The Baby Boomers are retiring now. They deserve it. They have put in their time and it’s only befitting that they have earned the right to retire and enjoy the golden years that they have worked so hard towards. I wish them well and hope they enjoy their golden years doing whatever it is they have endured the past forty or fifty years working towards.
With that said how do you as a young up and comer deal with that person who has retired early, but refused to leave the job? I am not talking about someone who has actually reached their retirement or continues to work because they need the money. I am talking about that person who punches the time clock, but then just waits around to punch out at the end of the day. They have gone ROAD. This is a military term we used when an active duty member is just waiting out their time until they can put in their retirement papers, Retired On Active Duty.
While some may say they have earned that right and I agree to a point. The problem is those who take advantage of it. I remember a Gunnery Sergeant who went ROAD after 17 years on active duty. The problem was he still had three years until he retired. Three years is a long time to be complacent, lazy and without purpose in life. Three years is too long to be in a leadership or vital role in anything and not do anything productive but collect a paycheck and check off the days on your retirement calendar. This Gunnery Sergeant was a burden. He contributed nothing to the overall morale or motivation of the unit, but took up a spot that was needed to be filled by someone who was a mentor and leader for young Marines who would be going into combat someday.
ROAD also happens in the private sector and especially in government employment. People judge the effort they should commit to a project, assignment, or even their day based on the slots remaining on their “I’m out of here” calendar. Again, it’s one thing if the project is going to take six months and you’re down to your last page on the calendar. What I am addressing are those who are not even on the same year as their planned retirement and our refusing to get involved in anything or refuses to pass onto someone else, their knowledge because they deem in unfair that they had to learn it the hard way and it’s the new person’s responsibility to endure the same hardship to attain their level of expertise.
Several years ago, a “friend” accepted a position as a Regional Human Resources Manager for a company here in the Northwest. He moved his entire family up here, bought a new home, settled into his new position, only to find that his new boss, the Regional Vice President for this national company, was ROAD. The problem was the VP had four years until he turned 65 and planned to retire.
This Regional VP was not interested in hearing any new ideas on how to create more productive locations in his region. He did not care about learning any of the new progressive working strategies that had been developed. He was not concerned with helping his junior managers because no one helped him back in the day when the company was just starting off. He was especially not concerned with how his region was barely keeping up the stats and quotas for the corporate office He was once the bright and shining star of the company, that is why he is now a VP.
As the tidal wave of bad news piled up on the Regional Manager’s Desk, because his boss, the ROAD VP was too busy planning his retirement and not going to commit himself to anything that might distract from his agenda. The VP was not concerned with new contract bids or anything that was going to expire before his time was done. The VP felt he had the loyalty of these clients and they would not dare abandon him before he retired.
The Corporate Office did nothing to pursue the issue, because this VP had been a great employee all those years. He was responsible for bringing in some of that region’s largest accounts and sustaining huge profits over the previous decade. But now, those accomplishments were just that, past tense. Nothing new was happening. Subordinate Managers were leaving the region faster than they were volunteering to come in. Those that were leaving grew tired of the lack of leadership and support from their boss. These managers saw the lackadaisical attitude coming from their Regional VP and were not so naive that they could not see the storm that was brewing over the horizon. So these very ambitious and productive Managers and their employees began leaving the company and joining others, to include the competition.
Finally, a new Controller at the Corporate Office had the intestinal fortitude to challenge the ROAD VP and all of a sudden the King had no clothes. The VP was forced to retire early but the damage was done. Accounts began to go out to bid and were lost to the competition that now had the managers and reputation for service. This created a domino effect that continued a downward spiral as more clients were lost than new ones brought in.
The ROAD VP, left feeling vengeful and claiming they were losing those clients because they were loyal to him. This was not totally untrue; they were loyal to him, just as the company had been. Problem was they were loyal because they felt they were going to be taken care of, but the VP never intended on doing that. These clients felt betrayed. Not because the VP was retired, but because the VP took them for granted. The CEO of the Company felt the same way, he felt a strong sense of loyalty towards the Regional VP, but at the next board meeting, the stockholders did not share that sense of loyalty. They held the CEO accountable and he was also forced to retire too.
Unfortunately, this company lost dozens of clients. They also lost a huge number of great managers and employees, who witnessed the demise of leadership and lack of accountability. Stocks dropped, because this once mighty and profitable region now lost many of the company’s biggest accounts. The entire company’s reputation was damaged and what was once a force to be reckoned with in the industry was now struggling to keep the few clients it had remaining. This collapse was followed by the recession which caused the restructuring the entire region, costing more people their jobs and the once loyal Regional Manager who felt he was a shoe in to replace the retiring VP, well he did. Unfortunately, his kingdom was a third the size of the former empire and so was the salary and perks.
There is a fine line between loyalty to our hard working veterans of the workforce and tolerating just plain lazy and worthless people who feel they deserve more than they have earned. I was told by one of my living leadership examples, “you don’t retire until you’re given your plaque. Every day you collect the check or wear the rank, you’re expected to do the job.” While this may should harsh, it’s true. While you may believe you have earned the right to slow down once you have reached the top or put in your time. That is not the always true as the example above shows. If everyone shared the responsibility to leave their jobs a little better than when they got them, just image how far and productive the next generation of employees can be? Just as long as they stay off the ROAD too.