I am reminded of the question I addressed and answered a couple of years ago. That question was, “When do you know it is time to leave what you do for a living?” My former boss asked me this question, not about himself but our leader. I told him that we all know when it is time to leave. We do not remember what we should. We forget too much and too often. We cannot work anywhere near the level we used to work. We all know. But, what happens when that time has not come and yet everyone has an opinion on what you do and it becomes apparent that 40 years of experience is no longer valid.
I resigned from my last job because I was told (3) times, “Go sit and relax, it will be ok and at your age we do not want you to have a heart attack.” I ran a 10.5 million dollar business and what part of go to your office and sit did the sentence fit. It did not. This comment came from my boss who had no experience in education but was 50 years old and had some excellent experience in business. He also considered himself an “HR Expert” as he expressed to the president of the university. I guess he missed the meeting about age discrimination; at least until the worker turns 70 years old. I still have 5 full years before that happens. Everyone knew more about my job than I did. They had not experience, of course but they did have an opinion. Everyone worked hard behind my back to make sure I did not accomplish my goals. The few who supported me did not have the power to stop them and I never knew about the backdoor processes until the deed was done. It was too late to stop the madness when you were not participating.
Many years ago I had a salesperson, 76 years old, who told me, “I guess you are going to fire me now that you are the manager.” I quickly informed this salesperson that he was the best salesperson I had. He was always on time, did his job with excellence and considered his department his own. He cared about the work he accomplished and I appreciated his efforts. I did not fire Al. There were several, far younger than he was that met a fate due their lack of performance but I did not fire Al. He has been gone many years now but I still remember his fervor and willingness to go the extra mile. Al also told me that one day I would see what he meant. I was 30 at the time and did not think about my getting old. Well it has happened. But I am not ready to be placed out to pasture. I have a lot more years to work productively and if that is not the case I want someone to tell me exactly why. It is not about my years of experience. I am sure of that. It is most likely a threat to someone’s “power” struggles with themselves. I have never, although I know I have at times sent a message without any intention of placing a feeling of threat on anyone. I am just a strong person and my tolerance of those who make excuses or do not perform at the desired level, usually get some feedback from me that they did not want. Oh, yes, honesty is no longer a requirement in the workplace. When asked a question, it is assumed you will lie or hedge on the answer. It is safer than the truth for everyone involved. Or, that is what I have been told.
I have a thought about this a great deal and first and foremost, appreciate experience. I worked with a CFO in my last job who could be challenging at times but he knew his job and what needed to be done. Again, no one really listened to him and made attempts not to listen. Experience provides wisdom and understanding that those who are 20 or 30 years younger than you are can not understand or be aware. One other very important characteristic is that approximately 49 million of us will retire within the next 10 years. Who will replace us in the workplace? It will not be the younger generation. Not because they cannot learn how to manage or in some cases lead, it is because there are not enough young ones to replace the baby boomer generation. I would think that holding on to the old ones might be a wise move.
I loved to have “Doc” come to my office. He was probably way past his time but he had a pretty good idea about what was needed. That was not always the case but he cared enough to talk with me, the new kid on the block. All I had to do was listen to him. I did. For the most part he was right. No one should dissuade experience for too old or too much experience. Experience is still the best teacher and at 35 or 50 years old, you may not have learned it all. I am 65 and I know I have not learned everything I need to know. We really never stop learning.
For those who are close to the end of the trail, take stock of what you offer and then move forward, Become engaged in what makes you feel good and DO NOT give in or up. Someone will recognize your contribution and honor you experience, wisdom and willingness to do a GREAT JOB.