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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : An Upbeat Report From Dana Point

The Postal Service in recent years has been getting unmistakable signals that it needs to fix its severe morale problems. And the periodic outbursts of violence at various high-stress facilities around the country have made these concerns impossible to ignore.

It’s heartening to find evidence now at the troubled Dana Point Post Office that some tangible improvements really are being instituted.

Congress was so disturbed about hiring and management practices at postal facilities that it recently recommended better management training, improved handling of grievances and more. There have been those continuing incidents of violence, such as the one in May at Dana Point in which a fired mail carrier is accused of going on a rampage, killing one ex-colleague and injuring another.

Postal employees at that facility say the troubles had been going on for months before the shooting, when the suspect was stalking a female carrier. But beyond the volatility of that situation, workers complained that there had been a stressful working environment. They griped about the very things that a congressional investigation had pointed to, namely pressure to process mail and poor communication with management.

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Last week, a new postmaster for Dana Point, Ray Voisine, 44, a Vietnam veteran with 20 years of experience as a postal worker, was sworn in. But since he has actually been on the job for several months, people can already see the results from a change of command.

They are heartening. Employees report better morale in general, and a sense that they have someone at the top who is accessible and will listen.

Already, during the 10 weeks on the job before his swearing-in, Voisine had made it a point of walking the floor daily to talk with workers, and appeared on site at 3 a.m. to meet with morning-shift employees. There have been weekly focus groups to discuss workplace issues, and a willingness to consider suggestions for improvement. Those who have wanted to transfer have been allowed to.

All this seems easy enough, but remarkably, little things can make a big difference. For busy mail facilities, those daunting mountains of mail lend a Sisyphean quality to the work routine. Even simple efforts to humanize the environment can pay off, such as moving a time clock to make it more accessible to employees.

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The process of healing now underway at the Dana Point Post Office is unfolding. But so far this is a most encouraging bit of follow-up news to that awful day in May.


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