When an older worker declines, how is everyone accommodated? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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When an older worker declines, how is everyone accommodated?

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Question: "We have an admin on the team who is far past retirement age but shows no interest in retiring—which is great, except he's slowed down and become inefficient to the point where he may be creating more work than he's doing. He's not really eager or able to learn advanced new skills, either. Our boss is a very sympathetic person and feels stuck while he sees our productivity suffer. What would you do?" - Aaron, E-marketing Assistant

See comments below, and send your own question to Admin-Pro@nibm.net.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Janette July 17, 2015 at 8:43 am

This was me in another position 12 years ago. The admin was very sweet and was a wealth of knowledge. The company sat down and found out why she couldn’t retire. They made a position as consultant, which included filing, emails, etc. This worked out wonderful for both of us. She was a wealth of knowledge for me and after a few months started asking questions, so she learned new things. Due to her asking on her own she wasn’t pushed but it did benefit not only the company but myself and her included. All is well that ends well. Great fit for all.


Karen D July 16, 2015 at 6:16 pm

A lot of harsh comments from those who are still young. Wait! Someday it will be you, unless you know when it’s time to leave the party.

That said, it actually is a tragic situation, and one I have witnessed more times than I’d like to remember. I worked with somebody, who in the day was a sharp and valued employee, but by the time I was working with her, she was creating more confusion and disorganization than adding any value to the job. She finally decided to retire and everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

There is no easy answer to this situation because no company wants to be sued for age discrimination. And because a lot of bosses really are sympathetic and don’t want to be the bad guy. But the best solution is the one already suggested. If you have new software or a new process for doing tasks, every admin has to learn it, no exceptions, and document, document, document. That way, if it ever goes to court, the company has established they are being fair and not singling anybody out. Also, then the manager really should have a clear conscience because that truly is the right and fair approach for the whole staff.

All that said, a lot of people are not retiring when they should today because they can’t afford to. With 401ks replacing traditional pensions, some people really don’t have enough money saved up to leave the workforce, especially admins who may not be the top earners in the company. So, try not to be too harsh if somebody is staying past their prime. They really might not have much choice.


Trisha July 16, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Very well said, Karen. Great point!


Karen D July 16, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Thank you, Trisha.


Jackqueline July 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Hi in Australia there is no such thing as ‘retirement age’. We currently work until we are 65/67 years (depends when you were born these are changing) of age after that it is when you can draw-down on your Super and access the aged pension.

Currently our company is working on a program called ‘Staying on’ supporting people over 60 to balance work life with semi-retirement or whatever type of work they wish to do full-time, part-time or casual.

Valuing workers and offering support is the way of the future. God willing we will all grow old and need support with the new tech that will be coming our way.

Well said.


Terri July 30, 2015 at 6:29 pm

I love the idea of the “Staying on” program. Probably because I turned 60 last year! I wonder if any other companies have something like that.


Trisha July 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm

This is the exact situation I was in when I was hired. My predecessor was also waaayyy past the point of retiring. I never understood why the company kept her around as long as they did. I mean, it’s not like she was the glue that held the company together or had deep-seated secrets that, if she left, the company would go belly up. My boss wanted us to work together for a few weeks until I was comfortable with the routine. It didn’t take long before I couldn’t stand working with her — she was slow, refused to learn anything new, discounted every idea or suggestion I made for change, and exuded entitlement just because she worked here for so long. I felt bad for her really… she was being replaced by someone younger, with more technical knowledge, and she probably loved what she did. But at the same time, I can’t feel sorry for people who refuse to retire when it’s abundantly clear they should and know how much of a burden they put on their coworkers and refuse to do anything about it. I hope this never happens to me.


Grace July 30, 2015 at 4:30 pm

A little harsh Trisha. I agree people must be willing to learn new skills and stay competitive but to say “it’s abundantly clear they should (retire)” Not anyone else’s concern whether someone retires or not, and as many people have stated, some people just can’t afford to retire. A little patience and kindness goes a long way! Someday, we’ll all be there (God willing), and might be in the same position and unable to retire. I bet we’d appreciate some kindness!


Trisha July 31, 2015 at 10:26 am

@ Grace… while I appreciate your words, please allow me to share the details. The woman I replaced was in her early 80s (that’s right, 80s) with many, many health issues that caused her to be away from her position for extended periods of time. Her husband was an attorney with his own practice and, from what I understand, they were quite comfortable financially (and I took her job, so I know she was doing very well, too). My boss actually had her teenage children doing various office jobs for her just so she could keep up. So yes, it was abundantly clear that this woman should’ve retired long ago. From the answers given in this forum, I now have an understanding that it may have been fear of age discrimination that prevented the company from letting her go when she didn’t want to. I have no qualms with someone who wants to continue to work… I feel that way, too. But working together was difficult. The company did place her in a few other areas, but that didn’t work out as, like I said, she could no longer keep up.

I AM a kind person with a huge heart and tons of empathy for other people, and don’t apologize if my scenario sounds harsh. I merely shared MY experience with a self-centered individual who refused to admit it was time to leave. I would hold off on judging me until you’ve experienced it yourself (and I hope you never do).


Anita July 16, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Aaron, the manager may want to review and adjust the required tasks so the employee can be productive if it is guilt that is keeping him/her from encouraging the employee to retire. I am sure the employee sees that he can’t perform like he used to and may welcome the change although a change in salary to meet the new requirements may not be to his liking. His performance definitely needs to be discussed with him, so it is officially recorded and he is given a fair annual review. He would either be more willing to accept the changes or may be encouraged to retire.


Andi July 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm

I’ve worked in offices with similar situations, usually what has happened is the older worker is transtitioned to a different type of role, such as QA, online research, mailings/emails, even something like “special projects”. The office then hires another Admin type position.


Mark July 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

We will make minor accommodations as long as it does not affect others. If it affects others, we make it known that the performance is not up to standard, and that is put in the reviews. If it becomes a major problem, then we would follow the warnings disciplinary steps. One question I would have is whether the advanced new skills are mandatory or voluntary. If voluntary, it shouldn’t be held against him. But if it is required of everyone else, it should be required of him. For example, “This is our new software for doing x. Everyone needs to know this, no exceptions.” If a person refuses to learn what he or she is required to learn, and is causing performance problems for themselves and others, follow the mantra, document document document. If you have to fire the person, you’ll need this documentation in case they file an age discrimination suit, and companies with great documentation almost always win those cases.


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