I’ve recently got to spend some time with my Dad – he’s 70. I use to think 70 was really old, like let me help feed you that oatmeal old. My Dad doesn’t seem 70, or look 70, I guess it’s somewhat true – 70 is the new 60. Here’s what is awesome, though, 70 in work years – is still 70! When you are working in a professional role at 70, pretty much you’re the oldest person sitting at the meeting. You know where the bodies are buried, who dug the hole and who has been searching for the bodies ever since. My Dad works in a professional role – they keep paying him to show up, so he keeps showing up – he’s probably pretty damn tired of answering the question – “So, when you going to retire?”
Lately, he’s been sharing some great work stories with me – from the perspective of being 70 and already collecting full social security. This is what is completely AWESOME about being 70 and still working – you don’t give a sh*t about office politics!
When you know that you could retire at any minute, and you’re comfortable with that – a freedom comes over you that most people don’t have in your organization. When your boss is 40ish – the same age as your kids – and you’ve got 30 years of work war stories and experience on them – you tend to tell it like it is, when no one else will. When the CEO says he just wants to hear it like it is – to tend to say it like it is – even when your boss and his boss are trying to duck out of the room or kick you under the table – because they don’t want the CEO to know what “it’s” really like.
It’s Awesome to be Old and be at Work!
To often leadership tends to discount older workers in the twilight of their career – “Oh, that’s just crazy old Guss – don’t pay attention to him – he still thinks we can get great customer service by talking to people face-to-face!” (the group all laughs loudly, while checking their smart phones for the latest customer service numbers of the electronic dashboard) We believe that their “sage old advice” has no merit. In reality we hate the fact that the older worker tends to cut through our political B.S. and tell us what we really don’t want to hear – the painful truth of why we are failing.
Sure many of our older workers could deliver their feedback in a better way, coat it with a little sugar, make it easier to go down. But, most of the time they don’t. They just throw it on the table, like a grenade, and watch the fallout as executives start tripping over their spreadsheets trying to explain why they’ve had declining sales for 12 straight quarters, but how they should still be eligible for their performance bonuses.
Look, the next time you hear one of your old workers start to speak – stop – listen – don’t judge. They aren’t trying to get a promotion, or a raise – realize they probably don’t even need to show up any longer. What they are saying comes from the heart, comes from years of experience, comes from the fact they have reached a point in their life where they only want to leave a legacy of something they can be proud of. Your organization can truly benefit from it – but only if you open yourself up to hear it.