postal pain receptors?
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Supervisors? - check
Piling on? - check
Poor leadership? - check
Expecting the impossible? - check
No compassion, no understanding, no empathy? - check
What this very perceptive, schooled in the grim reality of warfare CCA has pointed out is not a localized problem, unique to where he works. This ostrich head in the sand, reality denying, what have you done for me in the last five minutes attitude is an institutionalized condition that starts at the top and filters its way slowly and painfully down to the bottom, just like that jagged edged, fiercely painful kidney stone I had that ripped up my innards for several weeks as it made its agonizing journey downward.
These inept, uninspired supervisors we deal with are ripping up the Postal Service's innards folks, and sometimes it takes someone with fresh eyes, someone who knows what qualities are really expected of real leaders, to remind us of it.
Is this the job for you?
Read the blog that inspired Mystery CCA's rant here:
Image from: "John Wayne in The Longest Day trailer" by trailer screenshot (20th Century Fox) - The Longest Day trailer. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Wayne_in_The_Longest_Day_trailer.jpg#/media/File:John_Wayne_in_The_Longest_Day_trailer.jpg