I feel terrible performance-managing an octogenarian

A reader writes:

I have a long-time employee who I’ll call Joe. I’ve been his line manager for the last five years or so.

Before my time, Joe expressed a desire to wind down to retirement. The organization supported that with a part-time arrangement which went on for several years — well past Joe hitting and sailing past the usual age of retirement. Unfortunately, upper management then removed our ability to offer part-time work and when given the choice to retire or come back full-time, Joe elected to come back full-time. At the time we were fine with that — he was a good operator.

However, in the last few years Joe has been experiencing health issues. It has slowed him down considerably and changed his attitude to work. Despite many many months of meeting regularly and trying to communicate (gently and then increasingly bluntly) that he needs to do the job more efficiently, the timeliness of his delivery has not improved. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I estimate that I’m getting less work from him now than when he was working part-time despite my best efforts at managing and supporting him.

His attitude toward me and our organizational leadership has deteriorated too. His attitude has moved from positive and constructive to using every opportunity to deliver long-winded lectures about “in his day” and lectures about outdated management practices and how I, my boss, and upper management are not doing our jobs well. He has completely lost the ability to communicate concisely about projects and issues, and people turn off when he talks.

I’m now getting pushback from other staff, upper management, and outside stakeholders who no longer want to work with him because he wastes their time and doesn’t deliver. People have stopped answering his calls.

I have been having conversations about the need for improved, timely outcomes and his communication style with Joe for some time. I have given him a middle of the road workload with clear deliverables but he’s dawdling when we need him to deliver. When I started to ask for the deliverables by specific dates, he complained of stress and anxiety.

Given the nature of his ongoing health issues and the respect I have for his stage of life (now 80s) and historical performance, I am loath to go down a performance management/PIP route lest I literally kill him, but this isn’t fair on the rest of the team who are delivering and pushing out higher volumes of work.

He has said, in response to a frank conversation about retirement, that he can’t do the active things he wanted to due to his health, so he can’t see the point in retiring — he’d be bored.

What can I do here? Do I just need to performance manage him officially even if it worsens his health? It feels like an ignoble end to a long and overwhelming high performing career. On the other hand, I can’t in good conscience let him stay and under deliver when he has no plans of retiring just so he isn’t bored. (In case you’re wondering, Joe is financially comfortable and that is not a factor in the retirement question.)

Is there a solution I’m not seeing? I feel awful about how this might have to end.

Why not have a very frank conversation with Joe about the situation? That’s the most respectful approach and gives him the most control of the situation, while still being firm about what you need.

You could sit down with him and say, “I have an enormous amount of respect for your work here historically, but as we’ve talked about several times lately, you haven’t been hitting the bar we need in your role. Because of the seriousness of the issues, we’re  at the point where we’ll need to start a formal improvement plan, and if I don’t see XYZ from you in the next X weeks, I would need to let you go. However, since you had talked about retirement in the past, I wanted to touch base with you and see what makes sense to you. I would much rather see you leave on your own terms, but otherwise I’m at the point where I do need to begin the PIP process.”

That way, he knows where things stand and it’s up to him. If he seems unsure about how to proceed, you say, “I’m happy to give you a chance to pursue the PIP option if you want to — and if you choose that path, I’ll of course try my best to help you succeed — but I would hate for it to turn your experience here sour. I would much rather work together on a transition that meets your needs and ours.”

And then respect Joe’s choice, whatever it is. As part of that, I think you need to get away from the fear that putting him on a PIP will kill him. Joe’s a competent and financially comfortable adult who will have options and agency in this situation. It’s okay to be honest (be kind too, of course, but that’s not specific to his age). In fact, I’d argue that if you want to help him preserve his dignity, that necessarily includes not coddling him because of his age — and does require intervening at this point.

I’m actually a fan of this approach in lots of situations where you’re convinced that a PIP or other progressive discipline process won’t lead to the significant improvement that you need. Rather than dragging the person through a process that’s unlikely to end in success, having an honest conversation and giving them a voice in how to proceed can be a kinder (and more effective) approach. (To be clear, though, if the person picks the PIP route, you should be sincere in your willingness to give them a chance to show they can improve.)

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. Chairman of the Bored*

    Step 1: Ask yourself what would you do if Joe was 35 years old instead of 80?

    Step 2: Do that thing.

    1. ABCYaBye*


      Keeping Joe hanging on and coddling him is harmful to the company, to Joe’s coworkers, to you, and to Joe. If we worried about the ramifications that any sort of discipline would have on any employee, we’d never find ways to correct actions. A 35 year old might have a newborn and another kid starting school. What would discipline do to them? A 22 year old might be embarrassed to be fired from their first job, so why would you ever consider firing them? Joe isn’t getting the job done, and unlike most in the workforce, Joe can probably walk away comfortably tomorrow. Him being bored isn’t your worry, just as someone’s newborn or another’s embarrassment isn’t your worry.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Joe will need to solve his boredom with something other than this job. Which is a very normal thing to expect of adults.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          OP is hurting her company, their customers, and her status of a manager because one old guy doesn’t want to bother finding a hobby.

        2. Aerin*

          Seriously. If he feels like his current hobbies are out of reach, he can take classes in something new, volunteer, get a job that’s actually part time… There are lots of options, especially if he has the financial means. He hasn’t bothered trying because he hasn’t had to.

        3. Anon Supervisor*

          My dad had to retire at 60 because he was in the National Guard and his full time job was doing his national guard job 40 hours a week (kind of Military/Civil Service). He was so worried he would be bored that he got 2 part time jobs. He ended up quitting one and went “On Call” for the other during the pandemic and found that he wasn’t bored at all because now he has more time to do things he really likes doing and helping my mom. TLDR – Joe really should retire.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah, he doesn’t want to retire because he can’t do the things he wanted to do in his retirement. He is well aware he is no longer capable of doing certain things. Since that now includes his job, pfff no he can’t be kept on just because he doesn’t want to retire. If his work were still stellar, nobody’d be moaning at all. But his work quality has deteriorated to the point that nobody should have to deal with it.

          I am very very angry with whoever decided that part-time work was no longer possible, since Joe had been doing absolutely fine up to that point. And even without considering Joe’s specific situation, part-time workers in general can be very productive (many studies have shown that we give our best on a 4-day week).

      2. Been There!*

        Dear OP,

        I was in the same situation with a 70-something. He provided me some value, but his work just wasn’t up to par anymore. I ended up having to let him go (with some strong arming from my boss because I was really hesitant). Anyway, we stayed on good terms and I have to say… he’s truly thrived after being let go. It was like he needed someone to force him to retire. He couldn’t picture his life without a job and was stuck and scared. He relocated closer to family, gets to enjoy his hobbies and seems to just be so happy. Don’t feel bad about doing what you need to do, it may turn out to be the best thing for him.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yeah, my grandmother worked till she was 70 because she was sure she’d be bored. Then regretted not retiring earlier because she had so much fun, organising bingo nights and whist drives and sitting on the carnival committee. She’d done all that before retiring, and just went into overdrive once she retired. Much better fun than managing the laundry room at the hospital!
          Then just five years later she had a horrific stroke that should have killed her, but just left her completely paralysed on one side, and she fell into a terrible depression and was miserable till her death after dragging on for another 12 years.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      Yes. This exactly. Age is not the issue here, it’s Joe’s performance. And if it’s not up to company standards, then he either needs to shape up or ship out. It’s sad that it has to come down to this, and likely it’s his advanced age and deteriorating health that has to do with it. But you and your company cannot and should not suffer because of it.

      Alison has the right words for you regarding Joe. He may be best off retiring, especially at his age.

    3. Venus*

      The difference is that Joe can comfortably retire, so there are other options unavailable to someone who is 35 years old. He can volunteer, which doesn’t work well in a corporate context yet some work situations like academia are well known for having retired profs who continue to have desks and hang around for a while after retirement. There are mentorship groups, and potentially specific ones related to the work topic. If Joe is worried about boredom, then OP can look for ways in which he contributes that would take advantage of Joe’s experience and current skills. I wouldn’t typically suggest that a LW spend a lot of time researching other options for an employee, but 10 minutes searching the web for ideas in their area might be a useful investment in this circumstance.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yep. Joe has an option the average 35YO doesn’t.

        Unfortunately, I have also seen people delay retirement for Reasons that don’t help their co-workers. (I’ve seen way more people retire before I was ready to see them go, though.)

        The OP does nobody any favors by not having a frank & honest discussion with Joe.

      2. Dont be a dork*

        We don’t know that he can retire comfortably, but he is certainly of the age to retire.

          1. Liva*

            But the OP doesn’t *actually* know the details of his finances. He may be unable financially to retire but embarrassed to say so, so he comes up with other reasons.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              But it’s still not OP’s problem! The company sheds young parents with no other source of income without feeling sorry for them, why should they keep Joe on? OP has productivity targets to meet and Joe is hindering this.

    4. Drago Cucina*

      And document, document, document. I had a Joe. The previous director was personal friends with this person and had people going behind her to do her work. I know she felt for her, because our “Joe” had opted not to be part of the retirement system. Well 10+ years later she didn’t have that retirement option.

      I simply began by expecting her to do her job and formally counseling her when that didn’t happen. Things like return phone calls and emails to patrons within 24 hours. Check email every day. Not onerous tasks. I’ll leave her treatment of other employees out.

      But, when we had an issue twice of her taking people’s money, but not properly crediting their accounts it was enough. We were generous. We didn’t have COBRA, so I recommended that she take her vacation time as terminal leave so we could cover her on the health plan for another month.

      She still got a lawyer and tried to float an age discrimination suit. Fortunately I had documents she signed at every counseling session. It didn’t go anywhere.

      The only thing that changed was that we began requiring that every year personnel be issued and sign receiving a copy of the personnel policy.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        There is a local organization here whose archivist began having cognitive problems as she aged, but it wasn’t immediately obvious because she was generally very lucid and personable, and she was a “lone arranger” (department of one, common in smaller organizations that don’t have enough work for more than one archivist). But she was gradually losing her judgment and threw away a lot of historical material before anyone realized it. It came to light when they assigned a younger employee to help her a few hours a week to move boxes, clean, etc., and he discovered that, far beyond needing help with the physical work, she was no longer capable of doing the organizational work. She was either a very early, or possibly a founding member of the organization and letting her go caused a lot of hard feelings, especially among board members and patrons who thought she was still a lot more functional than she was.

    5. M2*

      This. And don’t treat someone differently because of their age, that is discrimination. To cover yourself I would do the PIP. You don’t want someone possibly suing the company saying you pushed them out because of their age. Sad to say, but in this day and age you need to cover all the bases. Document everything and loop HR in too.

      Someone in another department put an employee on a PiP who was awful at their job and arrogant. The person did not seem to understand the Pip ( if you don’t do XYX you will be let go) even though they were told verbally and in writing. The organization made them do the PiP for almost 1 year to cover themselves and after this person was let go they still tried to get unemployment and go after the company! Having everything done correctly saved everyone trouble and legal fees in the end. Document everything and send or write memo/ meeting notes after verbal meetings (or have someone else in there with you). Always better to do more and be on the safe side.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Unless these are separate actions, getting unemployment is not “going after the company.”

  2. Karath*

    Alison’s advice about offering PIP or a transition plan is just good in general – and I’m speaking as someone who was on the receiving end of one of those conversations. I was completely burned out on my high-travel (to not great locations), high-emotion job, and had been really underperforming for at least a year if not more. After a two week vacation that I was hoping would recharge me, and didn’t, my boss pulled me into his office and gave me the talk. He said that nothing that was said would leave that office, but I needed to either drastically improve or move on. He offered support during my job hunt (I remained employed at my full salary and had total discretion to job hunt and interview during office hours) and made it very clear I was not being fired.

    It was a hard conversation at the time, but looking back after several years, it was an incredible kindness. OP, think about this option.

    1. Sloanicota*

      yeah, particularly because Joe has health issues, I’ve known jobs that provide salary during a transition period when they can’t keep someone on but also don’t want to cut them off (particularly health insurance. You say Joe is comfortable but are you sure that’s not the reason he’s hanging on? Perhaps he’s unaware of options for seniors or fears the coverage won’t meet his needs?).

      1. somanyquestions*

        He’s been getting full social security since he was 72 besides his salary. And I don’t want to sound unsympathetic but someone who is in their 80s with no real plans on how to retire should start doing those things on their own, quickly.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          Well that does come across as incredibly unsympathetic. It’s one thing to say to a 40-year-old that they need to start planning for retirement, but what exactly do you want someone in their 80s who can’t retire to do? There are a number of situations that can leave someone who was financially comfortable with plenty of retirement savings in middle age to suddenly have nothing left and no way to retire by the time they are 80.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Sadly, I’m not sure it’s *ever* possible for the average person to save enough for catastrophic health issues in the US. Most insurance plans here have significant gaps. Joe may have saved a lot and still run into something totally unexpected – including needing to help a family member who requires long term care – that has completely blown his plans. I know a couple seniors who saved all their lives but needed to off-load their money so they were eligible for government programs, which was literally the only option to pay for what they needed. (Not to say this changes what I’d say to OP in this circumstance beyond the need to be compassionate).

            1. Mockingjay*

              Not to mention the number of persons over the last two decades who lost all of their 401Ks and pensions due to mismanagement/embezzlement/buyouts/bankruptcy by corporations. It breaks my heart to go to Wallyworld and see seniors with crippling arthritis working the cash register to make ends meet because their savings are gone, while the corp execs took their bonuses and moved on. Also, Social Security is meant to be a supplement, not a retirement plan. I could go on. But…

              Back to advice for the OP, this is a performance issue. Treat it as such. I do like that Alison pointed out that a PIP likely won’t succeed in this case; it makes sense to offer an alternative. Do loop in higher ups; Joe probably has a lot of contacts and OP needs to be clear that this is a performance issue affecting productivity, not a pushing out of the “old guard.”

          2. somanyquestions*

            There is absolutely no reason to think that this person can’t retire due to financial reasons. That is not mentioned at all, and wasn’t part of his reason for staying which the LW did discuss.

            And my lack of sympathy is that he seems to have avoided any sort of retirement planning – and I’m not talking about money. At all. He can’t continue this forever and it’s harmful to him and everyone around him for anyone to pretend that he can.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            I believe somanyquestions was referring only to the individual mentioned by the LW, who *is* financially secure enough to retire. He had plans to retire, but hasn’t yet done the hard work of choosing what they want to do with the rest of their life now that his declining health has made many of his original plans infeasible.

            At the moment, he seems to be in limbo: he’s only putting in the motions at his job (which seems to no longer satisfy him), but he also hasn’t made any plans to do something other than his job.

