The Myth of ‘Going Postal’

In a discussion of the security aspects of last week’s post office shooting, Bruce Schneier says that the US Post office’s reputation for harboring (or creating) a workforce of repressed homicidal maniacs is in fact undeserved,

There is a common myth that workplace homicides are prevalent in the United States Postal Service. (Note the phrase “going postal.”) But not counting this event, there has been less than one shooting fatality per year at Postal Service facilities over the last 20 years. As the USPS has more than 700,000 employees, this is a lower rate than the average workplace.

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2 Responses to The Myth of ‘Going Postal’

  1. TonyO says:

    Sure, divide by the number of postal employees, blah blah blah. Why, postal work is a veritable paradise, I’m sure. But before we bust a myth with such statistics, let’s remember that “going postal” wasn’t a phrase that grew out of “workplace homicides” but workplace *massacres*. I wonder what kind of result you’d get if you tallied shooting sprees that result in *multiple* deaths against other types of workplaces. This, after all, is what generated the term. Sure, working at the post office is probably safer than flying (and certainly safer than mining), but there’s a reason why these rampages remain in the public consciousness.

    Great site, by the way.

  2. Cathy says:

    IIRC, the word entered the lexicon following a string of horrific post office violence about 15-20 years ago. After about 1992 I think they abated, but there was a cluster for a while that seemed to suggest a certain dysfunction with postal employment. In any case, these incidents were so public and so horrific and of such impact to so many people (everyone uses the post office) that even if they didn’t actually happen more often than other workplace violence, they certainly seemed like they did.

    (For what it’s worth, one of these massacres happened in the post office of my town when I was growing up.)

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