age matters @ work: continue or retire?

01/23/2011

by carolyn mathews

Have you noticed that the topic of baby-boomers dominates the media right now? You probably have, especially if you were born between 1946 and the early 1960s. That’s right; the first of the boomer generation turns 65 this year, eligible for retirement. It seems almost every type of media outlet considers this newsworthy. You can read articles, books, and blogs; hear features on the radio; and watch programs on television. Boomer topics range from personal happiness in later years to financial preparation for retirement. Even the notion of not retiring has been mentioned and many boomers will consider this as a serious option due to financial necessity and/or because they are passionate about their work.

How does the boomer generation figure in your work environment? Whether you are part of this generation or of a younger generation, you will probably feel its influence for years to come. Considering the youngest boomers now are about 50 years old, many readers are either boomers in leadership positions or working for a boomer. Wise organizations, and the leaders within them, recognize that far from being on their way out, boomers contribute significantly to the workplace. Indeed, study after study has shown that “older” workers are not only capable of learning new things but also tend to be happier and bring an emotional maturity to the decision-making process that proves to be valuable in the workplace. That doesn’t touch upon the wealth of information boomers have amassed that provides perspective and clarity to work situations and can be transferred to younger colleagues so they can build upon their wisdom. (That’s one aspect of legacy already started!)

I think we will be hearing a lot about boomers, this demographic force to be reckoned with, during the next few years. As the boomer generation finds its place in the workforce and/or contemplates retirement, we can reflect on the words of Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who among other accomplishments is a Harvard professor, former editor of Harvard Business Review, and a current frequent contributor to the same journal:

“The boomer’s biggest impact will be on eliminating the term ‘retirement’ and inventing a new stage of life.”

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