            1. Middle Aged Lady*

              His plans were based on being active and now he can’t do those things. We should all develop a plan beyond I’ll coach Little League or go camping. You may not be fit to do those things by then.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I had a similar experience. While I was really upset at the time, I can look back and see that it really was a kindness. Moreover, leaving that job was the best thing I’ve ever done for my career and professionalism.

      1. Karath*

        Definitely the best thing for my mental health as well. Burnout sucks, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had a boss who got what was going on and gave me a way out that was helpful.

  3. C in the Hood*

    Awww, Joe! I feel for him too…but the fact is, if he’s going to be bored if he retires, it’s his responsibility to find a way to alleviate that boredom.
    All that being said, is there any way that he can be hired as a contractor or consultant (since your company can’t offer part-time) instead of a full-time position?

    1. ABCYaBye*

      While that’d be something I’d suggest if Joe happened to be a GREAT employee at present and wanted to scale back hours, I wouldn’t offer him a role within the company other than what he has at present, along with the PIP. His current demeanor and lack of ability to do all the work necessary would make it very difficult to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Agreed. I think the changes in his demeanor and attitude are bigger than his declining productivity, and a contractor role would only reward them (and the benefit changes might make them even worse).

      2. AnonyAnony*

        I agree. Sound like his demeanor and lack of ability has a significant negative impact on the team morale, as well as his own reputation. Offering him these roles would likely to negatively impact how the rest of the employees view management’s level of judgment, and ability to manage effectively. I would certainly not recommend that.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      NO. Don’t offer Joe a pity job! That may have worked before but now Joe is now too slow, late on deliverables, has become a poor rambling communicator, is bad mouthing everyone up his chain of command talking about the “good old days,” and people are ignoring his phone calls. He is past the point where he is capable of doing good work.

    3. Jackalope*

      I would add that it’s not going to get any easier for him to find new hobbies as he gets older and his physical abilities and health (likely) continue to shrink. This is one of the things that sucks so much about aging, but there are options that he has even with reduced abilities. Volunteering is one option; they are much more likely to be able to accommodate him and give him, say, easier tasks and/or a lighter schedule. But he won’t be able to do that if he’s still working full-time.

      1. Sloanicota*

        this is one reason I don’t subscribe to the “plan to work until you die” mindset that a lot of my friends espouse. I think a lot of retirement happens because either the worker’s health requires it, or they must become a caregiver to a spouse of family member, not just because they decide to travel the world. That being the case, I try to travel the world / do whatever I dream of retiring to do *now.* I also know several people who finally retired and then immediately had a health crisis or died :(

        1. kiki*

          Yeah, I’ve definitely had talks with friends in their 60s-70s who said they didn’t realize, even in their 50s, that they would *need* to retire. I think retirement is talked about as a luxury these days (which is its whole own problem), but a lot of people’s minds, body’s, and life situations necessitate not working in advanced age, or at very least changing or reducing the work they do.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I wonder if this is all going to get sorted out. I remember reading that social security used to provide for fewer years because people tended to die younger. Then there was a period where people were still retiring at 65 or whatever, but going on to live 20 more years with good health and travelling the world or playing golf or whatever – which became an aspirational dream for many. Now I assume – sigh – we’re due for an adjustment, and they’ll put the SS age back at the “closer to death” range for my generation. So an old-fashioned leisurely retirement is in fact a luxury again.

            1. Chairman of the Bored*

              Given the rate US life expectancy is falling, the SS age is currently getting closer to “average age at death” even with no administrative adjustments at all.

              1. quill*

                Possibly they will adjust it anyway, given that falling life expectancy in the last few years can in a large part be attributed to the pandemic.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Life expectancy in the United States declined again in 2017, the government said Thursday in a bleak series of reports that showed a nation still in the grip of escalating drug and suicide crises.

                  The data continued the longest sustained decline in expected life span at birth in a century, an appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918.


              2. irene adler*

                In 1935, when Social Security started, the average life expectancy was 58-men and 62- women. And one had to be 65 to collect SS.

                1. Cambridge Comma*

                  The low average life expectancy is skewed by death in childhood. If you took the average life expectancy of people who lived long enough to start working and pay taxes you‘d see a different picture.

                2. Willow Pillow*

                  To add to Cambridge Comma, there are also a lot more people coming close to retirement age and a lot less people paying in federal pensions to make up for it – both in terms of population demographics and people paying in (I doubt all those gig economy workers are paying all their deductions).

                3. quill*

                  If you removed people who died of infectious disease in childhood, you easily see how the life expectancy if you made it to adulthood was actually not that low. (Also: we’d just had a world war, that was contributing to people who died as late teens / young adults)

            2. kiki*

              I wonder that too, but I really don’t like the idea of retiring at 65 being considered a luxury, even if folks live for another 20 years on average. There are some people who are still 100% capable of working at full capacity well into their 70s or even 80s+, but I think that’s an exception and very job-dependent. I talked to my dad shortly before he retired and he was *ready*. Things that were quick and easy for his younger coworkers were more difficult or took him longer. He still brought a lot to the team with his 40+ years of experience within the company, but at a certain point he was slowing in his ability to complete day-to-day tasks of his job.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Yeah to be honest I dread the thought of trying to claw my away along to 70 or whatever the retirement age will be by the time I get there. It may be physically possible in theory but I don’t think it speaks well for our society. Some people may want to keep working but I’m not one of them.

                1. quill*

                  Also we lose a LOT of valuable community work that isn’t compensated in our current system if the only people who can retire are the ones physically unable to do work.

                2. kiki*

                  It can also be demoralizing. For my dad, he said there was just a day he realized, “Wow, I won’t get any better at this.” Luckily, he was able to retire soon after that day and had a lot of meaning in his life outside of work. But I can see how it could lead somebody who has put a lot of their value as a person into their work performance to have a hard time adjusting.

              2. WantonSeedStitch*

                Same. My job is one that’s low-impact physically, and as long as I keep doing it, it’s not hard to keep up with technological and process changes. Also, I love it. Really love it. But I hate the thought of having to keep working until I’m Joe’s age. I’d love the opportunity to choose my own schedule, set my own priorities and my own pace. And I want that opportunity while I’m still physically capable of doing the things I love to do, like spending a few hours on my feet in the kitchen or taking hikes in the woods or something. I don’t want my retirement to be bitter and boring because I gave all my good years to work.

                1. Sloanicota*

                  Sadly, from Joe’s comment, this sounds like exactly his current situation :( It’s not OP’s fault at all but it sucks.

              3. My Useless 2 Cents*

                I don’t know if it was psychological or what but as soon as my mom reached 65 she started making comments about the work being so much harder and she just didn’t feel like she was doing as well as she used to. Took her another 5 years to retire because the company kept asking her to stay a little bit longer but she was *ready* to retire at 70 (from a physical and mental point). She has been happily retired for two years now and likes to call herself a “full-time putterer”.

              4. Curmudgeon in California*

                My dad went to part time before he fully retired, both as a way to ease him out of work and still retain the benefit of his long years of expertise in his field for his company. After he fully retired he spent about 10 years traveling. He died at age 78, though, which was a bit young, but not unexpected.

                1. Windchime*

                  My dad did the opposite. He retired at 60 and spent a couple of years caring for his aging mother, who eventually passed away. Dad had nothing to fill his time, so he went back to work part-time until he was 70 when he retired for good. I’m 60 and have been retired for 8 months; will I stay retired? I don’t know. I think so, but I could also see myself working part-time again.

              5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                yeah basically people in law and other intellectual professions can often carry on very easily. Bricklayers and warehouse workers are usually more than ready to retire at 60. For many very physical, dangerous jobs in France (fire fighting, the military…), they can retire after just 25 years service. Some go on to do other more lightweight work, some travel the world, many don’t live very long, especially those who didn’t rise to managerial levels.

            3. Bagpuss*

              Yes, I think that the average 65 year old today is probably healthier and more able to continue to be active (whether working or not) than was the case 20 or 30 years ago, although of course it is very dependent on the type of work they do – someone with a very physically demanding job may not be able to work past their 50s whereas someone with a desk job might be capable of working well into their 70s. And in both caes they may be able to work but be slower / find it harder to adapt than when they were younger.

              (My parents were able to retire when they were in their early 60s, a few years before their state pensions kicked in. they are now in their mid 70s and have commented thay thay have both noticed that they can’t do as much, get tired more quickly and take longer to recover. They are lucky in that this mostly just means thatwhen they go away, they plan 3 days at each stop instead of two, so they can have a day of doing nothing between thedays of sight-seeing / socialising /whatever. I think they would struggle to manage full time work if they found themselves in a postion of having to, or wanting to, work.)

              All that said, i agree with Alison’s advice and that of the comments above – it would not be appropriate to ignore the issues with his work just becuae of his age.

            4. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

              Part of the problem is that Medicare allows people who are very, very sick to have “life-saving” treatment that costs millions and millions of dollars. Look at Aduhelm! People who are pretty close to death (sick and in their late 90s) are getting chemo and expensive experimental treatments that keep them alive for 1-2 more years but with low quality of life. A lot of times, the people getting these treatments don’t really want them either, but it’s a scared child or spouse influencing their decisions. Obviously, some universal, state-sponsored system for health insurance is preferable, but we also need ways for the current system to be more thoughtful about people’s medical wishes.

              One potential solution to the retirement crunch that I hope we see is expanded access to assisted suicide and other death with dignity measures (e.g. changes in how we use hospice/palliative care, stronger healthcare directives, etc). I very much worry about getting some degenerative disease of the mind and living for years in memory care. My state doesn’t have assisted suicide, but I’d consider moving to a different state to have access to it. I would rather die than be a vegetable in a memory care unit, wasting tons of money that could be used to improve the lives of a young person. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

              1. Sloanicota*

                I sooooo strongly agree with you. I really hope we make headway on this before my generation reaches this age. I would like to sign an advance directive that allows me to exit with dignity even if I start losing mental capacity later (from what I understand, people with mental disease can’t legally chose this option anymore?). I don’t see any value in dragging out my death an extra year or five years while outliving my savings and gaining no quality of life. I plan to move to a Right to Die state when I retire. I can’t say I honestly view this as a reason not to try and save as much as I can in the assumption I might end up needing a long term care facility or something godforsaken expensive and almost possibly miserable, but … (note, I want this for myself, I would never want to pressure anyone else to feel obliged, for financial or other reasons).

                1. KB*

                  You can write and sign an advanced directive at any time that will give you some peace of mind about medical treatments etc. I suggest doing so for your peace of mind.

              2. Science KK*

                My mom says this, but refuses to see a lawyer and get it in writing. I keep telling her unless you get a lawyer to sign off I’ll visit you as you rot but…… you’ll still rot. I’m not making that call and risking the repercussions for her lack of planning.

                1. KB*

                  Your mother can do an advanced directive without needing to see a lawyer. That will help give her some control over the later stages of her life and would be easier for you as well. I suggest you look into it a bit and talk to her.

          2. Jackalope*

            Yes, that’s one of the things that people often don’t consider when they’re younger. At some point in time everyone who keeps aging will have to deal with an inability to keep working. It happens at different ages for different people – often in the late 50s or early 60s for someone doing physical labor (sooner if they have a disabling accident), maybe into the early 70s for some who hit the physical/mental health lottery, but at some point in time it WILL come. I always twitch a bit when I hear people saying that they will never be able to retire financially so they will just keep working for the rest of their lives. Obviously some of that is related to the lousy supports in our country in terms of pensions and such (to say nothing of the extreme debt many people end up in because of a lack of other supports in their lives), but it’s not a viable option.

            1. a nonny mouse*

              For a lot of us, we say we plan to work for the rest of our lives, but the unspoken part is “I will do everything I can to work until I die (maybe even work myself to death) because the alternative is to stop working and die from poverty.” No good options here.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Yeah, nobody I know is saying it because they actually love work that much (even if they are truly go-getters who live to work, they would presumably be more drawn to flexible-hour consulting, starting their own nonprofit or dream small business or whatever). They are saying it because they don’t see how it will ever be possible to save up enough, particularly given uncertain medical expenses, inflation, and worries about the economy. Many people in my age cohort got a late/slow start due to the 08 recession and the employment fallout, with previously salaried jobs being converted to contract positions with no benefits or retirement – plus they were crushed under student debt they didn’t see a way to ever pay off. A lot of them also had credit card debt but still hoped to marry and children. Something had to give. It was retirement.

                1. doreen*

                  I have actually known too many people who waited too long to retire – and some never did. I know these people well enough to say that what kept them from retiring was not that they couldn’t finance their retirement – almost all of them had generous enough pensions that the combination of pension + SS and lower taxes would leave them with a higher take home than they had working. There are lots of reasons other than finances why people don’t retire. Some of them kept working because they had a certain amount of status at work that they wouldn’t have if they weren’t working – sometimes it was due to their job title and other times because they held positions in organizations that they would no longer be eligible for if they retired. Some kept working because they had nothing outside of work – no family, no hobbies, no friends other than co-workers. A few kept working for the opposite reason – their spouse was retired and they wouldn’t get along if both were home everyday or they would be expected to help care for an elderly parent or grandchildren if they retired. I know one person who actually said ” If I’m not a salesman, who am I?”

                2. kiki*

                  Like doreen, I was actually thinking of a number of folks who don’t retire because they don’t have an identity outside of work. Granted, I think that group is much, much smaller than the group who can’t retire for financial reasons, but it’s still something I’ve come across more than once. I think especially for those who are in important roles, they’re avoiding the moment they become “just an old retiree” instead of VP or whatever title.

              2. Curmudgeon in California*

                This. I say “I will probably work until I die” because there are no good pension options any more, just rip-off scam 401k’s that nibble your saving to death with fees, and when you are younger you don’t make enough to be able to put aside money, or you have to cash it out to avoid homelessness halfway through your career. My spouse and I both had this happen, and now all they get is social security, and if I were to retire the sum of both our social security would not be enough to live on.

                I try to put aside money, then in every slight recession the casino of the stock market makes it shrink to half of what I put in while inflation eats the buying power of what is left. Then the jackals in Washington cheese-pare what’s left. I end up supplementing my mother’s retirement, too, so there’s even less left for me to save.

                So yeah, I’ll probably work until I die, probably ending up as a hunched over greeter at a Walmart because of age discrimination in my field.

                1. Move it move it*

                  As someone who has been investing in the stock market for decades, and has bought a variety of stocks that went up in value over the years (e.g. early Apple), I believe the stock market is mostly a scam for the wealthy. “Accredited investors” (chosen entirely on the basis of being at least millionaires) have early access to buy shares before an IPO makes the shares available to all. By getting in before the masses, then selling shortly after the IPO, they can make millions more while the masses make a pittance.

