our employee retired … but now she won’t leave

A reader writes:

Our employee, “Fiona,” decided to semi-retire after 20 years of working with us. She asked to reduce her hours and work mostly from home, which was approved. Since the start of her official semi-retirement date, however, she still comes to work almost full-time. Fiona hasn’t asked to go back to her full-time salary and would likely decline even if this was offered. She said she hates being at home and prefers to come into the office. I think she’s working at a slow pace and tending to non-urgent tasks.

The issue is that we’ve hired Sally – with Fiona’s blessing – to replace her. While Sally hasn’t said anything, I would feel weird about taking over a role of someone who’s supposed to go on semi retirement but is still coming to work every day. Is this situation potentially problematic or should we leave Fiona to do what she wants?

Yeah, it’s definitely a problem!

First and foremost: potential legal issues. If Fiona’s work responsibilities or pay mean that she’s non-exempt, you’re required to pay her for all hours she works, whether you asked her to work those hours or not, plus overtime if she ever works more than 40 hours in a week. And even if Fiona’s pre-retirement job qualified as exempt, keep in mind that her new, reduced salary might put her below the salary threshold for exemption. (If she’s earning less than $35,568/year, she’s non-exempt, no matter what her job duties are. Interestingly, the law doesn’t prorate that for part-time employees.) You’d also need to make sure she’s earning at least minimum wage when you divide her current pay by the hours she’s actually working, not the hours she’s been assigned. And you might be legally required to offer her health care and other benefits, depending on how many hours a week she’s showing up.

But there’s also Sally! Most people in Sally’s shoes would be uneasy at being hired to replace someone if that person then continues to stick around and not leave. Sally might be wondering whether you’re going to end up deciding you don’t need her after all. She might worry she can’t take full ownership over her work with Fiona hanging around. Are their responsibilities clearly divided, and is Fiona respecting that division or blurring the lines? Is Sally comfortable changing processes or ways of doing things with Fiona hovering?

For a glimpse into how Sally might be feeling, see these letters from people in similar shoes:

the person who used to do my job won’t go away

the guy who did my job before me won’t go away

I was hired to run a department — but the old boss is still there, 10 months later

our CEO won’t let go of a retired employee

And who is managing Fiona now? Does that person have a clear idea of everything she’s working on? (It sounds like maybe not.) They need to!

It sounds like Fiona is having a hard time adjusting to semi-retirement. But she can’t really announce she’s only working X hours a week, let you make plans to replace her, and then continue showing up nearly full-time. At a minimum you can’t let her work off the clock if she’s non-exempt … but you also really need to look at how this is all affecting Sally.

As a next step, sit down with Fiona and name what’s happening: “We’d planned for you to be working X hours a week, and since we’ve hired Sally to replace you, it’s important that we give her space to do the job we hired her for. We’re thrilled to have you for the X hours a week we agreed on, but we need to stick to that to keep the work divisions clear for everyone, and to ensure the company is meeting our legal obligations on pay and benefits.”

Read an update to this letter

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. Too Long Til Retirement*

    Imagine hating your life so much that you don’t want to do anything but go to work. What is wrong with these people?! Fiona is not the only person I have heard of who has “retired” and then decided to still work. It boggles my mind.

    1. dot*

      Curious to me too is the situation where she asked to work mostly from home, but hates being home so much that she would rather come into the office? How bizarre, unless she just really didn’t realize how much she wouldn’t like it.

      1. Too Long Til Retirement*

        Yeah I would wager that she didn’t know how she would feel about work from home. But still…if you need to talk to people, there are so many social groups to try and hobbies to try in retirement. There are so many ways other than work to get the brain working and be around people!

      2. metadata minion*

        Yeah, I thought working from home would be a tiny silver lining to pandemic lockdown, and while there were definite perks to doing so, it turns out that on balance I *hate* working from home on anything more than an occasional basis.

        1. Lady_blerd*

          As an introvert, I was shocked to learn this about myself as well. I couldn’t do it full time.

          1. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

            I switched jobs in late 2019 from a job that I liked a lot, but also had some issues with. The factor that finally kicked me into gear – other than seeing the ad for the job I moved to – was that the office was being renovated and everyone was going to work from home for six months. I didn’t want that and moved on to where I am now. I love my work now, but damn if the joke wasn’t on me once COVID hit.

          2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

            Oh same! I feel like there are so few people who feel like this! My college library went hybrid over the summer (and then almost entirely WFH because we the air conditioning went out. It’s not the “being home” that I object to, it’s that I have to WORK when I’m HOME. Home is supposed to be a space where I don’t have to be Doing Stuff.

      3. StressedButOkay*

        I’m willing to bet she had no idea how much she would hate it until she was working from home. I’m watching my own parents settle into retirement and they’re both already starting to be bored – it’s an adjustment for sure! But she needs to fill her time with things other than this job (volunteering! napping! reading!) and someone at OP’s job needs to gently redirect her back to the fact that she’s supposed to be semi-retired.

