Changing Expectations for the “Retirement” Years

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A paper on the changing norms of Bomers.

A paper on the changing norms of Bomers.

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  • 1. Changing Expectations for the “Retirement” Years Pamela Bakopoulos University College - University of Denver For MALS 4020 Research Paper March 13, 2009
  • 2. Bakopoulos-2 Introduction Today, age is a monumental factor in the realm of global economics and its workforce. Based on the trends that shaped them, many older people are taking part in an ongoing exodus from the work world where they feel unwelcome. Yet, without the guidance and support of this significant and influential older group, the future is bleak in every facet of life. Companies and governments are (or will soon be) at a standstill from the huge loss of human capital if we abide by our current conception of retirement. The absence of older workers’ abilities, experience, loyalty, and energy will leave a gap in the work world for decades as the younger generations either lack in terms of population, skills, or experience to replace the older workers. To address these gaps we need to convince more of the older generation to stay on the job, that their input is valid and needed in either their previous or new occupations, business ventures, or as mentors or volunteers so everyone can benefit from their experience. The capabilities and desires of the older workers who choose to remain in the workforce must be judged on fact rather than on assumptions and misconceptions. These issues affect every one who is old enough to work, who has been working or will soon be able to work. In essence there is not one human being in the world who will not be affected by the need to alter their
  • 3. Bakopoulos-3 perspectives on the aging members of our society and the contributions these members can continue to make. We cannot afford to ignore the problems that will arise because of a shortage of older workers as they adhere to outdated norms while we disregard our current economic circumstances. Fairy Tales, come and gone...maybe Once upon a time past generations lived an employment fairy tale. People worked hard for a number of years, earned a good living and then at a certain age quietly faded into a well deserved life of relative ease called retirement (Lippman 2008). This idea was supported, encouraged, and used by various social institutions--governments, employers, cultures, educational establishments, and especially, family and peer groups--to effectively control human behavior by shaping appropriate norms. Has this story come to an end like all fairy tales or has the ending simply changed due to new expectations, longer lives, and unstable economic realities? Older workers who retire at a prescribed age are adhering to prior generational and social institutions’ perceptions of appropriate norms and not out of personal desire, factual proof of inability, or based on modern economic realities. Governments, employers, cultures, educational establishments, and, especially, family and peer groups are the social institutions which have defined the norms of each generation. Many older
  • 4. Bakopoulos-4 workers over age fifty are going against the norms of their generation by continuing to work benefitting their physical, mental, and financial health. In addition to these reasons they are working longer in some facet because of their personal desires to remain vital contributors to the economy, society, and the common good. The Three Ages In 2006, Greller and Richtermyer presented their three ages as a way of categorizing age and ability. First, “chronological age” is dictated by external sources, not by an individual’s abilities or desires (1214). A decision made using one’s chronological age is not based on what one can or wants to do. An example of chronological age negatively influencing one’s life is the enforcement of a governmental law dictating when to retire to receive benefits. It falsely reinforces the notion that people over sixty-five do not want to work, can not learn a new skill, or are unable to retain training. Retirement laws reward and encourage older worker’s acceptance of chronologically-based misconceptions with financial incentives such as the release of retirement funds upon their reaching sixty-five years of age. Secondly, “functional age” is based one’s ability (Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1214). For example, a 70 year old who can lift fifty pounds is at a better functional age than someone who is 25 but physically disabled and unable to do so. It is a better factor in gauging the viability of
  • 5. Bakopoulos-5 training, retaining, and seeking out older workers. Employers can use functional age criteria to determine if employees meet job requirements when hiring and retaining older workers rather than chronological age. To this end employers would have to put aside biases and assumptions about older workers and raise their expectations of them. They would have to consider that impairment statistics tend to be on the whole life span of people as old as 80 or 90 (Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1214) and should not apply them to older workers as a group but rather by evaluating individual cases. Lastly, “social age” dictates what are considered relevant norms as shaped by social institutions such as family and peer groups (Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1215). Norms are the shared common beliefs among a group (1216). Those adhering to appropriate age related norms are rewarded and hold positions of respect and approval or leadership roles among their peers. Displaying non-normative behavior can have very negative impacts on older workers and their identity of self when they indentify strongly with their peer group (Lippman 2008, 1263-4). If one does not follow the group’s rules they may feel isolated and are considered odd or disloyal to their group by attempting to enter a younger “privileged” group that better fits their outlook (Desmette and Gaillard 2008, 170).
