Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

USPS Old mail box

When the Postal System is used to commit a crime: our client’s employees experience stress Part 2

by James Porter February 05, 2021

Older mailboxes are now being replaced by the Post Office because of a criminal practice called fishing. Criminals use a homemade device loaded with glue to fish mail back out of the box. This is just one minor example of the kinds of criminal activity that is addressed by The Postal Inspection Service.

In Part 1 of this two-part blog, I introduced you to Phil Bartlett, Chief Postal Inspector for the US Postal Inspection Service in the Greater New York area which is a unique law enforcement branch of The US Postal System. I did a presentation at the Postal Service’s Headquarters in DC several years ago, and when Phil was looking for stress management training for his staff, one of the seminar attendees recommended that he give me a call. It turns out Phil is a very interesting guy with a very interesting job. See part 1.

As I got to know Phil, and the stressors that his employees face, we developed a plan for what he might do to address these stressors. Phil said we have police officers, detectives, and technical support people and for all these different roles the stressors they face are quite different. His police officers have the same kind of stressors that any law enforcement agency might have, and that stress has been ramped up over the past year by the Covid Pandemic and by anti-police protests. “When the pandemic hit, it seemed like the whole world started working from home, but postal service employees are frontline workers. And that’s who our officers are hired to protect.”

Phil made no exceptions for this team. Everyone would come to their workplace during the pandemic. With New York hit hardest initially, this put a huge amount of stress on Phil’s officers and detectives.  Added to that, were the police protests. While none of his officers had been involved in any of the incidents that people were protesting about, the morale of his officers was taking a hit. And that was stressful also. That’s about when Phil was referred to me. He was looking for a stress management solution.

The police officers were doing shift work so that is stressful in and of itself. Surveillance work is equally stressful, delivering a package with illegal drugs in it to someone undercover (see the previous week’s blog) is highly stressful, also. In addition, the everyday stressors of having to obtain warrants, subpoenas, and working nights and weekends while meeting deadlines all add up to a challenging job, made worse by Covid and the various protest movements that have put all police work in a negative light.

Phil Bartlett sees this negative publicity as an opportunity to make improvements where improvements are needed. “Look, everyone needs unconscious bias training, and law enforcement is no exception,” so  the current climate, gives us the opportunity to address that issue. I was able to put the funds together to make that training happen.”

“I take a problem-solving approach to stress. Stress often puts a spotlight on things that either need to be changed or operations that need improving. That’s why I wanted to offer our officers, our agents and our staff an online stress management program, so they’d ALL have a healthy way to address their stress. In order to solve a problem you first have to acknowledge that it exists.”

When I asked him what the reaction his folks had to our online platform, MY STRESS TOOLS he said, “the young guys like it, but the older guys try to tough it out. ‘I can do it on my own,’ I hear them say. But here again we need to offer up options. That’s why we want to have you come and speak in person too,” Phil told me. This way we can reach people the way that they want to be addressed.”

Phil’s reaction is similar to reactions I hear from our military customers. Many of the older military folks have grown up with a stigma attached to any mental health issue, even something as universal as stress. People from all walks of life make the mistake of thinking they can tough it out. That strategy often backfires, and that’s why Phil Bartlett wants tools in place that can address issues around the ever increasing stress levels.  

James Porter
James Porter