Mel's Misguided Managerial Minions - The 204b Survival Kit, Part Two
204b Survival Kit Items 5-8
In the first installment of the survival kit I elaborated upon the first four items in this little grab-bag of necessities for managerial success that I have accumulated for your professional development. While this seems like a lot, I don't want you wandering around unprepared in that vast, forbidding postal desert, eating bugs and drinking your own bodily fluids like Bear Grylls on a survival mission. Therefore, I am afraid I will have to include a few more of the most necessary components. The rest you will have to improvise on your own. Remember, you are going to have to be "resourceful" sooner or later, which in management-speak mostly means being ready and willing to knock the other guy over and steal his stuff when his back is turned.
Before continuing, however, I suddenly realize that have I neglected to mention anything about the rigorous 204b training regimen. Postal employees naturally assume that their leaders have undergone some sort of intense instructional period during which they are taught the often complicated and voluminous policies and procedures needed to successfully administer a Post Office. What they don't realize is that the training period is a lot like the photo below; sink or swim and hold your breath until you (hopefully) bob to the surface. But please don't let your employees know about this. It's kind of a secret.
Therefore, thinking that you have are equipped with a vast postal education, your employees will be asking you a lot of nagging, bothersome questions that they assume you will know the answers to. So here are two things you can do when confronted by a difficult question that is way beyond your pay grade. The most popular, and perhaps the most effective one, is simply to say "I'll get back to you on that." This will tide you over for a few days with that gracious employee, and within that brief time span you will probably be transferred anyway. 204bs tend to get moved around like pawns on a chess board. The second more difficult, but perhaps more subtly effective technique, is to make up an answer. If you learn to word the answer ambiguously enough there is no way the employee can come back to contradict you about it later. Include a lot of multi-syllabic, mesmerizing words in your response. The words don't necessarily have to mean anything, just pick random ones out of the dictionary. If you manage to master both of these techniques, you'll create a reputation for yourself as a take charge kind of gal or fellow that gets things done!
With this said, I will now continue with the survival kit list. If you are just now happening upon this crash course to supervisory success you can bring yourself up to speed by clicking on the link below, which details items 1 through 4. But if you have already received your certificate of completion for Part One (which might have been lost in the mail, by the way) go ahead and continue with Part Two. Happy reading.
- Mel's Misguided Managerial Minions - The 204B Survival Kit, Part One
Ever wonder how the other half lives? If you find yourself at the bottom of the corporate food chain, here are some things you can use to move up and stay, Postal-Service style.
Step 5 - Hide!
If all else fails, if a big shot from the Operations Department or Area Office pops in without warning after the carriers leave for the street and there is first class mail, priority parcels, and other major infractions to be found on the workroom floor, don't be afraid to go into the office, lock the door, sit in a dark corner and hide. The other 204b in the office who is brave enough to stand up and confront adversity will be left holding the bag (more on that later), to his or her great detriment. Don't forget that the reason why most Postmasters and Station Managers like to keep a 204b or two in their back pocket is to have a convenient sucker to lay the blame on, and you definitely don't want to be the one! So don't be afraid to hide; once again it falls under the category of "resourcefulness."
Step 6 - Don't be left holding the bag!
Have you ever been on a snipe hunt? Snipe hunting is a fun group sport that has fallen out of favor in the last few years as society has changed from a rural to an urban environment, but there are still lessons to be gained from it for the 204b prospect.
In the snipe hunt, which is a good metaphor for life in a lot of ways, your co-participants give you a big gunny sack to hold while they go out into the woods and try to scare up an imaginary snipe to chase back to you so you can catch it in the bag. Of course, the snipe does not exist, so after a while you begin to feel a little foolish standing there while all of your friends have disappeared! "Where have all of my friends gone?" you ask yourself as you begin to feel extremely self-conscious standing there alone with your silly sack in the middle of the dark, lonely woods.