  • 6. Bakopoulos-6 Regardless of one’s age, family input is the biggest contributor of support for one’s initial career choice and overall course for professional development and the driver in deciding when to retire (Newton 2006, 95). The generational expectations of social peers and the families of older workers are based on the framework of chronological age in deciding if someone should continue working. If one’s peer group is retiring at age sixty-five the general social expectation is that all members of the group will do the same. This carries over into one’s home life where one’s family members also expect the older worker to adhere to the generational norms. Going against these norms can have detrimental effects on older person’s self-esteem and perception of their roles as contributors to the world. Regardless of their functional age and their desire to continue working many succumb to their family’s wishes and retire as expected. Social Influences Contrary to previous popular assumptions of various social institutions that retirement be based solely on one’s age is a new message issued by various sources and statistics. Retirement, they state, is not a function of age at all, but, is determined by social pressure and persuasion from peer groups and one’s great desire to adhere to family input (Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1217; Lippman 2008, 1265). Other contributing factors
  • 7. Bakopoulos-7 include a sense of an unwelcoming work environment towards older workers Desmette and Gaillard 2008, 170) and the financial incentives of outdated governmental regulations to retire on time “as a matter of public policy” (McManus et al 2007, 488; USDOLETA 2008). In contrast to public, family, and peer group policies and because of new economic realities some older workers are happily shifting towards phased and active retirements (Hart Research Assoc. 2002, 1). They are choosing to work longer in terms of years but less in terms of hours so they can further build up their retirement incomes. Many older people are spending the second half of their lives volunteering in record numbers. Others over fifty are taking on new professions where they perceive they can still contribute to the greater good of society as teachers or nurses for example (3). Most over fifty state they would devote more time to charitable organizations if there was a small incentive such as having their medication paid for in relation to their service (1 and 7). They site a need for a serious revamping of tax laws to remove government penalties on their retirement incomes if they earn a salary during retirement (USDOLETA 2008, 2). Pros... Working longer after midlife as productive members of society has been a tremendous boon for some resulting in happier, more fulfilled, and
  • 8. Bakopoulos-8 celebrated long lives rather than just abrupt endings of their roles as societal and economic contributors (Hart Research Associates 2002,1; McManus et al 2007, 484). Freudenheim recommends older people should “repackage...age...as an asset” to raise their self esteem and their expectations of younger people’s respect of older people’s experience (2007, 8). Also, the funds generated by older workers who stay in paid positions helps them add to their incomes or savings which in turn allows them more freedom to enjoy leisure activities and increases their overall quality of life. Those who remain employed or engaged in volunteer efforts are in better mental and physical health than those who retire without any future purpose. Their minds stay sharp and their bodies physically fit. (McManus et al 2007, 484-5). ...and Cons For others, being labeled as an older worker has been more of a curse causing great distress, a sense of despair, and feeling devalued (Desmette and Gaillard 2008, 173). Also, their identification with the idea of an older worker and the perceived stigma that goes along with it can cause older workers to disengage from their work before retirement (Desmette and Gaillard 2008). Retraining or further professional development can be hindered by older workers, their employers and colleagues, their peers, and
