Jenny Magee
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Wasting Wisdom

Last week a coaching client told me she had decided to retire. Again. Actually, she is the most often retired, and least retiring person I know. To date, she has retired three times, and within 2 months of each farewell, she's been off looking for another work challenge. 

At 73, she has more energy and passion for life than many of her younger colleagues, so I asked why she decided to stop this time. Her answer was disheartening. 'I'm fed up,' she said. 'My new manager seems to think I'm too old because the challenges she offers to the rest of the team don't come my way. I'm not prepared to be defined by her view of age, and I'm tired of trying to change her mind, so I'm off!' And she quoted Wayne Dyer, 'How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.' 

It turned out that the manager who had hired her four years ago, valued her enthusiasm, her experience and particularly her wisdom, and he was keen to find ways to utilise that value in the multi-generational team. 

When she took the role, she was very clear that learning happened in both directions, insisting that other and younger team members had much to teach her - and in areas well beyond technology! Far from assuming any status associated with age, she chose always to listen first. That humility and openness has built strong respect for her within the team. 

The ageist assumptions from her current manager are a sideswipe for which she has no appetite to challenge. When asked about the team's response to her departure, she acknowledged the effort made by younger colleagues to highlight her contribution. However all her manager sees is the number 73, like a lightbulb over her head. 

Age should not be the issue here. Many employees are working, by choice or necessity, well into their 70s and beyond. To lose the wisdom and contribution of this woman, through bias, conscious or unconscious, is inexcusable. 

So, what blinkered attitudes are you seeing? What is occurring in your workplace without challenge? And how will you want to be valued and respected when it's your turn? 

Go Boldly! 

Jenny