How to manage older workers

Peter Cappelli, author, "Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order"

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As people live longer, healthier lives, agencies are facing a growing number of older workers. This is presenting a big problem for younger supervisors.

“Younger supervisors feel they can’t manage anyone with more years of experience than them,” said Peter Cappelli, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, in an interview with DorobekINSIDER.

These younger supervisors won’t hire workers older than them or, if forced to manage older workers, ignore them, Cappelli said.

Cappelli’s book, “Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order” examines how supervisors can effectively utilize the knowledge and experience older workers possess.

The key, Cappelli said, is a partnership model.

“You really have to partner with these older folks and say I am the boss … but I need your help, and let’s see if we can figure out together if we can do this,” Cappelli said.

One way to form a partnership is to recognize that older workers are more motivated by the social aspects of their work. In other words, they want to do “tasks that seem to matter,” Cappelli said.

Cappelli provides a couple of don’ts for supervisors of older workers. Don’t tell the worker to do something “because I say so.” And don’t try to use bonuses to bribe soon-to-retire workers to stay longer.