        2. anti social socialite*

          Retirement, much like home ownership just isn’t possible for many people. So a lot of people do have to work until they can’t.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Devastating to have neither home ownership nor retirement – literally what are current workers going to do when they can’t work but rents are still skyrocketing … :( it’s a double blow. Plus student debt plus health care costs – we’re doomed.

        3. CPegasus*

          I mean, doesn’t sound too contradictory to me. I decided I could either squirrel away every cent of fun money for a retirement that may never come, or I could enjoy my 30s and take a vacation every 3-5 years, and I’m choosing vacations. I just plain don’t make enough to be able to save anything substantial… the ~$2-3k I spend traveling sounds like a lot but it takes me years to save and with no income it would be gone in a month. So… *shrug*. I don’t see myself being able to retire and I just can’t beat my head against the wall feeding my anxiety by trying anymore. I have a small IRA with money on the stock market doing whatever it’s doing but it scares the shit out of me thinking it could all just go away in a risky investment.

        4. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          My Dad retired at age 59 because my mother had health issues that would be alleviated by moving to a better climate. He collected a pension for 34 years until he died when he was 93 – from a job he’d had for only 20 years! My Mom then got his pension and benefits for another 14 years until she died at 97. Dad’s job didn’t pay well, but it had wonderful retirement benefits, including a health insurance plan they both stayed on until they died. Supplemented by Social Security, they managed to live better retired than they did while working.

          1. Nica Bee*

            My mom is in a similar situation. She was a teacher. She retired at 72 and has now been collecting 75% of her highest annual salary for 10 years now. She is in perfect health and I would not be surprised if she lived another 10+ years (her mother lived to age 94!). There is no way that what she paid in is more than what she is collecting even when you factor in growth over time. Plus, she gets a generous benefit toward her Medicaid supplement. She is living as well, if not better, than when she was working.

      2. Lime green Pacer*

        If he’s moderately internet-savvy he may even find volunteering opportunities online. For years, I preserved my sanity by volunteering on the forums of a well-known for-profit website, sharing my personal expertise with other folks and being part of a very collegial online community. Lots of retirees, as well as people of all ages, still volunteer there.

    4. irene adler*

      Can Joe volunteer for the professional organization for the industry he works in? Way less time deadline constraints doing something like that.

    5. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I just wanted to highlight that IT IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM if Joe is bored in retirement. You are not obligated to keep him on so he won’t be bored.

    6. Hannah Lee*

      ” … since your company can’t offer part-time … ”

      It seems like the company management’s *decision* to no longer have part-time positions was a precipitating factor. Obviously, shifting Joe to part-time now isn’t an option, but back when he was doing his job well, with part-time hours, there didn’t seem to be any issue. I wonder what the reason for that was, and why it was an inflexible across-the-board policy with no one grandfathered in.

      I get that the issue of whether to have any part-time employees can be complex, and depend on a variety of things, but the shift seemed kind of arbitrary in this case. Having a long time employee work a reduced scheduled prior to fully retiring isn’t an unheard of thing. I do wonder if the “sorry, nope, no more part-time” decision was partly an attempt by someone (not the LW) to encourage him to leave; that they weren’t thinking he’d take the “Ok fine, I’ll go back to full-time work” option.

      But at this point, yeah, Alison’s advice is excellent.

      1. doreen*

        I’d like to know why part-time was no longer an option, too. It could have been an effort to get him to retire – but I noticed that once my husband’s employer started to have people drop to part-time around retirement-age , it became a very popular option and I suspect if too many people wanted to go part-time, the option would be eliminated. I wonder if something like that happened at the LW’s company.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I also wondered if the original part time arrangement was the company’s part in succession planning – and they revoked it because Joe just wasn’t doing his part in the transition out, so they ended the arrangement.

          I have a feeling that what happened was that there in the past was not a lot of clear communication and expectations. Now Joe is not getting along with coworkers, costing the company money, and really probably needs to leave….but is probably totally unwilling to do that without being pushed out.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Now, I know it costs more on paper to have part-timers on the payroll, but honestly, the idea that everyone must work full-time has aged as well as the idea that everyone has to be in the office. It’s ridiculous to have people working even a set amount of hours, when the work they do is quantified easily.
          A case in point: Fergus in my office was in charge of producing content was asked how long it took him to produce X amount of content. He said about a week (he had minimal other duties that might take up an hour or so a day). I was producing very similar content and had similar minimal other duties and I said about a day for the same amount. The boss fired Fergus and hired some freelancers to produce the content he’d been producing. They were offered the equivalent of a day’s pay for each article. They all managed to produce the content in less than a day and were delighted with the pay.

          1. doreen*

            We don’t know that Joe’s work is easily quantified – it might be. Or it might be the sort of job that’s not so easy to quantify – my husband is a salaried sales rep, and when his coworkers have dropped down to part-time, it always pushes some of their work onto other people. Because the fact that Leon only works Mon- Wed and has 60% of the customers as the full-timers doesn’t mean one of his customers won’t want to place an order on Friday and someone will have to take care of them. It’s workable for one person to be part-time , probably even two – but at some point it won’t work without fundamentally changing the way the business operates.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              That’s typically the kind of thing that needs to be shared: Leon works Mon-Wed, and Sharon works Thur-Sat, each filling in for each other.

  4. Jmac*

    Being old doesn’t excuse Joe from doing his job competently. Your company is not an activity centre for seniors, him just hanging around because he’s bored doesn’t mean he can just do what he likes causing everyone else’s work to suffer. Treat him the same as you’d treat any employee.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I understand the tendency to be more lenient towards someone you have positive history with but even that can only go so far – Jeo isn’t owed a job he’s bad at just because he would be bored without it.

      1. kiki*

        I agree with this, but I do think it’s a kindness to want to make extra sure you’re doing right by a long-term employee whose performance has taken a turn relatively recently. I don’t know exactly how long-term Joe was, but if he’s worked at this company for 30, 40, or 50+ years and was a great employee for most of that time, I can see why LW would have a hard time taking the steps to let him go.

    2. CheesePlease*

      Exactly. Continuing to work for fear of boredom isn’t a good plan for Joe. You pay a salary and expect output commensurate to that salary. However, the transition to retirement can be hard for people who devoted a large portion of time to their jobs, and have few hobbies or interest in their home life. I wonder if there are any resources within your company’s EAP that could link him up with volunteer opportunities or a retirement coach to facilitate the transition.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I almost wonder if this is Joe – he’s scared of the unknown, so he won’t leave what he knows – but is now unable to keep up, so miserable, so making everyone around him miserable…..nobody is winning here except Joe. If there is an EAP outlet that can help him plan for the next step while you transition him out, it would probably be a blessing.

        But as slightly sorry for him as I am – Joe needs to exit stage left as graciously as possible.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Well, he’s winning a phyrric victory – because he still has the job, but is completely ignoring the costs to everyone and everything around him because he still has that job.

            I really don’t know if we can consider the phyrric victory a win though.

  5. Person from the Resume*

    My sympathy LW; this sounds unpleasant. You have to force someone to do something that they actually know needs to be done.

    Joe is putting you in this bad situation. He planned to retire. We will all slow down in our 80s. He knows what’s happening; he is not unaware that he’s slowed down and is not capable of performing as he used to. People are ignoring his phones calls now and refusing to work with him! He just doesn’t want to make the decision himself and is forcing you to do it for him.

    And this won’t literally kill him.

  6. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    The other thing to consider is that many people retire involuntarily. Not infrequently, it’s so someone can leave with dignity. It’s probably time to this with Joe. Instead of a PIP, speak to him about how the company is moving him to retired status. He may respond negatively, but ultimately, you need to do what’s best for the company while allowing Joe to leave with dignity.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I was going to say, “hmm what is the status of mandatory retirement these days, is that even still legal??” I know it happens in jobs that require a high degree of physical performance like cops etc.

      1. Antilles*

        For a mandatory retirement, I’d expect that you need to be able to clearly demonstrate that the physical attributes are a requisite part of the role, similar to how companies can set other physical requirements. We don’t know OP’s industry, but that’s clearly not the case given that the company offered to bring him back full-time after he was already semi-retired.
        I’ll also note that for many of the jobs I can think offhand with mandatory retirement ages are industries that still have unions and contracts (e.g., policemen or firefighters). IANAL, but that collectively bargaining might be part of the reason that it’d be legal to do so.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I wonder why unions would have pushed for mandatory retirement. Just to create opportunities for young people to move up?

          1. Grits McGee*

            For the 2 examples given (law enforcement and fire fighting), I can see how a mandatory retirement age can make sense- both of those jobs tend to have physical requirements for the work being done. I’ve only ever head of mandatory retirement for those 2 fields and the military; are there other fields where this comes into play?

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                As do Air Traffic Controllers.

                For the pilots and ATC folks it’s about reflexes and the immense amount of data that you are processing in a high stakes commercial/transport situation. When the reflexes start slowing down it can cut short the safety margins that are built into the system.

                But also for the pilots, they are just retired from the large commercial planes – they are able to fly the smaller charter flights or become bush pilots if they are still able to maintain the skills and physical abilities needed to maintain their licenses.

                Some of the ATC folks get recruited to teach the next generation of controllers.

                1. xl*

                  For ATC, it’s not as much “recruitment” as it is a job that opens up every once in awhile that you can bid on. I put in for it when I was coming up on my mandatory retirement age but I wasn’t selected. Luckily I was able to land a desk job in my area so I wasn’t kicked out the door at 56.

                  Being an instructor at the academy requires relocation to Oklahoma City and it can be a volatile position because the schoolhouse gets shut down every time there’s a government shutdown, hiring freeze, etc.

              1. xl*

                Yes, it’s the last day of the month in which you turn 56.

                However, that applies only to positions in which you are actively separating air traffic. Many people (myself included) slide into a desk job upon aging out.

                The key is that such a job has to exist and you have to be accepted into it prior to aging out. I was fortunate; I know a lot of people who were scrambling to find something when they were coming up on 56 and ended up aging out and being shown the door.

            1. KatEnigma*

              Episcopal priests have a mandatory retirement age, for reasons I can’t even begin to figure out. But that just means they can’t run a church themselves – they can indefinitely work at churches who are between permanent leaders.

            2. WantonSeedStitch*

              Many corporate boards have a mandatory retirement age for directors. In some places, there’s a mandatory retirement age for judges. Pilots and air traffic controllers.

              1. UKDancer*

                The UK has a mandatory retirement age for judges of 70. I understand one reason for this was because a judge called Lord Widgery went on sitting and wouldn’t retire despite demonstrating clear evidence of dementia. According to one of my law lecturers it was an open secret that the others on the panel would write his judgments because he was too incapable to do so. After that they introduced better rules on how to get rid of judges as well as a mandatory retirement age.

            3. Chauncy Gardener*

              The Big Four accounting firms do too. Not sure if it’s to ensure there is always room at the top for new partners?

            4. ScruffyInternHerder*

              I want to say I’ve heard that this is the case within the Secret Service, but it was from the wife of a service-member and there may be nuance to this.

              1. ScruffyInternHerder*

                And a quick search shows that it may be 57, or as soon as 20 years is in after age 57, for federal law enforcement positions, including secret service. Some departments have discretion to permit up to age 60.

                Source: GAO website.

          2. Warrior Princess Xena*

            I’m not familiar with unions, but am familiar with people in physically demanding jobs (including medical, btw, being physically dextrous can be very important). A lot of people either don’t recognize that they’re slipping, or they do and don’t want to admit it to themselves because it’s frightening (which I understand). Unfortunately, in some professions, this leads to people putting themselves in situations that they really can’t handle any more and putting the lives of others at risk – ie, a surgeon with untreated vision problems.

            So I don’t know for sure if that’s why unions push for it, but wouldn’t be surprised. Also having a specific retirement date might make it harder for companies to fire someone weeks before retirement and stiff them of their pension or similar and pretend they didn’t know that someone was retiring.

            1. Antilles*

              Yes, that’s the primary reason: The sorts of jobs where mandatory retirement still exists are ones where there’s real physical danger involved and having someone who’s physically incapable puts everybody else’s life in danger.
              The union accepts that it might sometimes harm a very small percentage of people like Joe who want to keep working forever but that’s a small price to pay in exchange for making it safer for everybody else.

              1. Warrior Princess Xena*

                I’d point out that it doesn’t sound like Joe is being harmed here. It doesn’t sound like he’s in a position where he can’t afford to retire – he just doesn’t want to. Harming would be if Joe couldn’t afford to retire and he’s being forced into a position where he’d have to then go and find somewhere riskier to work, which would be a far harder option. But if he doesn’t want to retire because he’s bored, that’s on him. His coworkers shouldn’t have to struggle and lose clients because of that.

                1. Antilles*

                  Fair point for Joe’s case in particular.
                  I was speaking more generally in terms of places with mandatory retirement age – and we can certainly envision a rare scenario where a firefighter hits mandatory retirement and really wants to keep working because he’s got outstanding debt and is worried that the slightly smaller payouts from his pension won’t be enough to cover it.
                  But even in those scenarios, it still points back to the union accepting that “this might stink for this one guy in particular but it’s a small price to pay for everybody else’s safety”…and probably with him trying to find some other work for income to help supplement the pension.

          3. Bagpuss*

            Possibly also in conjunction with wages and pension plans? It’s a lot more reasomable to insist someone retires at (say) 65 if they *also* gte a decent pension at that point.

            I’m in the UK where it’s no longer possible to have a mandatory retirementage in the majority of jobs,due to legal protecions against age discrimination. However, someone can be legally dismissed on acpacity grounds, which could be because they are not longer able to fulfil their job duties – it’s often the route where someone has significant health issues where making reasonable adjustments aren’t enough to enable them to continue to work, but could also apply wherthe their lack of capcity was age related.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I was wondering if it was some kind of trade-off with insurance / pension or something, but I don’t know the subtleties

              1. KatEnigma*

                Episcopal priests get both a pension and more recently a separate housing amount, as so many lived in church owned housing and then didn’t have housing or money for it upon retirement. So they aren’t being left in dire straits either

          4. quill*

            Unions started out having a huge amount of manufacturing workforce. Mandatory retirement + pensions was probably a safety concern in a factory in the early 1900’s.

        2. Agile Phalanges*

          My dad was (and brother is) an air traffic controller, and they have a mandatory retirement at 55 (!!), presumably because of the mental acuity needed and mental/emotional toll it could take on those who get more stressed about it than either my brother or dad seem to be. (It’s commonly considered a stressful job, but neither say it is for them.)

