Going Postal on Postal Workers

The rising postal rates and spotty service you complain about in the December cover story “You’ve Got (Late) Mail” are caused by poor personnel management practices. And unless these practices change, the future of the Postal Service is bleak.

Many postal employees work as hard and effectively as anyone in private business, but others have an ethos of “never hurry, never strain, and never break a sweat.” These people don’t see themselves as lazy or unproductive; on the contrary, they feel pressured and overworked. Postal managers don’t try to discipline their lame and lazy workers; they just work around them or transfer them into areas with no public contact. Gradually these “dumping ground” departments fill up with unmotivated employees until they become a bottleneck.

We are a commercial mail house and see this demonstrated every day. For example, we feel that the two Atlanta area sectional center facilities (SCFs) are so bad that we longer accept jobs to be delivered there. It is cheaper for us to absorb extra transportation costs and forgo the SCF discounts.

Rising private competition, the advent of e-mail, and the growth of the Internet are giving customers a choice, and increasingly, this choice is not the USPS. The probable end of the postal monopoly in the next few years is going to intensify the problem by an order of magnitude. Unless changes are made now, I foresee a self-feeding “death spiral” of increasing postal rates, decreasing service, and decreasing volume.

The critical change is that postal management must be made to understand that competition no longer allows them to pass labor costs on to their customers. They must be given the authority and responsibility to increase labor productivity. The first step should be a rejection of the current rate increase.

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