  • 9. Bakopoulos-9 especially by their family’s input. Older workers may not seek out more training even if it is offered by employers because they perceive they are in a work environment that is not supportive of their endeavors (Newton 2006, 95). The Hart Research Associates’ survey of older workers in 2002 revealed they will withdraw if they feel their new or old skills will not be used by their employers or volunteer organizations (6; Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1217; Newton 2006, 95). Their disengagement, reluctance, and apprehension only feed into the false cycle of societal assumptions about older workers being incapable or tired of work. Ageism Older workers disengage from work prior to retiring because of ageism, family conflict and/or peer group sanctions (Desmette and Gaillard 2008, 107; Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1216). Ageism is discrimination based on one’s age and contributes to the continued misconceptions of what people are capable of in their later years (Lippman 2008, 1265). Newton (2006), Lippman (2008), USDOLETA (2008), Desmette and Gaillard (2008), Greller and Richtermeyer (2006) echo similar issues related to ageism. One point that these sources agree on is that social institutions promote false perspectives that older workers are incapable of obtaining new skills and generally produce less than younger counterparts (Newton 2006;
  • 10. Bakopoulos-10 Desmette and Gaillard 2008). Furthermore, social institutions are not solely to blame for these misconceptions as older workers themselves buy into them and allow normative expectations of peer groups and one’s family to dictate their fates. Despite mountains of empirical proof to the contrary, employers may not alter their policies to be more inclusive of older workers. They are reluctant to train older workers because of their misconceptions about older employees’ ability to learn and retain new skills. Employers question how long older workers will stay with a company but statistically older workers are more likely to stay with an employer for the duration (Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1217; Lippman 2008). Younger employees may pick up on and project ageist attitudes of the work environment further distancing older workers (Newton 2006, 95-97; Desmette and Gaillard 2008, 181; Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1219). In reality, because of their experience, older workers make fewer errors and are more safety conscious in comparison to younger colleagues. The questioning of older workers cognitive ability is part of the cultural framework (Lippman, 2008, 1260). It is a psychological issue rather than a physical or neurological inability in those aged 50-70. Based on factual and updated information many public and private employers such as CVS, Home Depot, and the United States government are
  • 11. Bakopoulos-11 actively recruiting older workers to fill projected vacancies. The Federal government is taking further action by changing laws to make it possible for people to work longer without penalty to their retirement incomes (USDOLETA 2008 and McManus 2007). Age, Race, and Gender Another issue that Lippman (2008), USDOLETA (2008), Desmette and Gaillard (2008), Greller and Richtermeyer (2006) and others agree upon is that ageism is as crippling an issue to older workers as gender bias and racial prejudice is to others. The combination of one or more of the factors of race, gender, and age further debilitates older workers. The less educated and the lower class of work an older worker is engaged in means a more easily and deeply damaged self perception. The result is a decrease in the likelihood of their proactively seeking more training and a lower chance of being re-employed (Lippman 2008, 1281 and 1283; Greller and Richtermyer 2006, 1215). For example, a white male working in an executive position with a college degree who is aware of how higher education works and has developed a professional network is more likely to find a new job more quickly. In comparison, an older Hispanic female working in a blue collar job who has less than a high school diploma is in a more disadvantaged state
  • 12. Bakopoulos-12 and will take longer to obtain work and will likely end up accepting a lower rate of pay (USDOLETA 2008). Furthermore, the combination of factors of gender and age contribute greatly to the difficulty in the quest for reemployment as an older worker (Lippman 2008, 1275). Lippman states that with each additional year of age a woman’s chances of finding a job decrease in contrast to her male counterpart for whom increasing age is less of a factor (1275). This was evident regardless of one’s race but based on gender and age.This is a remnant of the thinking that drove women back to their homes and out of the workforce after the end of WWII when men returned in droves and needed work to support families and so were the priority (Lippman 2008, 1274). Economics: Past Social Contracts Lippman in particular discusses the importance of the post-WWII generation, Early Boomers (1946-1955) and late Boomers (aka Generation Jones, 1956-1964) (1271). The social contract of the time between them and their employers (Greller and Richtermyer 2006; Lippman 2008,1268) was an implied agreement. It was integrated into every facet of the Boomers’ socialization regarding the work world which began the moment they went to school (1268). The term used by Lippman in reference to this old social contract is “Fordism” (1266).
