Solution Saturday: Retirement Age Employees Are Coasting

Hello Mr. Rockwell,

I’m trying to find the best way to ask this. How can I help my retirement age members retire or do more than coast. I see them as founts of knowledge ripe for mentoring, however all they’re doing is accomplishing the bare minimums to “meet” standards. There’s no initiative.

Any suggestions or “Saturday Solutions” would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Stuck,

OK, enough with “Mr. Rockwell.” Thanks for the courtesy, but I’ll stick with Dan. I still see myself as a kid. I suppose that means I have a perception problem. It would be nice if you fed my delusion.

The above paragraph indicates that elders can be picky, even reactive. Slap your hand over your mouth if you feel any words coming out that indicate you want people to retire before they’re ready. (Yes, expect everyone to meet or exceed performance expectations.)

The exception to pushing people out is offering special financial incentive, something like a golden parachute. Anything other than incentives will be a complete disaster. It will appear that you are forcing people out. In reality, you are.

Offending or insulting experienced employees doesn’t inspire engagement and hard work. This principle applies to people of all ages. Don’t expect anyone you’re pushing out to rise up in support of your leadership.


I think you’re onto something with mentoring. Organizations are seeing years of wisdom walk out the door. Mentoring is one way to capture the skill and wisdom that resides in the heads of experienced employees. But how?

Tap into the mentoring spirit.

I’m currently designing a mentoring approach to train new employees for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company. I plan to begin the training by inviting experienced people to reflect on the people who mentored them.

Hunting is big where the mentor training will occur. I plan to have them think about experienced hunters/anglers who taught them the ropes.

  1. Who mentored you?
  2. How did it feel when someone taught you how to shoot a bow or find hungry fish?
  3. How do you feel about the people who shared their experience and knowledge?
  4. What was the result of being mentored?
    • Begin by thinking about skills.
    • Include the way it made you feel.
    • Talk about long-term and short-term results.

Once they have smiles on their faces, we’ll turn toward others.

Toward others:

Encourage experienced employees to think outside themselves.

  1. What did your mentors do?
  2. What were they like?
  3. How did they feel about themselves? You?
  4. How might being a mentor make life better for you both at work and outside work?
  5. If you were mentoring inexperienced employees, what might be happening?

Mentors make life better for others.


Most elders cherish the opportunity and enjoy the status that comes with being a mentor. But there might also be resistance. Experienced employees might say:

  1. I had to learn the hard way, so should they.
  2. Young people don’t listen. They think they already know it all.
  3. I don’t have the patience.
  4. It’s not my job.
  5. These kids don’t appreciate it when you help them.

Resistance is opportunity.

Find ways to open your heart, rather than clenching your fist, when you encounter resistance.

Purpose answers resistance.

Ask experienced employees how life might be more meaningful if they learned and practiced mentoring skills?

  1. How might mentoring skills make relationships with children and grandchildren richer?
  2. How might mentoring skills improve your abilities to coach youth sports teams?
  3. How might mentoring skills make life better for new employees?
  4. How might new inexperienced employees feel about themselves, you, their future?
  5. How might you feel about yourself if you become a skillful mentor?


I’m assuming that your elder employees are within a year or two of retiring. You might consider an approach that focuses more on performance if the timeline for retirement is more than two years out.

Thanks for your question. Perhaps this post will give you some ideas to run with.



What suggestions might you offer Stuck?

* I relax the 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.