          But it’s known from the beginning, not sprung on poor performers. And yes, there’s a union, though my dad was one of the scabs who worked through the strike in the 80s and kept his job when the strikers got fired, a fact he’s very proud of. :-/ Not sure if my brother joined the union or not. But of course even if the union negotiated for it, it’s a policy that affects all. And also of course, being a government job, it has a pretty cushy pension, which makes an early retirement a perk, not a burden.

          My dad worked a few more years, first training new controllers, then in a tangentially-related role at a government contractor, then fully retired by 60.

          1. xl*

            I mentioned this in another comment, but the mandatory retirement age is the last day of the month you turn 56 (assuming you’re able to keep your medical clearance that long, which starts becoming an issue for many people).

            I wouldn’t call the pension “cushy.” It’s a pension, and that’s more than most people get. But it’s 1.7% per year for your first 20 years and 1% per year thereafter. So retiring with 25 years puts you at 39% of the average of your last 3 years (base salary only; not including overtime). I worked just shy of 400 hours of overtime in the last full year I was talking to planes.

            I was fortunate and I was able to find a desk job to slide into once I was about to age out. I’m probably going to stay for quite awhile because I live in a high-COL area and my house wasn’t even close to paid off when I hit 56 (I couldn’t afford to buy for the first time until I was in my 40s) and my daughter is just about to graduate from high school. Each year I stay in now adds 1% to my pension and I’m still bringing in a paycheck in the meantime.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Off hand comma pilots and air traffic controllers. After looking up the article on Wikipedia I can tell you some states also including judges. Some countries prohibited across the board. And the detail that surprised me was that the United Nations has a mandatory retirement age for its own employees.

    2. Meghan*

      I don’t think you can do that without opening the company to ageism complaints. Joe could still be perfectly capable of doing his job to expectations. I think the biggest kindness would be giving him the choice that Allison laid out: do the job to this expectation, or you’re on a PIP, or you leave on your own. Announcing “we are retiring you!” is not a kindness in any way, especially since Joe has indicated he no longer is interested in retiring.

    3. somanyquestions*

      That’s not really a thing. He could be fired for performance. They can’t tell him he has to retire because he’s just too old, though.

      1. pbnj*

        I’ve seen people get told “you can retire today or you can be fired”, so while not being told straight-up that they’re being retired, it’s pretty much the same thing.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          That’s what I was thinking. I know more than a few people who were on both sides of that conversation.

        2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Yup. My father was one. They allowed him to retire, which was a kindness- and really all the kindness the OP needs to worry about. Letting someone keep a job that they perform badly and destroy morale isn’t helpful.

      2. Mid*

        No, but you can say you need to retire because you aren’t performing to the standards this job requires. Nothing about age at all.

      3. Ann O'Nemity*

        They can fire him for performance and offer to publicly call it a retirement in acknowledgment of his many years of service.

      4. Teagan*

        People get ‘retired’ all the time. It’s not because of age (and wouldn’t be in Joe’s case, it’s about his performance), but it is usually at a higher level of the company than it sounds like Joe is. When an executive or senior manager announces their retirement, it’s sometimes a situation of “you can announce your retirement now and we’ll publicly support the narrative that you’re leaving on your own terms, or we can terminate your employment.” It happens more often than you might think.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          That’s exactly the point I was making, but not as clearly as you did.

    4. Nonny Mouse*

      This is what I was thinking as well. Why bother with the PIP; he can’t get younger. Just tell him he’s retiring.

      1. Observer*

        Nope. Not legal. You CANNOT fire someone for getting old, nor can you put them on a PIP for that.

        You CAN fire them for performance, though, and that’s where a theoretical PIP would come in.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          In the US, you can fire people for a lot of things, but you can’t fire them for getting old. However his existing performance issues would allow the LW to fire him today. As long as there is some documentation of his ongoing performance issues, the LW doesn’t need to wait.

          >i>Despite many many months of meeting regularly and trying to communicate (gently and then increasingly bluntly) that he needs to do the job more efficiently, the timeliness of his delivery has not improved.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Becuae firing someone (even if you call it retirement) is pretty obvious age discrimination.

        And beacuse the issue is not that he is old, tit’s that he is not performing adequately and his attitue and behaviour to others is not appropraite.

        The poor perfomrnace and attitude may be age related (or may be linked to underlying health issues which in turn may be related to age) but the reason for the PIP would be his performance, not the date on his birth certificate

      3. PollyQ*

        He could, theoretically, change his attitude, which sounds like a big part of the problem. It’s also possible that there’s something medical going on, which, even if it is age-related, could still be helped, and the PIP might lead him to address it. But as others have said, you can’t treat employees differently because of their age. If a hypothetical 35-yo would be placed on a PIP for this kind of performance, then you have to do the same for him.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      I’m not clear on what an “involuntary retirement” would be. How is that different from firing someone? For that matter, I’m not sure what the difference between a voluntary retirement and a resignation would be.

      1. Sloanicota*

        In older jobs, I assume the pension/retirement plan was the difference. I guess that’s not so much of a thing anymore.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        My understanding is that “involuntary retirement” is a face-saving measure. The company says “you can no longer work here” but they call it a retirement instead of a firing.

        The difference between a resignation and a voluntary retirement is generally that a person moves on to other job after resigning, and does not move on to another job after retiring. If companies are good, people generally give longer notices before retiring (on the order of a few months in the US) so there’s time to transition project work, document institutional knowledge, and perhaps start hiring for a replacement.

    6. KatEnigma*

      Yep. We had an Admin who wasn’t just incompetent, but had developed a real attitude toward volunteers who were doing HER job, calling them at home to berate them or make unreasonable demands. Aside from being a malicious gossip of sensitive and confidential information she was privy to. And she came into the office when she was Covid positive, claiming the health department told her it was okay!!! (Fall 2020 when they were doing heavy contact tracing, etc. She couldn’t or wouldn’t improve her computer skills enough to WFH) I would have fired her 3-4 times for cause. But she was in her 80’s and her boss felt sorry for her, and I was just a board member, not the person who could fire her.

      First she was going to retire when her previous boss retired, but he retired earlier than she expected. Then she was going to retire when his replacement was hired, to help him get settled, then it was Covid… And with each month, her performance got worse. So her boss had a conversation with her, and she said she would retire last fall. (He had many performance conversations with her prior to this) Then the next morning, she asked him not to announce it. That was in the spring. He asked me what he should do if she walked that back, and I advised that he would have to firmly tell her staying wasn’t an option. He wasn’t crazy about that, but it had gotten that bad. The summer progressed, and she hadn’t mentioned retirement again, so at the beginning of August, he finally had to tell her she was leaving on Sept 1, one way or another. She volunteered to stay on when we hadn’t found a replacement, but he shut that down too. We did go about a month without an Admin, but the volunteers kept on as they had been, only without being abused. Her boss had to sign for packages and water the plants- literally the only things she had still been doing. He has already taken over answering the phones.

  7. Meghan*

    Allison’s script is fantastic. OP, be cautious as you have the discussion not to get dragged into age or ability related comments. Keep it related to meeting a performance goal.

  8. Pizza > Tacos*

    My father did the very thing Allison is suggesting. He had an older employee who was a driver and after the third accident while on the job my father sat down and had a conversation where the options were either being fired or retiring. They ended up having a nice retirement party for the gentleman and no one else had to know about the other option.
    It’s honestly the best way to do things in this kind of situation.

  9. helle*

    Honestly, the way that Joe has gone from strong, motivated performance to the performance described in the letter makes me wonder whether dementia or other age-related MH issues are in play. Alison describes Joe as “competent” in her response, and we certainly don’t have enough information to contradict that completely, but it does sound as though Joe’s character and outward presentation have changed dramatically over a couple of years.

    1. Mailbox2*

      Yes, I agree. Dementia often shows up initially as inability to communicate concisely and negative attitude. Honestly I would tell him you’ve noticed a personality change and suggest he see his doctor with his family. This is very sad.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Pain can also make people impatient and short-tempered, depending on the health issues Joe is experiencing (I say this as a younger person who has noticed this in themselves) as can certain medications. Still, it doesn’t really change the advice to OP except as a general reminder to be compassionate and not make assumptions.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Good point.
        And add in the stress of an ongoing pandemic. I know I’m not my best self right now. I’m generally pretty good with people, but am having to put real effort into making sure I’m not being an unreasonable jerk. Pandemic + other health stuff sounds craptacular.

      2. Lime green Pacer*

        Being tired can also play havoc with your reactions. When I start to snap at my family, I know that I need to get some sleep.

        Age is notorious for causing fatigue.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I remember learning in a class in my undergrad (so circa 2006) that something like 50% of people 80+ have some kind of dementia. Obviously, we cannot say that this is definitely happening, but like helle says, it’s a reasonable possibility to consider. My Nana definitely got crabby with Alzheimer’s and it was a real shift.

    4. Cat Tree*

      There’s a rule here about not armchair diagnosing, for good reason.

      Even if he has dementia, that doesn’t change the advice to LW, and there’s nothing LW can do about it anyway.

      And that’s assuming he even has dementia, which even an actual trained professional healthcare worker couldn’t possibly determine from a few paragraphs of a second-hand account.

      Your speculation is unfounded, irrelevant, and harmful.

    5. calonkat*

      I know people are jumping on dementia, but honestly, just getting old is enough to make you cranky :) My mom is in her 80’s and she’s definitely worked through a lot of issues in realizing that she needs a walker, and can’t do everything for herself anymore. I think un-retiring, realizing that he’s not really up to the job anymore and that things keep changing is quite enough to explain the attitude.

      Alison’s script is good. There’s no reason to go into possible medical issues (and that could lead you into discrimination territory). He has a job, he’s not doing the job, he can go on a PIP with goals he MUST meet, or he can retire fully.

    6. Hannah Lee*

      “… the way that Joe has gone from strong, motivated performance to the performance described in the letter …”

      To me it seemed to follow management’s decision to no longer have part-time employees. He was a strong motivated performer in a part-time job. Having PT no longer be an option when he may also be slowing down due to age could make keeping up with his job more of a challenge, with a side of irritation that he was forced to choose between working full-time or not at all at this company after years of service. (I’m thinking of the ‘spoon’ approach to energy, concentration, etc … Maybe Joe has 30 spoons of functional effort available each week. In a part-time role that requires 25 spoons a week, Joe does a great job. In a full-time role that requires 40-50 spoons a week, Joe is going to fall short, even with his best efforts. And going from a job he could do well to a variation of the same job but one he can’t keep up with could make a previously dedicated positive employee a bit more negative.)

      That’s all water under the bridge now, but I just think it’s worth considering, as we’re thinking about what changed, that some of the changes were not internal to Joe (vs assuming he’s got dementia, or age related things driving the change), but in the requirements of his job based on management policies.

      There may have been very good business reasons for the choice to eliminate part-time positions, but that decision may have ripple effects.

  10. My Useless 2 Cents*

    It’s a little harsh but you’ve got to remember that you are not responsible for how Joe spends his days. If he is bored in retirement that is on him. Also, stop trying to take responsibility for Joe’s health. Even if he dies an hour after you fire him, it is not on you. Joe is in his 80’s and in poor health, again that is not on you.

    I am a little biased on this topic. We had a guy at our company who was misogynic, longwinded & opinionated, thought he knew everyone’s job better than they did, and was just a giant PIA. The VP would try and think up ways to get him out of the office (like a part that could be delivered instead needed picked up from the big town an hour away). Thankfully our guy only worked part time. Unfortunately, he was the owners father. So no chance of firing. He only worked here because he was bored at home. There was a lot of celebrating when he moved three states away! Morale throughout the company improved immediately.

  11. Alex*

    It also sounds like he may be struggling with some mental health issues as well as physical ones. I saw this in my own grandparents–when their health started failing, it really affected their mood. This is totally understandable–being unable to do the things you enjoy really sucks! And feeling depressed does undercut efforts to be productive.

    If you think he might be willing to address this and your company has an EAP, it might be worth saying, “I’ve noticed a change in your perspective and attitude. In the past you were very X and Y, and now it seems you are very Z. I want to make sure you know that our company has A and B resources, and that it might be part of a broader plan to figure out what you want to do here.”

  12. Fenella Lorch*

    I had a Big Boss who always said “This is a business, not a charity.”

    Your intentions are charitable and kind. Unfortunately for Joe, your competitors will be neither.

    1. Middle Aged Lady*

      I think of all the people who need jonbs and could do a much better job for the OP.

  13. Essentially Cheesy*

    I realize that people can work as long as they wish to work, but there needs to be some kind of end-date planning. Is Joe absolutely refusing to make any plan on that?

    Doesn’t Joe have Social Security, Medicare and other retirement accounts/pensions that have minimum required distributions and signups? Are there any legal requirements in that regard? I am asking because I genuinely don’t know but there must be some sort of issues with that.

    1. Essentially Cheesy*

      And so many of these letters give me flashbacks to my old CheesyBoss. He was 72 when he was convinced to retire but he was still convinced that he had millions of things to offer yet. He always talked about writing a book about his experiences, he always had projects he wanted to complete, but I haven’t heard that he’s done any of that …

      1. OrigCassandra*

        My former-professor dad (early 80s) is still doing this, with a heaping helping of conspiracy theories about how his discipline simply doesn’t recognize his genius BUT THEY WILL, THEY WILL!

        There are reasons I’m low-contact with him. This is one.

      2. JustaTech*

        I’m going through this with my FIL. He built a successful small business from nothing, and now that he’s selling it he keeps insisting that he’ll set up a consulting company and maybe start a new business. The thing is that 1) he’s signed a non-compete, so he’s not starting a new business in this immediate industry, and 2) as part of cleaning up the company to sell it (like prepping a house for sale) we’ve found so many places where he let stuff slide for at least a decade and it was pretty much just luck that nothing terrible happened. But at the same time the whole family is worried that he’ll just slide into a blob on the couch without work, because he doesn’t have the physical stamina to play golf every day.

        (Contrast that with my grandfather who retired from a long career for medical reasons, then got a job at the IRS, then retired from that, taught classes, and finally indulged a life-long obsession in the mystery of Oak Island.)

        1. Fenella Lorch*

          New retirement goal!! 40 hours per week on the mystery of Oak Island. My hat’s off to him. :-)

          1. JustaTech*

            It was so sweet! He got to really bond with my dad and uncle (my dad is one of 9 kids, so getting close bonding time with my granddad was hard when they were kids), and he got to use all his lifetime of engineering skills to build this device to test a single, specific hypothesis. And somehow talked the landowner into letting them try it out! (Folks who live on Oak Island would really rather people stopped bothering them, so it was something for my not-good-at-social-talking Scandinavian engineer granddad to talk anyone into anything.)

