‘Retirement’ and Life After — My Perspective
On the 23rd of May 2019, I officially retired from full-time employment at MAS Holdings. At 55, my life suddenly reached an expiry date, and just like that I was off a shelf to be examined if still ‘shelf worthy,’ checked for value and thankfully given a new expiry tag and put back to work.
At 55, I am certainly not ready to retire. To some, retirement is a much-awaited milestone, but not to me. I love what I do, and I feel I still have a lot left in the tank. I like to think I am not just enjoying myself, but also adding value to the environment I work in. This may all come to naught if my employers don’t feel the same, but as of now we are in happy agreement.
So how do us ‘older’ folks, still stay relevant in the fast-changing world of everyday business? Firstly, how many of us see the need for change? Do we take time to reflect on and acknowledge the gaps in our skills matrix and ideology and work towards changing them? Or do we simply think, I have done a great job getting here and I don’t need to change anything about how I have worked thus far. I have seen that the more successful one becomes, the more arrogant and resistant to change they become too. This is a death knell to an organization and if I were working under such a boss, I would look for other employment as soon as I could.
Letting-go of ‘control’
Recently, we made some bold decisions to introduce several measures to help people balance busy lives in my organization. We introduced flexible working hours, multi-location work options, and work-from-home options. While most embraced this change as one that was extremely positive, some saw it as a loss of control and a step towards a breakdown in organizational discipline. Their fear was based on the premise that if we can’t see our teams working and if we don’t know exactly where they are at all times, then we lose control.
A few weeks ago, I was speaking at a forum and when I mentioned this, I was asked the very same question; “How do you know they are even working when they are home? They could be sitting on a beach for all you know!” My answer was “SO WHAT?!” Why should we care where an individual is working from, or how they get about planning their ‘work from home day’ as long as the work gets done on schedule and to the expected quality?
We have the technology to connect from any location in the world; to share information and communicate via a multitude of devices at any and all times, so why is it so important that the individual sits in their office under the beady eye of their ‘Manager’?
More and more youngsters are looking to improve the quality of their lives. They want to balance their passions along with their careers and want to have more control of their lives. Why not use the technology we have to give them the opportunities to do so? What holds us back?
In most cases it’s the fear of losing control. We are products of a very hierarchical society and generation. We are used to being told what to do by our superiors and have grown up in very structured home, school and societal environments. Therefore, we feel it is almost our right [as we are the generation in charge] to wield the same wand of authority and set the same archaic mindset and rules in motion to control our teams. This is what makes us dinosaurs. This is the archaic behavior that makes our generation redundant in the work place.
Giving people freedom does not mean losing control. If we as senior leaders can’t see that we need to change our attitudes, not just in giving people the freedom of choosing how they work, but also breaking down all traditions from dress code to how we are addressed. We will continue to live in a time that has passed us by and we should have the intelligence and the dignity to realize we are redundant and more of a hindrance than an asset to the organization.
To me, one of the most valuable employees you could have is the one that combines the wisdom of experience and has changed their attitudes in keeping with the times. The one who has stayed relevant. One who has not just learned to use the latest electronic device, but also stayed current, understanding the aspirations and ambitions of the younger generations around you. Learn from them, listen to them, observe them, and grown with them. We still have so much to learn.
Those who can do this will add an invaluable combination of talent to any organization regardless of how old they may be. Those who can’t, should just ‘retire.’