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When Leaders Don’t Follow the Rules!
By Brian J. Wagner
"Actions speak louder than words.”
“The best leaders are the best followers.”
These are just a couple quotes about leadership I found on the internet. True leadership is earned. Once earned, to maintain a leadership role, a leader must follow—the rules. Here’s the scoop:
Postal employees, including EAS and postal executives, have many postal laws, handbooks, manuals, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), union national agreements and management association pay packages and management instructions (MIs) filled with policies or rules to be followed in the performance of one’s job. It’s these policies and rules that keep order in the Postal Service to ensure we operate efficiently, effectively, safely and with integrity.
Inherently, when we don’t follow established laws, postal policies and rules, there can be serious consequences, such as additional labor or operating costs, grievance settlements, OSHA fines, accidents and injuries, EEO claims, lost work days and a decline in service to postal customers, to name just a few. Some may rationalize that when the immediate result may be positive or no one will be harmed, it doesn’t make sense to follow the law, policy or rule. However, rushing to achieve a short-term result by side-stepping the rules may just create long-term consequences for the future.
Some leaders tend to follow the spirit of the law or, in some cases, policy or rule. In short, this spirit means an interpretation of the law, rule or policy that provides justification for a person’s action, even if this interpretation does not fall within the law, rule or policy as written. Another school of thought is there always are exceptions to the rule.
Exceptions do occur, such as modifying a work schedule to accommodate a medical appointment, allowing someone to register for a training class or event after the deadline has passed, etc. However, common sense must prevail when exceptions are made. Laws, rules, policies, MIs and agreements are established for a purpose and are meant to be followed by leaders and those they lead.
Imagine the consequences if regular exceptions were made by postal leaders not to follow rules or policies related to safety, proper recording of employee workhours, using the OT admin program, reporting mail volume, the Joint Statement on Violence and Behavior in the Workplace, sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Not only could employees be harmed physically, but financially and mentally, as well.
Would a true postal leader give any EAS employee a verbal instruction to violate safety rules, postal policies or the law? Let’s hope not. It’s not in the best interest of the Postal Service or its employees to have rogue or renegade “leaders” who believe they are exempt from following the rules. It’s always best to get clear, written confirmation from any leader whose instructions appear to be in violation of a rule, policy or law.
Have you ever run into the following situations? You receive instructions from your leader not to authorize penalty-overtime (P-OT), no full-day overtime, ensure all carriers are off the street by 1800, EAS employees must deliver mail or mandates of no late dispatches from the plant. To adhere to such instructions may require a violation of one or more postal rules, policies or union contracts.
You follow your leader’s instructions and achieve a short-term result. However, you may just have created long-term consequences, possibly resulting in financial grievance settlements, safety and OSHA violations to meet dispatches or poor service to postal customers.
Also note there are rules, policies and management agreements that postal leadership should follow as it relates to EAS employees. These include the proper handling of involuntary reassignments, timely approval of EAS leave requests, providing ELM 650 and debt collection appeal rights, emergency placement and additional pay for special-exempt EAS employees, to name a few. When postal leadership violates these rules and policies, contact your local NAPS representative to resolve such issues.
In my judgment, when a person in a leadership role does not follow established policies and rules, it sends a mixed message—usually a bad one—to those who are led. “Do as I say, not as I do” may not be the best mantra for a leader. This, too, sends the wrong message as it gives the impression to those in the chain of command that it’s alright for a leader to violate rules and policies, but everyone else best not do the same.
Again, actions speak louder than words. If a leader is not willing to follow the established policies and rules of an organization, but requires all others to do so, that hypocrisy will weaken the trust of those who report to or seek guidance from that respective leader. Basically, leadership that once was earned now is lost.
Whether your leadership role is postal supervisor, manager, postmaster, other managerial personnel, part of the USPS Executive Leadership Team, elected or appointed NAPS officer or community volunteer, to name just a few, we all are leaders in fulfilling the roles to which we have accepted responsibility. As such, leaders need to set the example. When it comes time to lead, follow the rules.
Even in NAPS, there are national, state and branch constitutions and bylaws that govern how NAPS officers and branches conduct business. There also is “Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised,” which provides structure in conducting NAPS business during meetings.
NAPS members expect those in NAPS leadership roles to also follow established association policies and rules. Otherwise, our NAPS leaders can be viewed as hypocrites by those who elected them to do the right thing for the association and the members they represent.
To keep my monthly policy and not to violate my own rule with an exception, my ice cream flavor-of-the-month recommendation for July is Reese’s fudge swirl.