            He had plenty of flaws, but the “keep doing stuff that interests you” is a life goal for me.

    2. Observer*

      Doesn’t Joe have Social Security, Medicare and other retirement accounts/pensions that have minimum required distributions and signups? Are there any legal requirements in that regard? I am asking because I genuinely don’t know but there must be some sort of issues with that.

      Nope. People can begin collecting Social Security and go on Medicare if they choose while they are still working. The only qualifiers are age and, in the case of Social Security, work *history*. There can be some tax implications, but nothing relevant to this situation.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      My mother is 75 and still working because she can’t afford to retire. She had to take her Social Security and distributions from her small retirement account early due to be laid off in her 60s, and she receives a very small pension from a prior job. It’s simply not enough for her to live off of without her employment income, especially as someone who has multiple chronic health conditions for which she needs insurance and money to manage.

      She recently had the opportunity to move roles within her position, and her current one is a great fit for her and she’s doing the work very well and integrating nicely with her new team. I don’t know what she’d do if she was forcibly retired or ended up like Joe, unable to do her job or get along with her coworkers. Even as it is, she does little else but sleep when isn’t working. It’s exhausting at her age.

    4. PollyQ*

      There are required ages for when people need to start taking money for some accounts, but there’s no requirement that the recipients actually be retired from their jobs. This is a damn good thing, because there are plenty of seniors who are still working because they wouldn’t be able to live on their Social Security payments alone.

    5. doreen*

      Pensions and retirement accounts don’t typically have rules that force you to retire . Retirement accounts often require you to take minimum distributions at a certain age, whether you are working or not and pensions typically require the person to attain a certain age and/or years of service. There are some jobs with mandatory retirement ages – police officers and firefighters come to mind , but those aren’t restrictions imposed by the pension.

    6. doreen*

      Pension usually set a minimum for age to collect/years of service with some also having some variations ( for example, in mine I can collect at 62 or a reduced benefit at 55 or an unreduced benefit once I am both over 55 and have more than 30 years service). There are jobs with mandatory retirement ages ( like police officers and firefighters) but those rules/laws are not imposed by the pension.

  14. kiki*

    I really like Alison’s advice. I think all too often, managers feel compelled to make a choice for their employee, but sometimes you really can present the options and let the employee choose which one is best for them.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      100% agree, kiki. It’s about being clear about what’s going on and what the options are.

      I’d suspect that Joe does not realize or appreciate how bad this situation is. Does he know that people find him so unpleasant or useless that they’re dodging his calls? The fact that the organization seems to be OK with the call dodging means either that things are very bad or that there are other super dysfunctional things going on, or both. Based on the letter, it sounds like the focus has been on timelines and deliverables. Those are important, but Joe won’t get the full picture of this unless those other pieces come to light.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer*

    There are a lot of things that people can do after retirement that alleviate boredom. My parents volunteer for disabled people transport services, my father learnt a new coding language, my mother learnt new artist techniques…

    Also, someone who has been hospitalised for stress here to say that telling someone that they are not meeting job requirements will not kill them. May make them feel terrible but there is help for that.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Yes…even in poor health, there are a lot of things one can do, especially with online activities being more prevalent now. My parents-in-law have middling health and somewhat limited mobility; the pandemic moving things online was actually amazing for them and in a way, they’ve never been more socially active.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Agreed. I have exceptionally poor health (long term chronic pain and schizophrenia) but the kindest thing I was ever to,d by an employer was that none of my conditions – none – were an excuse for behaving badly at work or doing my job poorly.

        I was told to find treatment, or leave. Which may seem harsh as heck, and I know I put some really unfair pressure on that boss initially to get him to back off (think threatening to end it all – I make no excuses for my past I was a toxic mess) but he did not.

        And I got help, and turned my attitude around. Was awarded a company award for exceptional performance a year later. I doubt without that push I’d have sorted my life out.

  16. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I really want to commend you for taking action.

    At my last job, we had a large handful of people who had gotten government jobs right out of college in the early 1970s. They’d never held another job because that was during a time when government jobs were ideal. Unfortunately, things went downhill when my health care agency started requiring relevant graduate degrees and professional licensure that they didn’t have so they couldn’t keep up and they were furious at the “high” salary offers we’d make to get qualified applicants. They would loudly complain about federal requirements for data collection and evidence-based practices so they would successfully block major initiatives even if there were legal consequences.

    And no one in power would take action because the agency was terrified of an age discrimination lawsuit. It’s not age discrimination when this group was actively doing harmful things!

    So I commend you for taking action. It’s not easy.

    P.S. it’s not your job to make sure Joe has something to do in life because he’d be bored in retirement.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      At Toxic Ex-Job, a Joe was allowed to decline until they were picked up by police in the wee small hours on the street in their nightclothes. Everyone knew they did no work. No one with the power to do anything about it actually did anything until it could not be swept under the rug any longer.

      Less than a year later, the overall organization proclaimed that Joe’s unit was overstaffed and overpaid, which has damaged it to this very day. The Joe situation was not the sole cause there, but I just can’t believe it didn’t contribute.

      I knew that Joe. I liked them. They were one of the few in that place who was in any way kind to me. But I’m sorry, they should have been gone years before they were. OP, please think about the unit your Joe works for, and what kind of reputation Joe’s work issues give it. Joe isn’t the only employee impacted here.

    2. Meghan R*

      I mean, all you have to do is document, document, document. If Joe is not performing, prove it. And by the sounds of it, it shouldn’t be hard. If you do that, the legal consequences should be little, if any.

    3. Seal*

      Same here. At my last job I inherited an employee who was well into his 70s. Although he was in great shape physically, frankly he wasn’t doing the work we needed him to do; among other things he refused to use a computer. My new boss wanted to keep him on to help with the transition – he did have 35+ years of institutional knowledge that was helpful – but the expectation was that he’s retire within a year. It took FIVE YEARS to finally move him out, largely because I couldn’t get support from my boss or HR to address his increasingly bad performance. It took a new HR person to provide clarity and a new angle to make it happen. Even then, he wanted to come back to “volunteer”, which was off the table entirely.

      It wasn’t easy, but very, very necessary. Kudos to the OP for taking this on.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I think managers forget that keeping mediocre, or worse, employees on is so demotivating to the other employees who are doing a good job and working really hard.

        1. Seal*

          Very true. When he finally retired, it was as if a weight had lifted off the entire department.

  17. Hodd*

    I actually had a very similar situation at work once. I thought it was a case of dementia, but of course I’m no doctor to go around diagnosing people. I never found a solution though- she refused to recognize her work was subpar and had no interest in retirement, and she was unionized so couldn’t be terminated. I eventually left, but I hope her family noticed her struggles and were able to provide some guidance

    1. Scooter34*

      I can’t let this go – unions don’t prevent people from being terminated. They require management to document issues and address them through a process that allows the employee a chance to correct behavior, with a clear understanding of the next steps. Just because a lot of senior management in government and other union shops are cowards doesn’t mean the union process is bad. It SHOULD be a process to get rid of someone.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Well…yes and no…it’s absolutely true that unions can create much too high of a bar to terminate someone. If management knows that terminating someone is going to be a protracted legal fight that they have a good chance of losing, they may rationally decide to put their time elsewhere.

        I have been in a union, and the good it did far outweighed the bad. But it DID make it very, very hard to fire even very bad people. My manager was no coward and honestly relished a good fight with the union, yet she still couldn’t get fired a guy who was caught *on video at work* interacting inappropriately with a minor. He retired a few years later and was actually arrested for a separate incident of public indecency.

        1. doreen*

          It’s not exactly true that “unions can create much too high of a bar to terminate someone.” The union can’t impose the procedures to be followed when terminating someone by fiat – management agreed to the procedures when negotiating the contract. But management can absolutely screw it up – I remember a union member who was fired from a former employer for sexually harassing a coworker. It wasn’t physical, it was inappropriate comments. At the disciplinary hearing , management brought up multiple incidents of sexual harassment going back years. Arbitrator said only a two week suspension and the employee got back pay for all the time between the firing and his hearing. And the reason was that the agency couldn’t ignore his behavior for years and go straight to firing for this single incident they charged him with. Had his managers addressed every complaint they received about him, ( which started while he was still on probation) he would have been gone long before this incident.

          1. Boof*

            Wait, what? Sexual harassment is a fireable offense the first time, but not if it’s chronic? That is exactly the kind of shitty logic being railed against here.

            1. Harper the Other One*

              I sort of get the logic, which is that if you’ve ignored it for years, it clearly ISN’T a fireable offence, no matter what your policies say. It’s sort of like when Allison comments that it’s not fair to an employee to fire them for poor performance when they’ve been performing badly for ages but you’ve never actually addressed it with them.

              It does also open you up to allegations that the firing wasn’t really about the sexual harassment at all, because that’s been happening for ages, so was it really in retaliation for something/due to targeting a protected class/etc.

              None of this is to say sexual harassment SHOULDN’T be an immediate firing offence; it’s all the more argument for treating it that way from the very beginning, with every employee, no exceptions.

            2. doreen*

              I’m not exactly sure what you mean but the arbitrator’s decision was that this particular behavior merited a only a two week suspension as a first offense. Because it was the first offense as far as the disciplinary process was concerned since management ignored the previous instances. But it was management’s fault that it was treated as a first offense because it was management that took no action previously.

    2. Agile Phalanges*

      I actually left a job because the boss & part owner was dealing with dementia. It’s hard. For them but also for their employees. The other partner was a hands-off owner who didn’t actually work there, so even though a few of us told him of the issues, he was slow to do anything about it (understandably–it IS hard!), but my mental health couldn’t take dealing with it day after day, and the boss kept talking about selling the business, but it wasn’t coming to fruition so I eventually just had to leave for my own mental health. He DID eventually sell, but I’m happy where I landed (after one unsuccessful job in the interim), so I think it’s all worked out for the best, but yeah, it’s hard.

  18. Volunteer Wrangler*

    Alison’s advice is spot on. I’m a Volunteer Manager and these are the steps I’ve taken when we have had older volunteers aging in place who can no longer perform their duties to the level in which they need to be.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah this is very common in volunteer settings. And it’s sad. But you can’t let them stick around for their own enrichment if there’s a business need that needs to be filled, especially if they’re acting in direct opposition to that need.

  19. The OTHER Other*

    I have the feeling that Alison’s proposed language might be too soft and Joe is going to hear “Go on a PIP” as “continue working here as I have been” because he’s never had to face consequences for failing to meet expectations before.

    Joes performance has deteriorated, he is bringing down morale of the whole company and its reputation and damaging relationships with customers/stakeholders. I don’t think Joe is going to be able to improve; he hasn’t so far despite what LW says are multiple conversations.

    I am wondering whether he needs this income, or health insurance, or some other benefit, or is he simply carrying on because he doesn’t have anything else to do?

    1. Observer*

      Joe is going to hear “Go on a PIP” as “continue working here as I have been” because he’s never had to face consequences for failing to meet expectations before.

      The language is clear enough that if this is what happens, it’s on Joe, not the OP.

  20. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    I see both sides of this, and really agree with Alison’s suggestion. If it’s affecting performance and other employees, something needs to change. It’s what needs to happen for both the person and the workplace.
    Someone in my family has Parkinson’s and the symptoms were slowing them down in the workplace. It was very demoralizing for them to be fired due to slowness and not hitting numbers. However, it was what needed to happen for my loved one to be able to focus on their health, and they enrolled in studies and long term programs and therapies to help minimize the symptoms. This person is now thoroughly enjoying being retired and worked through their feelings of inadequacy after being let go. They enjoy their life and have been able to spend more time with their grandchildren.

    1. Sal*

      Thank you for sharing this experience. My dad had brain cancer in his early 60s, while he was still actively working and in senior leadership at his small company while it was being acquired (oy) and we went through this on a much more abbreviated time frame, with unfortunately less insight on the part of his boss as to how much of the diminished performance was due to disease progress and less time at the end both to spend freely and to work through the messiness at work at the end (though that quickly became unimportant, from what I could see). It made a really terrible situation a little chunk worse, if that makes sense.

      1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        I’m sorry that happened to your dad. Minor and even lots of major work issues become very unimportant when lives are at stake.

        For my loved one who is in the US, it was a silver lining that their disability claim was approved right away which is rare. But because they had documentation from the workplace to report the impact their disease had on the output, the disability income was approved within a few months.

  21. I should really pick a name*

    Please move away from the idea that a PIP would worsen his health or “literally kill him”. I don’t know where you got the idea, and nothing you’ve described in the letter suggests it. It’s actually fairly condescending.

    1. Kristi*

      It seems like a weird jump, but there may be info that hasn’t been presented. That said, isolation and loss of purpose is distressing and can exacerbate health-related decline. It’s a problem that as a society we often don’t value elders for what they can offer and do offer so they may feel the need to cling to a role that they no longer perform well in.

      1. Zweisatz*

        On the other hand it is in everybody’s power to seek out opportunities to fill their day with fulfilling activities. The choice isn’t between him keeping the job or being bored. If he loses the job, he has a whole wealth of hobbies, activities, interest groups etc that he can seek out. Whether he does so is up to him.
        Sure, he might have preferred to travel and do stand-up paddling instead of reading and bird watching, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have options.

      2. EchoGirl*

        I’d also guess that there’s a link with the “he complained of stress and anxiety” bit. If that was the result when OP tried to informally give him correction, OP’s probably afraid that worse stress and anxiety would result from a formal PIP, and I’m guessing that’s what OP is concerned would “literally kill him”.

    2. AnonyAnony*

      I agree – at this point, it looks to me like OP’s attempt to demonstrate respect for Joe’s experience and history is sliding into patronizing him.

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I don’t think it is condescending or patronizing for the OP to feel that work is Joe’s only bright spot and that the OP is “taking it away” from Joe. It is a kind impulse that is not serving the OP well tho.

      Alison’s advice is great and if the OP needs it, I’m an internet stranger joining the chorus here to say, you are not responsible for the way Joe organizes his life! You can only give him your honest feedback and by being as respectful as Alison suggests when you give it, you are doing the right thing by Joe.

      Best to you OP!

  22. El l*

    Two things to add to Alison’s plan is. First, when it inevitably comes up in the conversation:

    “Yes, I remember a few years ago when part-time was an option. Yes, that would be better suited to your situation. But that’s not an option anymore, for reasons that are not your fault, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”

    Second, remember: We all have to figure out what we’ll do in retirement. Even if we expect it to be short, we can all see it coming and (barring death first) it’s inevitable. Him being bored in retirement is not your responsibility. His failure to plan for this obvious contingency is not your emergency. Don’t worry about that.