        1. Lyngend Canada*

          Covid19 showed me that I would not get bored (couldn’t work for 6 months due to restrictions affecting my asthma. Plus burn out. Finally found a wfh job and left the retail industry)

      4. The Person from the Resume*

        Well, it sounds like she didn’t work from home before.

        I can’t related. If I could retire, I would. I would go to the gym 5 days a week during what was normally work hours. I would go for long bike rides. I would read more books. I would have more time to plan my book club and support my mardi gras krewe, and declutter my house, cook more, play social sports, and sleep more.

        It does sort of sound like Fiona is a social person that likes being around people and doesn’t have other social outlets or perhaps not daytime social outlets. Because when I retire, I supposed the stuff I need to do for myself, I would do during my former work hours because my socializing activities would still take place after work hours unless I found a new group of other retirees to hang out with.

        1. In the same boat*

          That’s a pretty awesome way to live life. And I feel the same way– I would quit tomorrow if I could.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Same. I have a coworker well past retirement age. She says she wants to work. I said, I’m retiring in ten years.
          “what will you do?”
          “Not work. I will do anything that is not work. Yes, I like my job. I liked college, but the time came to graduate. I like visiting friends, but the time comes to go home. I feel the same way about work. Time to be done.”

          1. Industry Behemoth*

            I knew someone who worked PT when financially they didn’t need to, to get some time away from her live-in MIL.

            1. allathian*

              As much as I love my MIL, there’s no way I could live with her. She could talk the spout off of a teapot.

              1. Picard*

                “She could talk the spout off of a teapot.”

                Completely off topic but this is the best expression Ive heard in a while. Snagging it!

        3. Leia Oregano*

          Same. I’m 28 and if I could retire tomorrow, I’d quit in a heartbeat. I have SO. MANY. THINGS. I want to do and just don’t have the time or energy for because my job takes every ounce of soul I have to spare and then some. I’m a burnt out introvert with big, creative dreams and no energy or time to pursue them.

          I’d read books. I’d write books. I’d learn how to crochet or make jewelry or pick up woodworking. I’d go for hikes and cook complicated recipes and go to fun events in my cool little city. I’d sleep. I’d embrace my hobbies and do week-long deep dives every time something new catches my attention. My personal dream is to be a full-time author, but I have 0 creative energy most of the time because my job sucks it all up. These days, I’m lucky to have the energy to work all day and then do laundry at night. I’m trying to power through on the dream but I wish our world made it easier to simply exist.

          1. loranthippus*

            Leia, I hear you and see you and recognize and understand the full breadth of what you’ve said here.

          2. I Have RBF*

            I will be retiring in less than a decade. I have a ton of projects that are waiting for the proverbial “round tuit” that I have to fill my time. I sew, but I actually haven’t ever made a pieced quilt. I have a half finished rag quilt and a granny square afghan in process. I have dozens of books in my “to be read stack”. I have outlines for a couple books, both fiction and not.

            Plus I can always hang out my shingle as an “adult supervision in tech” consultant.

          3. Outside Earthling*

            I loved reading this. Thank you. It gives me hope and inspiration for my own retirement dreams.

        4. Lydia*

          Same here. I was unemployed for about a year broken up over a year and a half and I kept myself pretty busy and enjoyed myself a lot. I made things, I kept my house clean, cooked, spent time with friends, planted vegetables. I am sure there will be days I’ll be aimless when I retire, but I’m really sure I’ll find a LOT of things to do.

        5. Emmy Noether*

          I once calculated that just with the concrete, planned, creative projects on my list (sewing, knitting, embroidery, a smattering of other crafts), I’d be occupied full time for about two years. Plus there’s the cooking, baking, gardening, other creative pursuits to take up (watercolor, paper crafts, jewelry making, every fiber craft known to man), home improvements, books, hikes, dance, swimming, museums, films, theater, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some things.

          I’m not about to get bored for several lifetimes. My problem would definitely be what to do first, because I can’t get to all of it.

      5. Sloanicota*

        To be fair, I also underestimated how effective I’d be from-home haha. Anyone who has kept track of how often I comment here would intuit that it’s not going well for me.

      6. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

        I pet she has a partner that is driving her nuts and that’s why she doesnt want to be home

        1. Sage*

          I also thought she could prefere to come to office because of her partner. But if it’s the case, it wohld be healthier to do something about the relationship.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I’m not retiring until I have my own house and Husband can live in another house.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      The “hating your life” part is a bit harsh, but I agree with the overall sentiment. I am only mid-career at this point in my life, but I would retire tomorrow if I had the money.

      I know a lot of people who retire struggle to deal with what to do with their time, or they feel loneliness because they are no longer around people all day, or they can’t find meaning because all their self-worth was tied up in their workplace identity, but none of these problems are the responsibility of the former workplace to solve.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I think a more correct statements is “not happy with her new situation.” She may currently hate it or just find it too foreign.
        I wonder what she would do without the safety net of pretending she didn’t make a life altering decision.
        Would she get used to working from home because she said that’s what she wanted? Would she be forced to admit that she hates being at home, hates being part time and wants to come back? Would she look for full time elsewhere because she’s been replaced?
        These are the questions she needs to be asking herself, but is spared because nobody is holding her accountable for her decision.

