Monday, September 9, 2013

The Tale of a Love Lost

My employer is currently ranked 53rd on Fortune Magazine's list of top 500 companies.  As I stare at that simplistic, direct statement, I wonder why I would care.  I care because I love the company for which I work.  I care because I have lived almost 25 at this address.  I care because I have established relationships and made memories - good and bad - within this family.  I care because I have represented and bragged on my employer.  I care because I have learned so much within the walls of this building.  I care most of all, because I feel UPS has forsaken everything Jim Casey and his partners established in 1907.

Obviously, I never knew the man, but years ago Jim Casey's writings were required reading for supervisors.  Entire workshops were laced with his mantras; meetings began with readings from his works or the company's Policy Book - a book not about dress codes or payroll, but a book about fairness and family, service to its customers - internal and external.  A person's writings say a lot about who they are (it is my prayer that my words remain fragrant and laced with the love of Christ).  To me, and I believe to those who went before me, Jim Casey was committed to a legacy of partnership and camaraderie ("We Address Each Other on a First-Name Basis." The UPS Policy Book), of success as a unit ("One measure of your success...will be the degree to which you build up others who work with you. While building up others you will build up yourself." Jim Casey, 1945) and of reputation and service as the catalysts to financial prosperity.  The following statements are Jim Casey's, and recorded in Our Partnership Legacy:

In 1944: "An expanding business is the only way to provide opportunities for our people."

In 1947: "Are we working for money alone?  If so, there is no surer way not to get it." [italics mine]

In 1949: "Good management is not just good organization.  It is an attitude inspired by the will to do right.  Good management is taking a sincere interest in the welfare of the people you work with.  It is the ability to make people feel that you and they are the company -- not merely employees of it.  Good management is your worthiness to have and hold the confidence of others." 

And with regard to service: "Anybody can deliver packages...The one thing we can have to offer that others will not always have is quality." (1946)

Simply from these statements alone - statements I was once encouraged to learn and adopt - I have considered United Parcel Service's founder, Jim Casey to be a wise, values-oriented man of noteworthy character.  A true leader who carried his beloved company - his family - through birth, two World Wars, a Great Depression, foreign wars, and the advent of the Technological Age, leaving behind a humanitarian ideology that earned him a well-deserved place in the US Department of Labor Hall of Fame, and the hearts of those whose lives he touched. A fair assumption, don't you think?

I cannot tell you the last time I have attended a training or teambuilding workshop.  We no longer meet one-on-one with our employees to discuss their job performance or our performance as supervisors or employers.  Gone are the days of selections read from the Policy Book, or Founders' Day celebrations, or recognition dinners, or anniversary gifts, or safety awards, or limo rides from the building upon retirement.  I have seen jobs eliminated while upper, upper management folks receive obscene raises for their "exemplary work."  I have heard every excuse in the book as to why we no longer recognize employees - from strikes, to 9/11, to recession, to expansion, to "times they are a-changin'."  I have stared at polished faces staring at me from atop the ladder of success - faces that have never been dirtied by the black dust that attaches itself to everything within a five mile radius of a UPS hub, faces that have never looked over their shoulder to see if anyone was watching as they tripped over a "hub snake", faces that have never beamed with accomplishment as they "turned" an aircraft in record time, faces that have stared into textbooks and smiled at interviews and stared back in the reflection of their brand new luxury automobile, but have never fallen in love with the United Parcel Service that I have known.  

Maybe my statements are those of a bitter, washed up Willy Loman of a person, but I don't think so.  Others have shared these same sentiments and ideas.  I hope that others still will heed our call to return to a company of which Jim Casey would once again be proud.

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