    He had a good run – but he just can’t provide what you all need right now.

    1. Observer*

      “Yes, I remember a few years ago when part-time was an option. Yes, that would be better suited to your situation. But that’s not an option anymore, for reasons that are not your fault, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”

      Yes. Also, when it comes up, “Yes, I understand that you disagree with management in general, and my management in specific. That’s not up for discussion, though. This is what I need to see.”

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wonder if part time was a special bend the company made to kindly and gently ease Joe out graciously, stage left, and Joe never exited. So company took away the part time thinking that would “encourage” Joe to leave – and none of the unspoken nudges are pushing Joe out. Time to be kindly direct now.

  23. Dennis Feinstein*

    All I could see on Facebook was “I feel terrible performance managing an oct”

    And I was soooo hoping the rest of the sentence would turn out to be “opus”!

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Octopodes are super-gumptiony. They do all kinds of end-runs around the rules. I just bet they’d be hard to performance-manage.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Eons ago I took the small Scruffs to an aquarium-ish attraction. It was an opening preview event. And little boy Scruff was MOST excited to see the octopus. I had no idea if there was even going to be one, honestly, but he was adamant that there must be one or it wasn’t a real aquarium.

        There was an “empty tank”. But young Scruff insisted it wasn’t actually.

        Little boy Scruff actually located the Octopus-like creature who was occupying the not-so-really-empty-tank, its just the creature was d-o-n-e with everyone’s collective ish and was hiding up alongside a soffit where he was hidden by aquaeous plant matter and exterior to the tank features. He wasn’t in danger, he was just well hidden. So you’ve got a preschooler looking up alongside an expansion joint through some plants in a tank and agreeing that “yeah, bud, we’ve all had days like that” while imitating a Cars character.

        Pretty sure this is EXACTLY why I do not manage people, for the record.

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          That is astronomically more cuteness than I was expecting to find here.

  24. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    I wonder what support system, friends and family, activities Joe has available to him outside of work. From his comment about being bored, I have the sneaking suspicion that Joe has spent his whole life working and is scared of what to do now, so he just keeps holding on to the job (possibly out of fear of the unknown). However, even if this is the case Joe doesn’t get to take it all out on his younger coworkers and managers, as that isn’t fair to them.

    I don’t really have any advice, but part of me feels a bit sorry for Joe.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t feel sorry for Joe. Maybe that sounds mean, but I’ve worked with a couple of Joe’s and they made the other employee’s work lives more difficult.

      One quite matches up with Joe although he was in his 60s probably. Every year he say he’d retire next year, but didn’t before I left. After lunch he’d lock his cubical door, but snoring could be heard coming from cubical since the walls didn’t reach the ceiling.

      The other I felt quite sad about. Early onset Alzheimer’s disease to an unmarried person who was worried about losing insurance. I felt quite bad, but she was incapable of doing the job and could not learn how to do anything new in the office tools. We were working around her (someone else ended up doing things that were her responsibilities) because she couldn’t. She managed out on a PIP.

      We all want the job to stay out of our personal lives. We need to let Joe worry about his life in retirement.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I feel sorry for Joe too. But this is a lesson to all of us that aging and retiring are also our responsibilities! We have to plan for this!

      My dad did a terrible job surrounding giving up driving while he praised his brother for giving up driving. He made it very difficult for us to talk about this with him. We all felt forced to behave in ways that felt unkind and disrespectful when it just was not necessary. Maybe he was suffering from a loss of mental capacity to decide but the way he responded was very hard on everyone. And the convos about his brother made it seem like he understood. Very frustrating!

      My point is, don’t be my dad when it comes to work or to driving!

  25. LabTechNoMore*

    This is one of those times where I feel like I need a shower after reading AAM. Is there something I’m missing in this chain of events?

    1) OP’s employer required their elderly employee to work full time or lose their job, when they were previously a successful part time employee.
    2) The elderly employee, who is now being overworked, has their health decline, and their attitude and productivity follow.
    3) Predictably, OP now has to fire them.

    While there could be some rock-solid explanation for why the company policy no longer allowed part-time workers, it seems weirdly rigid to force current part timers to choose instead of just not allowing any one else to do part time work moving forward. Without additional context for why it was necessary for the business to ax part timers, the policy change doesn’t pass the smell test.

    1. Smithy*

      I wrote more about this below – but as someone who had a parent who basically never retired for similar reasons, I’m certainly inclined to be more sympathetic to how someone ends up in this situation and what it can mean when an employer finds a way to make something work.

      Anyone ill-suited to their job is going to struggle more, and when you know you can only put in 20 (or maybe 30) good hours a week but are told your only options are 40 or 0, it’s hard to see this result as surprising.

    2. Clobberin' Time*

      Yes, you are missing something. Back when he was part-time, Joe said he wanted to “wind down” to retirement. The company not only accommodated that, but kept him as part time well past the usual retirement age. The company later removed the part-time option, and Joe was fine on a full-time schedule for a few years.

      I don’t understand why any of this merits feeling like you need a shower.

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        If you were required to work 2x* the number of hours you were previously working, being able to keep that up for a year doesn’t make that level of work sustainable. Requiring full time work may very well have caused Joe’s decline in health.

        *We don’t know what part time means in this case, so I’m assuming half-time for the sake of argument. It could be more or fewer hours that 20/week. It’s not specified in the letter.

        1. Ali + Nino*

          “Requiring full time work may very well have caused Joe’s decline in health.”

          Maybe? This is a lot of speculation. And Joe could have chosen to leave at that point.

        2. ceiswyn*

          Or Joe could have chosen to retire, as per his original plan. It’s not as if he doesn’t have agency here.

        3. Clobberin' Time*

          “Doesn’t want to retire because he’s bored” is not how I would define “required” here.

    3. Purple Cat*

      There was nothing in the letter about Joe being “overworked” currently. He WANTS to continue working because he’s bored, but isn’t performing effectively. I understand and commiserate with the letter writer’s feelings, but as a manager they ALSO have an obligation to spend the company’s money wisely – and that’s not happening with Joe.

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        Requiring someone to go full time when they were previously only doing part time is overworking them.

        1. StephChi*

          They gave Joe the option to retire or go full time, and he chose full time because he was bored. In other words, if Joe is overworked, it’s his fault for taking on full-time work when he wasn’t equipped to do it, when he could have retired. OP said that Joe would be economically fine if he retired, so this situation has come about because Joe never bothered to find any hobbies outside of work. That’s not OP’s problem.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      They did also say the employee is now less productive than when they were part time, with full time hours to get the work done. So that seems to be a clear performance issue? If you used to get X done in 20 hours a week and now you can only get .75X done in 40, I doubt going back to 20 will help much.

      1. LabTechNoMore*

        Productivity is not linear. For example, requiring someone who works 40 hours a week to work 80 hours will not result in 2x productivity. With that said, we don’t know what productivity metrics are for OP’s workplace.

        1. The OTHER Other.*

          We don’t known the metrics, nor do we know whether the deterioration in his work is due to his hours being increased, poor health, or simply getting older and not being able to keep up. 80+ is quite an advanced age for most full time work. Sure there are notable exceptions, mostly for jobs that are not very physically demanding or don’t require rapid recall, or where the person is doing the job because they love it and it doesn’t feel like work, but those are exceptions and they don’t seem to fit this case.

          1. LabTechNoMore*

            What we’re glossing over is that OP’s employee wouldn’t have elected to work part time they were still capable of working full time were still possible. They were semi-retired, and elected to “wind down” for a reason. If they could commit to full time, they wouldn’t have started this process in the first place.

            Requiring anyone to work longer hours than are capable of doing will have long-term consequences on their health. That’s true for anyone. We can’t just treat full time as The Standard that everyone must be able to meet; everyone has their limits, and for Joe, that limit was below 40 hours.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              That first sentence should read: What we’re glossing over is that OP’s employee wouldn’t have elected to work part time if they were still capable of working full time.

              1. Doctors Whom*

                I think that’s an unfounded leap. I work in an environment where it’s a long term pattern. People ask to go part time so they can spend more time with grandkids or whatever as a glide path to retirement. They are not incapable of working full time, they want to spend more time doing other things and less time doing work, but don’t want to stop doing work entirely.

                It has been so much a pattern that it is actually more restrictive for us in meeting the needs of projects (due to how people are available) and having a bunch of half time people around inhibits our ability to hire full time people. We now have to have much more well-bounded situations in order to move someone to part time. (Specific funding requirements and agreements that have to be renewed on a periodic basis, etc.) Where our business needs align with the desires of our employees, everyone wins, but not all positions/needs can be met with part time staff.

    5. Libra10*

      Agree, they took away part-time to make him retire. That didn’t happen, and now they are paying full-time wages to him for barely any work. Now management would like OP to fix it.

  26. Kristi*

    Joe has literally told you he is only working to avoid being bored. Wondering – how will you deal with the next person whose work doesn’t warrant keeping them? Would it be okay to let a younger person go? What if you were afraid that without an income they would become homeless – would that be more or less of a reason to keep someone than keeping them so they won’t be bored?

  27. Smithy*

    In some ways this letter could have been about my dad. His health conditions basically meant that everything that might have made retirement attractive went away and he also had a bit of a mindset that once you stopped contributing you stopped existing. His final years also included a number of healthcare challenges but he basically only filed his retirement paperwork when he moved into hospice.

    While I have zero genuine insight into how my dad functioned as a colleague, I do know that where he worked found a way for him to remain hired fulltime in a function that interacted less and less with the larger organization. Think of some “nice to have” research project that can largely be done solo, any amount of effort achieved is nice, and if it takes ten years at a leisurely pace – so be it.

    I get that for a business operating under tighter margins, this isn’t a role or precedent you’d want to set on a larger basis. But at that point, my father had been working there for decades, was well respected (even if at that point for past achievements), and what he was doing wasn’t useless. Just not high priority. I don’t know if this is an employer that has that flexibility or perspective, but I do think before the OP goes back to Joe, it just might be worth asking if there are any other options beyond full-time employment on the OP’s team or retirement.

  28. Avarice*

    Just an idea, create a new position for him that makes him a mentor to those in the company working in a similar area. After living through the Great Resignation, I’ve seen first hand how important it is to have people with legacy information stick around. He would be a repository of historical knowledge that current employees in his field could draw upon. And, this could potentially satisfy his current urge to tell everyone how things used to be done.

    1. Maggie*

      I don’t think having someone who is not good at their job and who goes on rants about the good old days would make a very good mentor.

        1. Alexis Rosay*

          Yeah…it sounds like the mentor position would have been a nice idea years ago, but not now. Also, the inability to communicate information concisely is not going to help new people learn.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Woof, no. I’m thinking of a coworker and there is absolutely no way he should mentor…anyone….ever. Because outdated advice + bad advice = no.

    2. Chris too*

      From the word “operator” used to describe Joe, I’m getting the impression he’s doing something with a complicated physical, mechanical component, maybe in a biggish manufacturing company – running a paper mill or something like that.

      I’ve seen companies that are big enough, doing some sort of complicated manufacturing,
      put effort into documenting their history – not just “business” history but “mechanical history,” if that makes sense. This is how we used to do this! They generally get retirees in on a part-time contract to document this for posterity.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I don’t think this would work either. It sounds like there have been process changes and updates that Joe is either unable or unwilling to keep up with. Not exactly the person you want mentoring the younger employees.

    4. anti social socialite*

      This sounds like it would lead to a future “I followed the advice of my mentor and now I’m on a PIP” letter

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      If his attitude was better I’d maybe agree.

      But it’s actively pushing people away. How can one be a mentor if 1) nobody wants to listen to the rants and grumpiness anymore 2) he isn’t showing any kind of benefits of his knowledge 3) his mentoring would likely just consist of listening to him rant and complain and not do any work?

      There are people in my firm who are over retirement age and have actively set up ‘knowledge sharing’ forums and opportunities to not only share their knowledge but also bring each other up to speed on new technologies. They have a passion for teaching the new engineers and learning new things themselves and are rewarded well by the firm.

      But if there’s no desire to impart anything but stories of ‘the good old days’ and a lax work performance then mentoring will not work.

  29. Not from around here*

    I am getting total culture shock from the comments. It would be unthinkable for me to treat an elderly person who spent decades enriching the company and is experiencing sudden cognitive decline “the same way as a 35 yo”, or a bored rich person the same as a poor person who needs the job. It’s wild to me that ‘treating people fairly’ wouldn’t have priority over ‘obsessively treating everyone the same irrespective of context’, which is the exact opposite of treating people equitably.

    1. E*

      Same. Omg. Also they have no idea if he is financially stable or not!!!! Just because he says so? Idk.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Unfortunately, his financial stability isn’t really relevant either. Companies hire and fire people based on their skills and performance, not on their financial situation; and so they should. It would be cruel to fire, say, a 35 year old single mother, but if her performance was bad, she ranted at people about the company, and she refused to improve, I think we’d all agree that they kind of had to.

        I do think companies should have some loyalty to their staff, but a salary is not a pension scheme and should not be substituted for one.

    2. Smithy*

      My father benefitted from an employer (in the US) who found a way to keep him on up until he basically passed away because he had a similar view of retirement. So while I personally have experienced the meaningful benefit of what it can mean for a family member to be treated like that by an employer….I have also worked at places where poor soft skills by senior staff are let allowed to slide for a long time. How that can negatively impact more junior/younger colleagues is not insignificant and I understand how it can desensitize the perspective.

      Regarding this specific situation, it bothers me most that it feels like the employer is putting Joe and the OP into the worst possible situation by making fulltime employment the only option. I’d just really love to see if there truly are ANY other options beyond 40 hours a week or retirement before addressing other changes that need to happen.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – it feels like in the past there was a very loose plan, that nobody on the company’s side pushed Joe into converting the plan into retirement, and now OP is dealing with the fallout, and trying to minimize the impact on the rest of the team – and Joe is sitting and simmering and getting angry because he can’t do what he used to do (supposition) and time isn’t standing still – but he wants to work because he has no other plan…..

        In a lot of ways it makes me wonder what his support network here locally is, and whether his family knows what is happening at work.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I think in this case it may be offering a move to a less demanding position if something like that exists. Which I’m a little surprised wasn’t in the original advice.

        We had a gentleman who held an advanced engineering designation and stepped out of that role into a facilities management role. The demands where much much less in the new role (which he was up to) and he worked in that role for a good long time until his final retirement. For him it wasn’t money (presumably – as the company had a very generous pension, although I guess it could have been nobody but him really knows) it was the activity, having a purpose, and socialization. He did decide to retire fully when he was ready (again presumably as there wasn’t an outward appearance of decline in productivity or anything else)

        1. ceiswyn*

          Would your advice be the same when dealing with a 35 year old who wasn’t doing their job and was annoying others by rambling?