I am happy to report that in the Postal Service this long neglected sport of the Snipe Hunt is making a comeback. Managers who have been up to acts of postal malfeasance, such as illegally curtailing political mail when it is tagged as first class in order to make their numbers, will receive a phone call from some secret Paul Revere upstairs to let him know the redcoats are coming. The boss will then mysteriously disappear, leaving his hapless 204B in place with his gunny sack before abandoning ship for several hours. In the meantime the redcoats show up and find the bamboozled 204b there scrambling around madly, trying to spread his soon to be tenderized hindquarters across the piles of illegally curtailed mail in order to hide the sins of his superior, but finding it a futile effort. The absentee Manager then receives a nasty phone call from upper management on the scene, feigns indignation, and marches back to the Post Office from wherever his "official" business errand led him in order to rip the heavily perspiring 204b a new one. The 204b is unceremoniously dismissed and then rehired two weeks later when they can't find someone else that is willing to play the position of bag holder in the Snipe Hunt game.
Snipe Hunting can be fun, don't you think, but the job of bag holder can be as painful as that of a quarterback with his blind side left unblocked. So if you want to survive as a 204b, don't get left holding the bag! Just a suggestion.
Step 7 - Yell back!
Postmasters love to yell, because they have been thoroughly indoctrinated - and no I did not say brainwashed - that a voluminous voice is indicative of strong character and leadership skills. One of the favorite activities of any Postmaster or Station Manager worth his or her salt is to rise up out of bed late, enter the delivery unit after his 204bs have already been there two or three hours already, and begin to thoroughly scold them for any small deviation from the postal norm that has occurred in his or her absence. They yell even louder when there is an audience present, especially if the audience consists of people that the 204b is attempting to supervise. This practice is known as "creative tension" and you can read about it in a lot of noteworthy management texts if you don't believe me.
One of the biggest mistakes the upcoming 204b can make is to meekly accept the browbeating without putting up any kind of defense. Perhaps the lowly 204b really believes that he has committed uncountable postal sins, or perhaps he or she fears dismissal or bad repercussions for talking back.
But don't be afraid! Give it back! Let the boss have it right then and there and it will demonstrate that you are made of the right stuff! The people at the top of the Postal food chain are practiced, skillful humiliators, well versed in the art of debasing and demeaning their fellow homo sapiens. While this skill is dying out elsewhere in the modern age, it is still alive and well in the Post Office. If you are able to successfully square your draw, change your skin color to the appropriate shade of red, and reverse the tirade upon your surprised boss, you will definitely be marked as a candidate for promotion! So start practicing your verbal abuse skills now, picking the easiest targets first, such as children and old ladies on walkers, and then work your way up to higher skill levels. You'll be surprised how easy it gets with just a little effort.
Step 8 - Participate in fun stick-throwing games at the expense of your fellow 204(b)s
The best Postal Managers love to play another game called "Fetch the Stick" with their eager little 204bs. For maximum effect, this sport usually "tees-off" about the time the boss knows his targeted underling will be busiest, such as when one jittery, overtaxed 204b is left alone to hold the fort at lunchtime. If you can swing it, try to tag along with the boss for lunch so that you can get a good laugh too. If you laugh convincingly enough, this will earmark you as real management material.
I personally witnessed the Area Manager and Station Manager engage in this sport while they were lunching in a restaurant. To start if off, the Area Manager called the Station Manager's office and asked the 204b for the Station Manager, who of course was sitting directly across the table from him. When the 204b responded in a panicky voice that he was unaware of the Station Manager's whereabouts, the Area Manager roundly dressed her down and told her that she better find him, and fast. The Area Manager hung up and a couple of minutes later the Station Manager called, from the same table, remember. After being told the Area Manager was looking for him, he thoroughly scolded the 204b for not making up the appropriate lie to cover his absence. This went back and forth for a long time, eventually going into extra innings, while the two managers had a rip-roaring, belly slapping good time. The flustered 204b on the other end of the phone almost quit, but they managed to eventually talk her out of it with lies about possible upcoming promotions and promises to behave.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I think it covers the basics. If you are really, really tired of sweating it out in the trenches and want to make other people sweat for a living, then pay attention to the instruction manual in my survival kit. In case you did not notice, a conscience was not included in my kit. I have found that this item only creates a lot of unnecessary clutter, and can be a safety hazard. So forget about all of your irrelevant moral baggage and instead visualize yourself kicking back in the chair of Postmaster General of the United States, in the same seat where the original PMG Benjamin Franklin took off his powdered wig and twiddled his thumbs. If you follow my instructions, that could be you! Of course, Benjamin Franklin was a very intelligent man, but he still managed to get promoted. If he could do it, so can you! Just keep it simple, and you'll go far!