  • 13. Bakopoulos-13 The economic ingredients of Fordism were an industrial based economy driven by high factory production and consumer demand. This provided stable employment and paid high wages and in turn sparked greater consumer demand and further fueled the economy in a continuous cycle. All of these elements were evident in the U. S. in the mid century spurring the development of Social Security and the concept of retirement (Lippman 2008, McManus 2007). The idea of Fordism was to pass people through the work system as quickly as possible giving the younger and larger Boomer generation of 76 million access to employment. Fordism was reinforced by the government by its creation of new retirement laws and by educational institutions’ development and implementation of work related curricula (Lippman 2008, 1267). This triad of a ready workforce, an able government, and willing employers all shared the expectation that each would fulfill their part of the social contract. As long as the employees were loyal and dedicated they could look forward to their employers’ rewards of pensions and their governments’ rewards of Social Security money and compulsory retirement (1266). Economics: Present and Future For various reasons the old contract has “unraveled”, but, still lives on in the Boomers’ minds because of the way they were socialized during its inception and implementation (Lippman 2008, 1266). The Boomers were
  • 14. Bakopoulos-14 characterized by and still retain the idea of loyalty and dedication but this is no longer mirrored by their employers. While the Boomers have remained steadfast, employers and governments have revised their roles in new social contracts, or lack thereof. McManus et al blame this unraveling on the corporate greed evident in all professions (2007, 487-8). Laws that once protected employees’ pensions have disappeared and in their place stand a new crop of corporate bankruptcy laws that protect employers. Another reason for this unraveling is the realization that there will be fewer workers to support the large and soon-to-be retired Boomers if we continue using their outdated concept of retirement (Lippman 2008; McManus et al 2007). Because of this McManus et al urge us to reshape our expectations of people over 50 and our concept of retirement. He and others argue that retirement has simply been or must be redefined because of newer labor market expectations, economic realities, and changing social situations (2007). Lippman points out a common problem for Boomers is their difficulty in adapting to these new labor markets upon forced displacement or partial retirement. Untraditional employment changes such as outsourcing make for difficult transitions for Boomers as well when compared to more adaptable groups such as Generation X (McManus et al 2007; Lippman 2008, 1271).
  • 15. Bakopoulos-15 New Norms As has always been the case, social institutions continuously change their perspectives based on current economic, internal, and external trends which are different than what was once deemed acceptable to previous generations (McManus et al 2007). In other words, new norms are constantly being created and introduced to younger generations during early childhood (Lippman 2008, 1268 and 1280). Major driving forces behind the creation of new norms are current business practices as a postindustrial and service oriented nation (Lippman 2008; McManus et al 2007). These new norms require all workers to retrain or seek further professional development continuously to keep their skills marketable (Lippman 2008, 1260). New norms are often disorienting to older workers, especially Boomers, in how they “make sense of the world” (Griller and Richtermyer 2006, 1227; Lippman 2008), but, in order to survive in the new workforce they must adapt to these new norms despite their peer’s expectations (Lippman 2008, 1263-4). Newton states that the professional development of older workers will become a “business imperative” (2006, 93) as seen by the statistics in a report by the U.S. Department of Labor-Training and Development (USDOLETA) in 2008. According to those statistics the U.S. economy will add 8.9 million jobs by 2014. In conjunction, there will be a need to replace
  • 16. Bakopoulos-16 nearly 36 million jobs and nearly 74% of people over 65 will still be working. We see from these projected statistics the need to cultivate as many skilled people as possible to work and the greatest resource will be the pool of experienced people over fifty-five years of age by 2014. One final reason for the creation of new norms according to Lippman is the obvious and precipitous decrease of consumer demand for American made products (2008, 1271). This has driven businesses to restructure, downsize, collapse hierarchies, automate, and expect more flexibility and a greater variety of skills out of its current and new employees (2008; McManus et al 2007). Three Generations in One Workplace The emerging Generation Y (Gen Y), a cohort group of 76 million born between 1981-2003, shares many similarities with the 78 million Boomers (1946-1964) beginning with nearly equivalent populations. Also, Gen Y has fewer conflicts with Boomers in comparison to Generation X (Gen X) (1965-1980) who only number 46 million (Cox-Otto 2008c, 12; 2008b, 11-12). Gen Y and Boomers also share a sense of community and camaraderie with their peers that is not as prevalent in Gen X. Gen X is considered a sandwich generation and is under a great amount of pressure. Gen X’ers will have to support the aging Boomers who are in the process of deciding whether to exit, remain in, or change careers.