          There may simply not be a less demanding position unoccupied; but also, the negativity, poor communication and rambling irrelevancy described would also be a problem in a less demanding position.

          1. Smithy*

            The major difference being time of tenure. And for most 35 year olds, it’s not as common to have a huge amount of time places with one company in addition to a period of high performance and contribution.

            A similar scenario that you do often see is on professional sports teams. Someone who was a high caliber player, fan or team favorite, and by their mid-30’s is struggling. Finding ways to transition them into roles where they play less but are still happy is often seen as valuable. Because while they can’t contribute at their same level of athletics, there’s a hope that there is still an area they can contribute to and also a desire to be seen by current players as taking care of long time contributors.

            Tenure and a history of high level contribution can justify different responses. And this isn’t to excuse or forgive bad soft skills, but that is where the push back around where not seeing them as the same comes from.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Tenure and age seem to have already resulted in Joe being kept on when other employees would have been let go. Is that what you mean by ‘fair’?

              1. Smithy*

                Without knowing more about this company, who knows how the rest of their management is. It may be that all sorts of poor and low quality soft skilled employees are allowed to retain their tenure. My primary point regarding a former high performing athlete who’s fading in their 30’s or an octogenarian with previous high quality decades of service but now fading is that based on a longer history of past value added, there is room for additional effort to see if a workable solution can be found.

                IMO, the OP has not been given much in the way of tools to identify a workable solution by essentially only having a PIP to improve performance and behavior in Joe’s current 40 hour a week role. Options to move Joe into a consultancy, part-time work (which I understand has been said isn’t an option, but why that is I do find suspect), or a position on another team that involves working with fewer people – just as a start.

                What feels icky about this, to me, is that it feels like a scenario was created to force Joe into finally choosing retirement. Instead of higher management being direct with Joe and his supervisor about his need to retire on a near term timeline, they created a choice that they presumed would force him to retire. When he didn’t, they’ve created a situation where his supervisor is left to decide when his technical and soft skills become so poor so as to put a long tenured, previously higher performing colleague on a PIP. And in the interim let colleagues endure an increasingly disgruntled and poor performing colleague. And that feels gross and unfair to the OP, Joe, and his colleagues.

                Now perhaps if the OP talks directly about all of this with their supervisor, they’ll get more context and/or a lot more options. But to me, this feels a lot more like senior management wanting to let middle management be bad guys rather than actually get engaged around more complicated staffing decision making.

    3. ceiswyn*

      And what do you think ‘treating people fairly’ looks like in this context? Including Joe’s co-workers, who have to deal with his rambling and failure to do his job?

    4. Goldenrod*

      Totally disagree. At the risk of being labelled “unkind,” in the comments, I have to say that more old people should retire! That’s what retirement is for!!

      I think old people insisting on working forever is actually an unkindness to younger people trying to enter the workforce. There’s no room for them if the older people don’t leave jobs! I don’t mean you have to retire at 60 but….80?? He needs to find other ways to get involved. A big problem is that people that age can no longer contribute substantial work….again, that’s what retirement (and pensions/savings) is for.

      1. Goldenrod*

        Adding: my disagreement was to the person who had “culture shock” at the comments.

        Not to cesiwyn whom I agree with!

      2. Dawn*

        This is exactly why my father didn’t go searching for new work after taking early retirement, in spite of believing he’d be bored – he’s completely financially comfortable with grandfathered union medical benefits and he didn’t want to take a job that someone else might actually need just to keep himself occupied.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “This is exactly why my father didn’t go searching for new work after taking early retirement, in spite of believing he’d be bored”

          Good for him! Your father is a considerate and socially responsible person.

          1. Dawn*

            Definitely more so as he has aged.

            Not that he was ever a BAD person, he actually made this decision relatively early in life – but he also worked a good union job for over 30 years and had the luxury of knowing he could make those decisions.

            We have sometimes had a tumultuous relationship but at least as an adult I’ve always been fairly proud of him.

      3. Observer*

        The idea that “old people” have an obligation to retire goes well beyond unkind.

        What other sacrifices do you think people need to make?

      4. Boof*

        Arg, going to disagree that anyone working is “taking a job away from someone else”, and only people who “need” the work should do so

    5. Observer*

      If it were JUST a matter of the person’s performance you MIGHT be correct. But his attitude is a real problem – he’s being very difficult.

  30. Zweisatz*

    Don’t worry about it, OP. If he needed the money/the health insurance that comes with the job, this would be a really tough spot to be in, but his argument is… being bored potentially. This is really not on a company to solve.

    There are SO many activities offered specifically to seniors – who are frequently dealing with health issues that need to be accommodated for. if he has the will to look for them, he’ll find them. And if not, that is certainly not your fault.

    As for his health, if anything I’d assume retirement will make him happier (notice how fed up he acts with your whole company?) But even if he declined to seek out entertainment and it does have a negative impact (which you can’t tell, maybe he simply has progressive health issues) that is not on you to solve, you are not his caretaker.

    For the above reasons I would hereby like to absolve you of any guilty feelings, even if he goes for the PIP and does not pass it.

  31. E*

    There’s really no way to know if Joe is financially stable or not. Would you offer him severance and a party?

  32. Safely Retired*

    The only thing I would add is that the poor guy may not know what a PIP is, so explaining that rather than just using the term would be in order.

  33. Chirpy*

    Help Joe find a volunteer opportunity (museum docent, community/ kids center, whatever he’s interested in) to help fill his time. Or, perhaps, a different part time job elsewhere, as that was what he originally wanted. I have had several coworkers who took part time retail jobs as their “retirement job” and one who literally did not retire until he unfortunately collapsed at work *twice* in his 80s and was forced to. I’ve also known people who became resellers (flea markets or ebay) as their retirement side gig. Just finding something a little easier or more meaningful may do wonders for him as he’s probably worn out and doesn’t realize how much it’s affecting him.

    1. irene adler*

      Volunteer for the professional organization pertaining to the industry Joe has worked in for decades.

    2. Cookie*

      I have to disagree. HR could offer to help Joe find a volunteer opportunity, if they have resources, but it is absolutely not LW’s job to find entertainment for Newly Retired Joe. LW’s job here is to move Joe to retirement.

      1. Chirpy*

        Sure, but helping Joe find a new way to occupy his time may help his transition to retirement. Many of the older volunteers I’ve worked with just needed a way to feel like they were still useful.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree with you. It’s not OP’s job to figure out the rest of Joe’s life – it’s OP’s job to manage the fact he’s not meeting expectations for his job and that’s all.

  34. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    OP, this all sounds really tough. I hope you have gotten some great insight from Alison and the commentariat about a path forward that is compassionate and solves this problem.

    I did want to raise one issue that Alison didn’t address – Joe delivering long-winded lectures about his grievances. You can – and should! – start shutting that down. Meetings should have a purpose and objectives/outcomes. Joe’s rants do not contribute to the purpose and outcomes. So whoever is running the meetings needs to cut him off before he picks up steam, everyone else mentally checks out, and the whole thing becomes an epic waste of time. I’m guessing attendance at the meetings that Joe attends may not be great, which is also not ideal.

    The exact strategy should be tailored to what you know about Joe and the company culture. Like, making a joke about how you’ve heard this before could be good to diffuse the situation or Joe could get super offended. But the big thing is that you have to interrupt him. It’s going to feel super rude. But it’s that or have your meeting turn into a hostage situation. When you run meetings, keeping them on track is part of the job.

    A couple options could be:
    1. Joe, which of A, B, or C options do you think we should go with? [where there is a short list of discrete options; insist on just an answer to that, no explaining, no picking the secret extra option]
    2. Joe, we need to make a decision on X / hear an update from Jane about Y now. We can circle back to that at the end if there’s time.
    3. We have a super full agenda, so I need to pull us back to Thing We Need to Discuss.
    4. It sounds like you think [2-sentence summary] about this, Joe. I want to hear from others, too. Jane, what do you think?
    5. I don’t think we have time to get into that in any detail at this meeting, Joe. How about you write up a proposal and we can talk later? (I’d bet the odds of him writing the proposal are 0, so you can deflect any other time he brings it up by saying “oh, still waiting on that proposal from you before we discuss”)

    I suspect that even just doing this will improve the situation significantly. Joe’s job performance will still be an issue, but it should reduce everyone else’s frustration level pretty quickly.

  35. Lynn*

    Would anyone of Joe’s health issues be cause to offer additional disability accommodations before going directly to a PIP? Maybe that’s been considered and not in the letter but if not I think that’s worth discussing with him.

    1. Mary*

      Yes, I was wondering this as well. With a bunch of medical issues Joe may need to have some accommodations to allow him to continue to do his work. If there are physical elements to the job it is impossible to hold to the same physical demands that someone in their 20-30’s could cope with.

      If he is working at a desk job maybe his hand eye coordination is poorer and he needs accommodations around this.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Here’s the thing if Joe’s job requires a physical activity that he can’t do any longer then there’s no accommodation available. It depends how much of his job it is, but ADA accommodations don’t mean find a job they can do it’s try to figure out how to do the job they have.

        Given this: His attitude toward me and our organizational leadership has deteriorated too. His attitude has moved from positive and constructive to using every opportunity to deliver long-winded lectures about “in his day” and lectures about outdated management practices and how I, my boss, and upper management are not doing our jobs well. He has completely lost the ability to communicate concisely about projects and issues, and people turn off when he talks.

        I’m now getting pushback from other staff, upper management, and outside stakeholders who no longer want to work with him because he wastes their time and doesn’t deliver. People have stopped answering his calls.

        It doesn’t sounds like just physical problems.

  36. CaptainMouse*

    Possible temporary idea. Have an honest conversation with Joe one last time about your concerns, make sure he understands how serious they are. Also emphasize and empathize that you understand his fear of retiring and being bored. Explain that he has 3 or 6 months at the end of which: 1) He is willing to retire 2) His performance has improved significantly so that you were actually be happy keeping him on, or 3) You let him go.

    I don’t know what kind of work your group does, but is it possible during this period to lighten his workload somewhat and maybe with the help of someone from the EAP if you have one, assign him the task of researching retirement options/activities. I know that this part is a bit pie in the sky.

      1. Dawn*

        I mean not the part about researching retirement options because holy cow that’s an overreach but the rest of it.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “researching retirement options because holy cow that’s an overreach”

          Massive overreach!!! Agreed. Sorry, but Joe is a fully grown adult, he needs to figure that part out for himself.

  37. GamesWithoutFrontiers*

    Details of this employment tribunal in the UK may be of interest, where a 75 year old woman with dementia won a legal claim against a supermarket chain for age and disability discrimination and unfair dismissal, part of which involved being asked by her manager if she wanted to retire

    News article

    Link to case https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions/mrs-j-hutchinson-v-asda-stores-ltd-1602504-slash-2020

  38. Taquito*

    Please please please handle Joe! I am sympathetic to his situation, and think that it is important to be kind, but you need to take care of this problem. My boss is a “Joe”, and all of his supervisors have made it clear that they aren’t interested in managing the problem. They sympathize with my team, they offer work-arounds, but ultimately moral is very low in my department, both due to Joe’s inability to do his job and the feeling that management would rather preserve his ego than create a tenable work environment for his employees. Your other employees will thank you if you kindly and quickly move Joe out.

  39. Just Me*

    Unpopular opinion, but I do see OP’s point that it is very difficult to approach this with an older person. SOME older people (not all, of course) really do see having a job as being a huge part of their identity and value. While the conversation should be “this particular job may not be a good fit because we need the person in this role to hit x benchmarks,” some older people will take it as “you’re saying I am too old and want to take away this thing that adds value to my life and allows me to be independent.” I agree that OP needs to have a conversation with this person about what is expected of the role, but at the same time, they need to prepare themselves for the fact that Joe may feel that his identity itself is being questioned. I’d recommend having a few alternatives for Joe if possible, such as the option to transition into a different role. (For reference: this happened to my father. He was transitioned out of his role because he was easing into retirement (over 65) and was working part-time. The company said that wasn’t an option any longer. He left but it was A Big To-Do and he did not go quietly into that good retirement.)

  40. BeenThere*

    I was in a very similar situation recently, in that I had someone older who had health issues that were impacting their ability to work successfully. The person was in complete denial about the health issues and any impact on their work. We started down a PIP, but it felt really wrong, because the health issues were what was truly behind the issues at work.

    After a LOT of back and forth with HR and disability management, we required the person to undergo a fitness for duty evaluation. They went to their own doctor with a form, their job description, and a one-pager of concerns from us. The form effectively asked: “Does this person have a disability under ADA? If yes, can this person work with certain accommodations? If yes, what?”

    The form came back as “yes, this person has a disability under ADA and there are no accommodations that would allow them to do their job.” I can’t know for sure what happened at the doctor’s appointment, but it seemed pretty clear that the doc was frank with the employee about their health condition. Ultimately, the person went on FMLA (using accrued time off to continue a paycheck) and then onto long-term disability and formal retirement.

    While I’m relieved that we found a way to do right by the employee and our customers, I was surprised by how much a difference it made to the team to have this person’s situation resolved. Even down a team member, morale is better because no one is having to work around a “missing stair.”

  41. Rachel*

    I have sort of a similar issue with an Octogenarian. This person also used to work full time but sort of eased into a part-time retirement role, before I began working here. His issue is that he lives in a place – and desires to keep living in this place – that requires residents to be employed. When I started in my role 6 years ago, Octo was working 12 hours per week. This has decreased over time to 10 hours, to 8, and now 6. He’s just hanging on to keep his residence, and has indicated many times that he only uses the money from the job as “play money.”

    The difficulty with Octo is that he is not computer literate and has mobility limitations that prevent him from doing tasks that are typical in my workplace. So I have to find paper-based tasks for him that can be completed while seated. For the first couple of years, I was able to find enough tasks, and I assumed that eventually, Octo’s health would decline, or that he would choose to move, or that I wouldn’t get approval to keep including him in the budget.

    None of those things have occurred, and now I really struggle to come up with tasks for Octo to do. It’s getting to the point where it takes up large chunks of my work time to devise tasks for him to do. I wish Octo would move on, but it seems he has no plans to do so, and other than the mobility limitations, he has no major health concerns that might result in him not being able to live independently. I know if I fired him, there’s little likelihood he would get hired to do something else, and he would have to move. I wish I could contact his residence and try to talk to them about any possible exceptions to the employment rule, but I know that would be an overreach on my part.

