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What Is Your Integrity Worth?
By Ivan D. Butts
NAPS Executive Vice President
Melvyn Douglas was an American actor who came to prominence in the 1930s as a suave leading man, perhaps best typified by his performance in the 1939 romantic comedy “Ninotchka” with Greta Garbo. Douglas offered some noteworthy quotes in his movie roles and personal life. One quote stands today as a life-shaping standard passed on to me by my father: “Your word is your bond.”
This quote has been the standard-bearer in my life. Your integrity is the one thing no one can take from you; you must willingly give it away. And, once given, it never can be reclaimed.
Christina Meredith, national speaker and foster care activist, wrote: “Integrity, I believe, is the essential characteristic in defining a person’s true self. Integrity is the quality of being honest. A person who demonstrates integrity displays strong moral principles or moral uprightness. He or she acts whole in intention and action, with no room for double-minded motives or deeds. Acting with integrity is the simplest and least stressful choice to make as an adult … because the truth really does set you free!”
Meredith endured years of abuse before entering the foster care system; she aged out of the system at 18. After graduating from high school, she was homeless and lived in her car for almost a year.
She moved to California where she took a series of odd jobs, eventually catching the eye of a pageant recruiter. In April 2013, Meredith won the title of Ms. California and has dedicated herself to speaking on behalf of abused children all over the country.
As managers in the USPS, this characteristic of integrity is challenged almost daily in our attempts to continue serving America by providing the best service possible with the resources at hand. How do you respond to the following?
These are just a few of the daily orders a manager may hear while moving America’s mail that could challenge your integrity—the bond of your word. I must admit that the first bulleted item is not a challenge to one’s work being their bond. It is just the ongoing pattern that is at the center of Article 8 grievance payouts ($35 million to date this fiscal year), due to senior leadership making a faraway operational decision based on data designed to get a result rather than provide effective reporting that has functional value.
The other bulleted items, however, will challenge the bond of your word based on your reactions. They include falsifying scans, falsifying TACS, changing clock rings to avoid showing overtime (sometimes with a promise of making it up to craft employees) or blanketly disallowing overtime outside the methods supported by USPS policy and procedures.
So, how do you ensure that your word—your integrity—is not thrown away in these operational instances? Perhaps you should send an email asking for clarification on the instruction, outlining what compliance is expected: “Just so I am clear on your instruction to …, in order to complete this task will require me to…. I need to ensure this is what you are instructing me to do. I respectfully wait for your reply.”
If the manager does, indeed, respond these are the instructions, then you, as a manager, have a responsibility to carry out the now-written instructions. The USPS ELM 665.15, Obedience to Orders, reads:
“Employees must obey the instructions of their supervisors. If an employee has reason to question the propriety of a supervisor’s order, the individual must nevertheless carry out the order and may immediately file a protest in writing to the official in charge of the installation or may appeal through official channels [emphasis added].”
We have many well-seasoned EAS managers who also have unique processes that can help EAS employees maintain their integrity through properly documenting events. My call is for the experienced to help the inexperienced so they can learn how to navigate through this leadership experience with the bond of their word being intact.
I also understand the examples of leadership that could make one believe that integrity has no value at all. This will be the subject of my next article.