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What to do with older workers whose performance is slipping?

by on
in The HR Specialist Forum

Question: "We have an employee who is nearing 80 years old. His performance is slipping to the point where he creates more work than he accomplishes. Is there an alternative to increasingly harsh evaluations and eventual termination? We’d like the employee to depart with dignity, but there are no indications toward that end.” — J.P., Arizona


For an older employee maybe the answer is accomodating that employee to what he or she is still capable of doing. Perhaps the co-workers would be willing to work with you on this.

We had an older employee who became unable to perform his normal duties. Rather than terminate him, we were able to offer him a part-time position that included some the the tasks that he was still able to do from the previous job. He accepted and it has worked well for both the employee and the company.

I work in a manufacturing environment with a very stable but aging workforce. Its a bigger & bigger issue as my workers (in their 50's & up) cannot do what they could when they were younger. Most of my employees do relatively heavy physical labor. The idea of accomodation is nice, but soon I'd have a whole roster of folks I'm paying but the actual work not getting done. Ditto for offering part-time. Sounds nice, but these folks want/need to hold on to their benefits or they would have retired early. Need some practical ideas on how to ease them out the door for their own health.

We have had this happen. We documented the performance issues, as well as documented the exact dates and times that people had to show the person procedures that they had been already shown multiple times. By carefully documenting everything, we approached it strictly as a performance issue. Age was never brought up once in the entire conversation. However, we were very firm on mandating that the performance issues must turn around immediately. Within a week, the person decided to retire. It was all done in a firm, yet polite way, and everyone saved face. We still maintain a good relationship with the person.

We had an older worker whose performance was sliping and other co-workers were resentful of having to pick up the slack or constantly correct mistakes. Woker is 63 and wanted to work until 65. We offered her a VERIP (Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Plan).
The worker gets to save face and we look like we gave them a golden parachute simply by offering to pay their benefits until medicare kicks in and give them a couple of weeks vacation.
Small price to pay for harmony in the office without upsetting anyone.

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