  • 17. Bakopoulos-17 At the same time Boomers are preventing Gen X’ers from moving into higher positions which causes friction between the two generations. However, Cox- Otto states that if all Boomers left the workforce there would not be enough members in Gen X to fill every vacant senior level position let alone lower level jobs (2008a, 3). These issues contribute to the animosity between the two generations. To add fuel to the employment fire, Boomers feel they deserve and expect to be supported by Gen X. The younger Gen Y have too few members in the workforce as many of them are still growing up and so are highly dependent on the previous generations. They have their own expectations which have been shaped by their parents, Gen X, and their grandparents, the Boomers. They are expected to be the next great generation in terms of employment opportunities mirroring their grandparents’ early careers (Cox-Otto 2008a, 78). The combined younger generations of X and Y outnumber the Boomers and tend to be better educated. According to Cox-Otto they demand more balanced lives filled with quality time for family and fun in addition to work (2006a and b; 2008a, b, and c). These demands, in combination with changing business practices, cause significant changes in how employees are viewed by companies in terms of human capital. Research Approach
  • 18. Bakopoulos-18 One perspective absent from the reviewed literature is a lack of in-depth study of the influence of younger generations on older generations. Specifically, how have the demands of Generation X and Y on social institutions caused Boomers to go against the Boomers’ generational norms regarding traditional retirement? Several assumptions can be made as to the causes of generational differences and the factors that affect them. Modern issues will have to be investigated, such as today’s delays in marriage and child bearing and the increase in divorce and blended families, as factors that may be eroding the former importance of family and peer expectations which once weighed so heavily on one’s choice of career. This is freeing younger generations to independently make their career decisions without gaining approval of family members or social peers. Has this then affected members of the older generation? Are they also freeing themselves from the expectations of family and peers and other social institutions regarding retirement or continued employment? A cross-sectional study of the three generations will take place using interviews for qualitative research along with the surveys for quantitative research.. Due to the human element involved, IRB approval will have to be obtained and guidelines developed and adhered to in full compliance with IRB regulations to safeguard participants. The author’s point of view is that survey participants will be limited in expressing themselves fully regarding what affects one generation has on another from a survey alone. Research will be done using a mixed research method of recent quantitative data and limited first hand qualitative data to obtain a balanced
  • 19. Bakopoulos-19 perspective in terms of numbers and personal accounts. Brief face-to-face interviews will be conducted to garner a broader perspective on relevant issues from the participants’ point of view and compared with the data collected in previous statistics and surveys. The data, surveys, and questionnaires will then be compared against published interviews and additional statistical information found in books, such as Freedman’s Encore... and Goldberg’s Age Works..., to validate the statements of the small cross-section of participants taking part in this preliminary research. This research will be followed up by a more extensive study for the purpose of writing a book on the subject of how well the generations work together and what prejudices exist in the workforce based on someone’s age, gender, race and generational norms. These issues are either absent or limited in the current reviewed literature. Summary and Conclusion The contract that automatically guaranteed work and pensions in the past can no longer function as it once did because of dramatic shifts in the size of age groups and changes in business strategies (Lippman 2008, McManus et al 2007). According to authors and researchers there is discord among various social institutions and employees on retirement issues. Desmette and Gaillard and Lippman argue that workers are in a state of panic, shock, and dismay about retirement and that job loss or displacement cause them to suffer from poor self image (2008).