    Octo’s a nice guy and the quality of his work is fine. At 6 hours per week, at a fairly low hourly rate, he isn’t costing us much. I am just tired of trying to devise work for him to do. Should I just suck it up for sake of his housing arrangement, or is it reasonable of me to try to cut him loose?

    1. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      I would escalate it above your head, if you’re able. Lay out the financial case: You spend X hours per week (at whatever your hourly rate is; I assume you’re salaried but you can still figure out an hourly rate) trying to devise work for Octo to do, which he does for six hours at an hourly rate of Y, so ultimately, those projects are costing company X+Y=Z.

      I think a lot of times, things go on far longer than they should only because no one ever stops to think about the ways that ‘the way we’ve done it for so long’ is outdated, time-consuming, tedious, and no longer workable.

      And look, I get that Octo wants to keep living where he’s living, and that’s certainly admirable, but it’s not your employer’s job to provide him a modicum of work per week to meet the residence’s work requirement.

      If you can get TPTB at your job to give you the go-ahead on cutting him loose, I think it would be a kindness to him to give him a great deal of notice so he can find something else for a few hours a week to meet the work requirement.

    2. Observer*

      Honestly if you can come up with something real he can do that doesn’t take too much of your time, that would be a decent thing to do. Forcing someone to change their housing is something I would not do unless I had to, and it doesn’t sound like this guy is actually being a problem, unlike “Joe”.

    3. PollyQ*

      Would it be possible to just stop giving him work? Or assign him something like “read the paper for 1.2 hours a day” duties?

    4. Dawn*

      This sounds to me like someone who would be ideal for auditing/proofreading duties.

      I don’t know what kind of work you do but if you’re stuck on available work for him, you could bring him a box of receipts or open up the company intranet or whatever you’ve got and let him do accuracy checks.

      Believe me, the number of typos that exist on a company intranet…

    5. Beth*

      Just suck it up. If you can, find a routine task for him so you don’t have to keep inventing one–you don’t want to be costing the company a lot of your potentially-more-productive time to invent not-so-productive tasks for him. But it’d be pretty cruel to force him out when you know it’d force him to move as well. Have him man the front desk, or be your final typo check for almost-finalized documents, or simply be ‘on call’ in the break room for a few hours a week.

    6. WellRed*

      I’m so curious what sort of housing requires a job and yet, it can be almost no hours and still qualify for the housing. Meanwhile let him read the paper or feed stuff into a shredder.

    7. Esprit de l'escalier*

      Could you level with Octo: “It takes way too much of my own work time to find tasks that you can do when you’re here. I need you to identify a task you can do every week, so I won’t have to keep dropping my other responsibilities in order to assign work to you, because this is not sustainable for me.”

    8. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      I would work with your management team to let them know how coming up with work for Octo is impacting your ability to do x, y, and z, and that you all need to come up with a new plan for Octo, since the status quo is no longer tenable. OR you may discover that actually coming up with work for Octo IS now a part of your job, and then at least you can decide if you still want the job if that’s the case.

  42. Anon for This*

    I had a similar situation. He didn’t believe us when we said his performance wasn’t what we needed. It took getting a “meets expectations” on his annual eval before he understood we meant it. (In my organization that is about the lowest rating you will give someone who is actually doing some work.) He retired shortly thereafter.

  43. anti social socialite*

    We had a Joe (well a Josephine) at one of my past jobs. She was an absolute relic, hired when the owner’s father owned the business. She refused to learn how to use a computer and insisted on writing appointments down on post it notes. Then she’d never explain what the post-its meant which meant lost appointments and angry clients. (This was 2012 btw. Not 1992). She also attempted to keep certain protocols to herself so only she could do them.

    When I left, the owner was trying to push her out by only scheduling her a few days a month, but she’d show up on random days, say she was there to “help out” and get in everyone’s way.

    Don’t be like that employer. Be compassionate but have a spine. Put him on a PIP and if he doesn’t improve, let him go.

    1. Zap R.*

      Oh lord, we had a Josephine who did this too. She wrote things down on index cards and put them in a shoebox and if you missed something, she’d say “Why didn’t you check the shoebox?”

    2. WellRed*

      I’m so curious what sort of housing requires a job and yet, it can be almost no hours and still qualify for the housing. Meanwhile let him read the paper or feed stuff into a shredder.

      1. Zap R.*

        It might be a rooming house. In my city, those are kind of the Wild West in terms of things landlords can get away with asking for.

      1. London Calling*

        I interviewed a few years ago for a role in the finance department of a new tourist attraction in London. One of the things I was told was that I’d be responsible for expenses (no problem there) and I’d have to take care of the people who refused to use a computer to do those expenses. That was one of he reasons I withdrew from the hiring process – I have my own job to do and it’s not coddling people in 2016 refuse to use a computer and expect other people to take up their slack.

  44. Just Alma Now*

    Are we sure Joe’s performance is prohibitively bad? LW mentions that he has slowed down in performing his duties and that some others in the company are frustrated, but not that he’s completely incapable of doing the job. If it’s more of the former I would lean toward being generous, especially considering his age and experience with the company.

    In addition, if LW does go the PIP route, they should also consider how they want to manage the optics of the situation. We know Joe is willing to complain about work issues to coworkers, and although LW says there are several people frustrated with his performance, there could be other coworkers closer to Joe and/or less informed about the situation who may view it as an overreach and be worried about the companies’ treatment of elderly workers.

  45. Erin*

    My heart goes out to Joe. I also know how demoralizing it can be to work with a Joe, and be forced to over-function.

    I would have the frank conversation with him. I would also document everything. Also, since he is financially set to retire, can you connect him with HR/EAP folks who can help him transition into retirement? Joe’s identity has been wrapped up in his company for a long time, and he needs some help to re-focus his energy & life. It sounds like he doesn’t know where or how to start.

  46. Zap R.*

    You’re taking on too much responsibility for Joe here. If he’s voluntarily working full-time even though his health is so bad that it could be threatened by a PIP, that’s a Joe problem. You’re not the one causing him stress and anxiety; he’s anxious about retiring and creating a stressful work situation for himself because of it. You can absolutely sympathize with him, but you’re not responsible for managing his later-life crisis.

  47. Let Joe Go*

    Is age the only factor here? One might speculate that Joe’s financial comfortability and lack of “needing” this job are also contributing factors to his ongoing inability to change how he works. We all know people who claim they don’t HAVE to work and could leave any time they want, yet somehow manage to make everyone around them work harder to shore up their slack.

    Finances aren’t what’s keeping him in the job, but he’s clearly still getting something out of it. If what he’s getting out of employment doesn’t make it worth what he’s giving back to his employer, though, I can’t see how you are still under any obligation not to let him go. He had the chance to leave on his own terms multiple times. It’s totally understandable why he hasn’t. Why should he leave? He’s getting paid to work the way he wants and he’s decided he doesn’t have to listen to anybody else. I wouldn’t leave voluntarily either, at this point!

  48. Dawn*

    First off, I would not assume that you know Joe’s financial situation. Even among younger people it’s frequently embarrassing to admit that you’re not in as good of financial shape as you’d have liked to be, and it’s also none of your business; Joe might have told you that he’s doing just fine when he is actually not.

    With this in mind, I would also stress your willingness – assuming that you are (and I would be) – to give Joe a good reference to work that’s more in line with where he finds himself now. It’s still a pretty good job market and I’m sure that there are lots of roles that Joe WOULD excel at, and you know where his strengths lie.

    Let him know that you’ll support him in moving on to something new, and don’t bring up the whys of it.

  49. Beth*

    In academia, professors who retire sometimes end up in a ‘professor emeritus’ status, where they’re technically retired but still affiliated with the university in some way. I’ve known people who kept coming to campus every workday well into their senior years, not because they didn’t have the means to retire but because they spent their entire life on their work and have no idea what else to do with themselves. They’re not teaching, they aren’t taking major administrative roles, they’re not being anyone’s primary advisor…but they are around, doing whatever research they feel like, being available to whatever students might be interested in their expertise, etc.

    It sounds like Joe might be aiming for that kind of situation. But the thing is, that only works if there actually is a distinct role for it! And most fields don’t have that structure. Continuing to take a full standard workload indefinitely isn’t viable–health issues, the general effects of aging, etc do take a toll on productivity. Pretending otherwise doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help you or your employer, who need a worker who can handle a standard workload in that role…and it also doesn’t help Joe, who needs to be working on finding alternative ways to stay active and busy, given that this one is not long-term viable.

    1. Beth*

      I should say, if there is a way for you to shift Joe into a lower-workload or lower-impact role instead of pushing him out completely, put those options on the table for him. Your team can’t keep working around him underperforming in this role forever, but if he wants to be working and there is a role he could do well at, that could be a good solution.

    2. Sovawanea*

      I agree more places could have some kind of emeritus type role for folks that are just so heavily invested in their identity and socially in work. I think that only makes sense though if there’s institutional knowledge that is valuable or the emeritus staff is a good mentor to have in exchange for the fewer hours and different metrics. That’s not likely an option for OP if the company isn’t even willing to allow part time.

      If the company has an EAP with counseling options, a referral could be an idea. It’s not OP’s job to help him find meaning and purpose outside of work, but the EAP might have some resources.

      It might be overreach for a PIP, but if he ends up staying adding in that he needs to attend a preparing for retirement seminar/webinar as part of his annual goals. My job has a seperate pension agency that offers these kind of things regularly, but a local aging agency or credit union might offer similar things. Build planning for an eventual retirement into his work goals in the same manner you would professional development goals for a different employee at a different stage in their career.

      Something else that can maybe help in these situations is if HR is willing to have a retiree email list they maintain where someone like Joe can still get a quarterly newsletter, invited to company picnics or Christmas parties etc. so they can still be socially connected to the organization that was such a big part of their life.

  50. Leave a Message at the Beep*

    This is an extremely timely letter for me, as we are dealing with a similar situation. Exacerbated by the employee in question being rather high ranking, and someone who considers himself to be part of the original team (meanwhile, the rest of the original team retired 5-10 years ago). His assistant was probably doing most of his work, unrecognized, for at least a few years now. She retired July 1 – he was supposed to have retired two Julys ago. He has been floundering and it has been the longest month and a week that the company has experienced.

  51. MPerera*

    Regarding the concern that a PIP might result in Joe’s death…
    When my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, she refused to tell her parents (both in their seventies) because she was afraid the news would make them have heart attacks and die. She visited them as she usually did, clearly losing weight but passing this off as nothing because the truth would make her parents have heart attacks and die.
    The cancer took its toll and she died. Of course, at that point we had no choice but to break the news to her parents. They were shocked and devastated.
    But surprisingly, they did not have heart attacks and die.

  52. nonprofit llama groomer*

    I am currently working for a Joe who steadfastly refuses to retire but really isn’t contributing to his role as Senior Manager of a nonprofit. His reports (including me) are all frustrated beyond belief that we don’t have a real manager who actually manages things.

    Example 1 – Worker needs equipment from the admin office (“Cough, cough, I don’t think there’s a protocol for that, just go ask Practice Manager in other office about how to do that.” Worker is out of the office in meetings 4 out of 5 business days while Senior Manager is in the office 5/5 days). Example 2 – Senior Manager forwards every email sent to the ANNOUNCE group (everyone in the organization) to our local office group because he doesn’t understand that we all get the email from ANNOUNCE; he also prints out every single email he gets (if it’s a thread, he prints out each individual email instead of the whole thread and doesn’t understand why we are all frustrated that the rest of us have to share the only other printer in the office because that one is his).

    I could go on, but at some point age isn’t the problem, it’s refusing to adapt to the workplace. I have another colleague in the same position as Senior Manager in another office who is about the same age and thrives in his position.

    I actually love my job and am at the point in my career where I rarely need the intervention of a local manager to get the assistance I need because I know all of the organization’s upper management. I’m worried about losing the younger people who work with us, though, because upper management won’t manage a problem.

  53. K C*

    I was in a very similar situation. I’m not sure exactly how old they were but I think in their 60s.
    We were a small team and the quality of their work was extremely poor; other team members kept having to check and redo it.
    We’d bring it up to him each time and he’d say he’d fix it himself. But then never would.
    I couldn’t understand why he was doing poor work, not learning from his mistakes, and not cleaning up after himself, but the way I saw it he was now creating work for the rest of us and consuming a slot where we could have a capable employee instead.
    So we let him go. I feel that the author is overthinking it.

  54. WS*

    And even if Joe doesn’t want to retire yet, there’s no reason why he has to be at your workplace in particular. If he’s competent and able as he thinks he is, he can get a different job (and if he’s not, that’s also a reason for him to move on). My grandfather worked in a high-pressure, high mental acuity job as a pharmacist until he was 88, but he slowly went from 6 days a week down to a half day. Nobody ever had a problem with his work and he was fully up-to-date with all the computer systems and continuing education requirements.

  55. Harper the Other One*

    This particular situation is probably beyond this possible solution, unfortunately, but something my husband’s organization does that I think is very clever is giving employees within 2 years of standard retirement age (65 per the org) a mandatory 6 month “retirement trial” leave. (He is a minister, so understandably many of his colleagues are heavily personally invested in their job, sometimes to the detriment of their personal lives.) They have some flexibility about when to take it but they are required to take it before age 65.

    When their leave begins, they are given some specific resources re. the transition to retirement and then the 6 months exist specifically as a trial run for what it’s like to be retired. After that they don’t HAVE to retire immediately, or right on the dot of their 65th birthday, but the idea is to help them switch mindsets from “my days are filled with work” to “when my days aren’t full of work, what do I want to do?”

    OP, if it’s possible that your company will have other long-time employees stay to retirement age, perhaps an initiative like this is something you can suggest. If it’s evenly applied it is a significant benefit, both while people are still employed and after they retire.

  56. sdog*

    I agree with Alison about being upfront and letting him know that you can’t continue to keep him on if he doesn’t im prove. But don’t know that I’d really offer the retirement route to be honest. I mean, you know and he knows it’s there, but I think it’s a fine line to walk if you don’t want to be accused of age discrimination/pushing him out. I think it’s simpler to 1) engage in interactive discussions to address any underlying health problems that could be affecting his performance and 2) begin the PIP.

  57. Serena*

    Putting an 80 year old who’s obviously deteriorating in a stressful situation such as a PIP? Has our compassion for our fellow humans gone out the window?
    Joe obviously gets something out of this job, maybe the emotional security of a regular schedule, or having someplace to go to every day, or having something he feels good about doing (despite the complaining), or being among people, the feeling of belonging, etc. Yes, these could be satisficed through hobbies or the like but at that age people become scared (understandable) or their mental faculties do not function as clearly as when they were younger. Aging is scary. Do the compassionate thing and change his duties (in a respectful manner) to things he can manage and that won’t impact other workers.

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