Many seniors have been out of the work force for years and because of economic pressures feel compelled to return to the workplace in order the make ends meet. However, it isn’t simply a matter of browsing the help wanted ads, making a few calls, setting up interviews and actually landing a job; that’s doable for many retirees. Things have changed in the workplace over the years, and being able to break old habits and fit in with younger coworkers may be the toughest challenge of all.
I often thought about how I’d manage in a modern day workplace environment, and the probability that I’d last a week without incident is questionable. Here are a few phrases that may have been acceptable when many retirees were earning a living just a few years ago, but today the rules are dramatically different. These examples reflect the unforeseen shift in the workplace etiquette revolution, or what many label as the affliction of political correctness.
Then: And exactly when do you expect me to have this on your desk?
Today: Sure, no problem, I can cancel my evening plans and work late.
Then: There’s no possible way that can work.
Today: I’ll pursue every feasible option to make it happen.
Then: You’re pulling my chain, right? Nobody can be that dense.
Today: That’s fascinating. I never thought about it that way.
Then: I’ve got plans for lunch, bothering someone else down the hall.
Today: Absolutely; I don’t mind coordinating that for you during my lunch break.
Then: There’s no way that’ll work, and don’t tell anyone I had anything to do with it.
Today: If there’s any way it can be done I’ll make it happen for you.
Then: Is there some reason you waited until the last minute to tell me this?
Today: I’ll have to juggle a few things, but I’m sure I can fit that into my schedule.
Then: You got this job because you’re related to someone up the chain, right?
Today: Pardon me, but I don’t understand. Do you have time to explain that again?
Then: No way. It’s fine the way it is.
Today: If I understand you correctly, you didn’t care for it? I’ll correct it right away.
Then: A chimp would understand it; how can you still be so clueless?
Today: Maybe I can help you understand by explaining it to you another way.
Then: Sure, add it to the pile over there on the floor.
Today: Just this morning I was discussing how I’d love to take on an additional project.
Then: Who died and left you in charge?
Today: I’m sure you’re very busy. Why don’t you let me handle that for you?
Then: If you don’t know what you want, how am I supposed to figure it out?
Today: I believe I understand, but let me give you an example of what I have in mind.
In addition to being somewhat out of sync with the lingo spoken in the modern day workplace, another displaced virtue seems to be in vogue – blind obedience, formerly known as sucking up. Regardless of how you slice it, reentering the work force demands some etiquette tweaking for those who haven’t ventured into the real world lately to earn a pay check.
Here are several inflexible rules that may keep you employed and out of trouble, at least for the first few days.
• When talking with someone, stare directly into their eyes; never glance below the neck regardless of their gender, especially if it’s a female. And don’t even consider gawking at that butt crack tattoo demanding your undivided attention.
• Clean up your language. That means eliminating all one-syllable words from your vocabulary. Derogatorily descriptive words such as doofus, moron and the like are also probabilities for the “don’t say that” list.
It’s irrelevant that you’re old enough to be the parent or grandparent of your boss. You’re not in charge so let it go. Even if your younger co-workers encourage you to tell the boss how to do the job because of your extensive prior experience, forget it. Otherwise, you’ll be the one who’s terminated.
The axiom that wisdom comes with age no longer cuts it the new and improved workplace. In reality, you’re likely to be paid less than everyone else to do the same job, and probably better. It’s easier to swallow if you view it as having reached another rung on the golden ladder of life. Welcome to the club.