Understanding older generations at work
This age group also is typically good at interpersonal communication. Having worked for most of their careers without access to email and texting, these workers have had to rely on their people skills to get things accomplished. They tend to also be more resourceful than younger generations who have come to rely only on the Internet for research and problem-solving.
Since this age group may have less computer experience than their younger coworkers, it is important to assess and respond to needs for training. Older workers are sometimes thought to be technologically challenged but often it is because they have not had the opportunity to learn the appropriate skills.
Psychological Age-Related Changes
Psychologist Erik Erikson believed that older adults experience a crossroads in their life: a stage he called “ego integrity vs. despair.” The concept of ego integrity is that when a senior reviews his life thus far, he finds meaning in the way he has spent his time which leads to wisdom and acceptance of his mortality. On the other hand, if a senior’s life review is focused on feeling resentful or disappointed about the way his time has been spent, he feels despair which can sometimes even trigger depression.
Meaningful work often promotes increased self-worth in older adults, regardless of whether they are experiencing ego integrity or despair. In understanding this, managers can best motivate older employees by critiquing gently and praising publicly when it is earned. A manager singling out an older employee for a job well done provides psychological benefits for the senior but also goes a long way to dispelling false stereotypes about older workers.
Tips For Accommodating & Embracing Older Workers
The best strategy in managing and accommodating older workers is the same as with employees of any age: observe , identify strengths and weaknesses and work with that person to optimize performance. Nearly every employee requires some accommodations in order to do the best job possible. For example, a manager may have to spend time with a new college graduate explaining when, and if, it is appropriate to text customers. The same concept is true with older workers.
It is also important to reevaluate a worker’s duties as he ages during employment with an organization. For example, a 70-year old hotel shuttle driver who has been with a company for 20 years may be better suited to a front desk assignment if age-related changes are interfering with driving abilities.
Older workers have so much to offer: experience, work ethic, potential to mentor and frequently less family obligations that will interfere with work. The key to maximizing value with older employees is recognizing and accommodating their differences.
Jennifer FitzPatrick, MSW, LCSW-C is an author, speaker and educator. Founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., she has more than 20 years’ experience in healthcare. FitzPatrick was an Adjunct Instructor at Johns Hopkins University. Her new book, “Your 24/7 Older Parent” answers the prayers of those dealing with the care of an elderly parent. For more information, visit www.jenerationshealth.com.
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