A participant in the Forum section of our HR Weekly e-letter posed this question: “One of our employees is nearing 80 and his performance is slipping badly. Is there an alternative to harsh evaluations and termination? We’d like him to depart with dignity.” Here’s how some HR professionals replied:
Offer early retirement
“We had this situation, and co-workers were resentful of having to pick up the slack and correct her mistakes. The worker is 63 and wanted to work until 65. We offered her a VERIP (Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Plan). She gets to save face and we look like we gave her a golden parachute, simply by offering to pay benefits until Medicare kicks in and giving a couple of weeks’ vacation. That’s a small price to pay for harmony in the office without upsetting anyone.” — Lianne, Miami
Convert to part time
“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 of the tasks he was still able to do. He accepted and it has worked well for all.” — K.M.
Treat as performance issue, not age
“We had this happen. We documented the exact dates and times that people had to show the employee procedures that she already had been shown multiple times. By carefully documenting everything, we approached it strictly as a performance issue. Age was never brought up. However, we were very firm that the performance issues must turn around. Within a week, the person decided to retire. It was all done in a firm, yet polite way, and everyone saved face.” — Mark
Accommodate what you can
“The answer is accommodating the employee to what he or she is still capable of doing. Perhaps co-workers would be willing to work with you on this.” — H. Moyer
Be realistic about your work force
“I work in manufacturing with a stable but aging work force. It’s a bigger issue as my workers (in their 50s and up) can’t do what they could when they were younger. Most do relatively heavy physical labor. The idea of accommodation is nice, but soon I’d have a whole roster of folks I’m paying but the actual work’s not getting done.” — L.C.S.