  • 20. Bakopoulos-20 In contrast, USDOLETA (2008), McManus et al (2007) and Hart Research Associates (2002) state older workers and those who are retired want a more flexible work schedule. They emphatically assert that older workers are ecstatic to take up work in volunteer groups because it fills their need to do good work and be engaged. Surveys point out that older workers enjoy the physical, social and mental interaction found in service to others (Hart Research Associates 2002; McManus et al 2007). Older workers and those looking to retire or are retired like to see the difference they make in the world around them. Many are choosing non-normative behavior by working in increasing numbers in social fields such as working with children, caring for others, and volunteering in organizations such as churches (Hart Research Associates 2002, Freudenheim 2007, and Civic Ventures 2008). Older people like their leisure time but also welcome the opportunity to work in a new job or setting, or gain a new skill provided they are respected, challenged, and utilized (Hart Research Associates 2002; USDOLETA 2008). One thing that everyone agrees on is the need for more research because of the complex issues surrounding people over 50 regarding the influence of family and peers. Several factors have yet to be examined in greater detail such as why race and gender cause differences in the re-employment prospects of Boomers and their difficulty in adapting to new work models.
  • 21. Bakopoulos-21
  • 22. Bakopoulos-22 Reference List Cox-Otto, Pam. March 2006a. Omni update keynote presentation on generational websites. Power point presentation at Omni. http://www.interactcom.com/OmniUpdate_Generation_Websites.pdf (Accessed January 11, 2009). Cox-Otto, Pam. March 2006b. Los Angeles Valley Community College - Staff Development. Power point presentation at Los Angeles Valley Community College. http://www.interactcom.com/MultiGenerationalWorksheet.pdf (accessed January 11, 2009). Cox-Otto, Pam. April 2008a. The generational tsunami in everyone’s workplace. Presented at Regional Health Occupations Resource Center. http://www.interactcom.com/presentations/Golden%20West %202008%20Health%20Educators.pdf (Accessed January 11, 2009). Cox-Otto, Pam. July 2008b. Generational outreach: marketing across the generations. Power point presentation at CRD conference. http://www.interactcom.com/presentations/3_GenMarketing_CRD2008 (Accessed January 11, 2009). Cox-Otto, Pam. October 2008c. The Generational tsunami in the classroom. Power point presentation at College of the Canyons.
  • 23. Bakopoulos-23 http://www.interactcom.com/presentations/CollegeOfCanyons_Genera tional_Teaching_key.pdf (Accessed January 11, 2009). Desmette, Donatienne and Mathieu Gaillard. 2008. “When a ‘worker’ becomes an ‘older worker’: the effects of age-related social identity on attitudes towards retirement and work.” Career Development International, 13 (2): 168-185. www.emeraldinsight.com (Accessed January 25, 2009) Freedman, Marc. 2007. Encore: Finding work that matters in the second half of life. New York: Public Affairs. Freudenheim, Ellen. 2007. The boomers’ guide to good work: an introduction to jobs that make a difference. San Francisco: MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures. http://www.civicventures.org/publications/booklets/boomers_guide.cf m (Accessed January 27, 2008) Greller, Martin M. and Sandra B. Richtermeyer. 2006. “Changes in social support for professional development and retirement preparation as a function of age.” Human Relations, 59, (9): 1213-1234. www.csa.com. (Accessed January 18, 2009) Hart, Peter D. Research Associates. August 2002. “The new face of retirement: an ongoing survey of American attitudes on aging. A
  • 24. Bakopoulos-24 survey conducted for Civic Ventures.” 1-9. http://www.civicventures.org/publications/surveys/new_face_of_retire ment/2002.cfm. (Accessed January 27, 2009) Lippmann, Stephen. September 2008. “Rethinking risk in the new economy: age and cohort effects on unemployment and re-employment.” Human Relations, 61, (9): 1259-1292. McManus, Tom, Johan Anderberg, and Harold Lazarus. “Retirement-an unaffordable luxury.” 2007. Journal of Management Development, 26, (5): 484-492. www.emeraldinsight.com (Accessed January 18, 2009) Newton, Becci. 2006. “Training an age-diverse workforce.” Industrial and Commercial Training, 38, (2): 93-97. www.emeraldinsight.com. (Accessed January 18, 2009) United States Department of Labor: Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA). February 2008. “Report of the taskforce on the aging of the American workforce.” http://www.doleta.gov/reports/ FINAL_Taskforce_Report_2-11-08.pdf (Accessed January 27, 2009)