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Ivan D. Butts
NAPS Executive Vice President
A national insurance carrier is airing numerous commercials using actor Dennis Haysbert to advertise its “accident forgiveness” coverage. The company is one of the largest insurance providers in the United States. With this insurance, you are eligible for five years of accident- and violation-free driving, regardless of when you switched.
What a great way to honor dedication and loyalty. Wouldn’t that be a great thing to have in the workplace? Over the past two decades, much research has been published about the positive impact of forgiveness, particularly for the forgiver and in relationships. Now, another study building on a smaller, but growing, body of research in the workplace supports the power of forgiveness to potentially improve well-being and productivity in professional settings.
I know this study flies in the face of some of the things we see as NAPS advocates: longtime, front-line, middle- and senior-level managers with impeccable records calling for NAPS advocacy. New EAS employees who have yet to receive and, in some cases, even completed New Supervisor Training (NSP) calling for NAPS advocacy. New EAS employees with fewer than two years of postal knowledge, skills and abilities being promoted to management calling for NAPS advocacy assistance.
What I have seen in the various versions of NSP is what Postal Service leadership has admitted. That is the consistent failure to properly mentor and develop new leaders. However, this same leadership stands ready, willing and able to toss these new EAS employees out of the USPS with the first incident in their unprepared venture on the road of leadership.
We recently were briefed on the latest aberration of the NSP. When asked what will make this process any better than other programs, we were told new EAS employees would be assigned a coach when they go to their assigned unit. NAPS realizes that all prior programs have failed to allow new EAS employees to develop because of a lack of proper mentoring and developing and, in some cases, never even completing the program. The only exception to this was the original 16-week Associate Supervisor Program (ASP) course that was managed at the area level.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand the sink-or-swim mentality. This mentoring-and-developing attitude continues to be a part of the managerial growth process, despite efforts to change the culture. However, it now is being exacerbated by the continuing trend of our most experienced employees having no desire to move into management based on how they see EAS employees treated by leadership. We actually hear about EAS employees now having no desire to move up the ranks of leadership as potential change agents because of how this culture of unforgiveness is festering.
In the study, forgiveness was linked to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism (fewer days missing work) and fewer mental and physical health problems, such as sadness and headaches. The study also showed these benefits were explained partly by reductions in interpersonal stress that went along with a forgiving disposition.
This research is vital to employees and employers alike, as a lack of forgiveness negatively affects the individuals involved and organizations as a whole. Holding onto negative feelings after a conflict may lead to disengagement at work, a lack of collaboration and aggressive behavior. Carrying a grudge also is associated with increased stress and a host of negative emotions, including anger, hostility and vengeful rumination.
What impact could be made with forgiveness for non-fatal errors versus crucifixion (Merit Systems Protection Board)? What if an apology led to a right teaching moment to help mentor and develop an EAS employee to correct leadership skills? We may never know. What we do know is that there is an increase in DDF cases going to the MSPB (crucifixion). We also are seeing that more and more adverse action cases are being denied ELM 650 mediation (teaching moments).
Forgiveness, of course, does not mean we condone or ignore bad behavior. We should have policies and procedures for dealing quickly with serious transgressions. However, we should be ready, if the situation warrants, to give forgiveness a try. Until then, NAPS continues to stand willing and able to support members through our DDF process.