      2. MsSolo (UK)*

        I think there’s a difference, too, between what you think you’ll want to do when your retire, and what your options actually are, financially and physically. It can be alarming to confront the fact you don’t have the capacity to pick up a new hobby as easily as you used to, or that one day in the gym a week leaves you immobile for the rest of it, or that you can afford the flights but not the insurance to travel the world. It can also get very Marge Simpson in the Hank Scorpio episode, because actually your house and garden don’t need a full work week’s worth of attention every week! Returning to the familiarity of work, where you’re accustomed to the pace and the processes, can be a defence mechanism.

        1. Quoth*

          Yes I can imagine all this. And also that if all the fun things you want to do are mostly solo then even though it sounds fun you might find yourself lonely because jobs do tend to offer low-key human interaction every day between the hours of 9 and 5 (or whatever), even when you have social life outside that.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      This is a really harsh take; it’s not surprising that some people’s circumstances meaning losing a place and community of people you spend 8+ hours a day with can create a hole it’s hard to adjust to. Work can provide some positive aspects of well-being that it can take a while to replace, and retirement is a major life adjustment regardless!

      1. Too Long Til Retirement*

        I guess I never have made work my whole community. I am friendly with my coworkers and I enjoy my coworkers. I might miss them too if I ever leave. But I would not miss driving to work and spending my time doing what I do. All of the things that are the “most positive aspects” of my life are not related to work. Husband, my home, my neighborhood, my cat, friends, my faith, my hobbies. There are a lot of activities I WANT to do, but can’t because work takes up too much of my time. I can very easily fill up the 8-10 hours of my day once the job doesn’t exist.

        1. Spoonless*

          I have no idea how you have so much energy to do all those things alongside work.

          when I was working full-time I barely had any spoons to spend outside of work. I managed to do some volunteering, but otherwise I could barely do housework, let alone maintain social ties. I have no idea how anyone works full time, gets enough sleep, and otherwise functions as an adult… let alone as a parent.

          even working part time (in this case including work and volunteering because they’re all serving the same end changed career-goal) it’s hard for me to have sufficient spoons to do much of anything. even my marriage gets a bit neglected

      2. Communicate*

        All you’ve said is true.

        But the workplace is not a social club where retirees can expect to come hang out until they adjust to retirement.

        Someone with authority at that workplace needs to speak with Fiona and firmly let her know that she can either work her limited hours from home as she requested or she can work them in the office but she needs to choose. The limited hours need to be worked in a conservative block (4 hours straight) and nir be dragged out through the entire day. If she comes in ti the office she withdrew her time block and leaves. If she works from home she works her time block and then signs off.

        Not only is this retirees’s hanging out at the office unfair for her replacement, it is disruptive to other employees who may feel the need to entertain this semi-retired person or who have their work interrupted by the socializing around them.

        Have a follow up meeting and go over what is and isn’t working and the adjustments that need to be made going forward for everyone’s benefit and any legal reasons. Then enforce the adjustments.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          I absolutely agree that it’s not okay, and that the behavior needs to stop!

          I was responding to Too Long’s strong reaction that Fiona must “hate her life” and that something must be wrong with people who behave this way; while inappropriate, it is not wild and inexplicable behavior, and we can be compassionate when we discuss it.

      3. Tai*

        I get that and I feel for her, but I cannot imagine trying to work when someone is in the office because they have nothing better to do and want to be entertained. This isn’t fair to the other workers. It isn’t their job to entertain her. Also, it seems like nobody knows what she is there to work on! That is a disaster waiting to happen for any organization.

      4. Ellie*

        I think its the difference between a job and a vocation. I work for a Defence engineering contractor, and it is very, very common here for people to take an early retirement, only to come back 6-12 months later, doing the same job they had before but with reduced hours. Its exciting work, work that matters, and you’re working with dedicated, extremely intelligent people, solving complex mathematical problems. Reading books, going to the gym, even volunteering, is not going to scratch that itch. It’s a huge adjustment.

        I’d give some thought as to whether you can accommodate her increased hours, maybe by moving her into a slightly different role? There’s no reason to force someone into a full retirement if they don’t want to, and can still do the job. A lot of our people come back as contractors, with minimum and maximum hours that they can work within, to get around the legal hurdles.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah. I’m a scientist and while I certainly don’t love everything about my job, I do still actually really care about the subject, and especially because I’m in an experimental discipline, there would be no real way to keep being involved once I’m retired. So no way I’d retire now, even though I’d love to reduce my hours to a four-day week or something because I do have a ton of other interests as well and not nearly enough hours in the week! But I do, in fact, love what I do and there’s just no way to do that at any interesting level “for fun” after retirement. (I guess you could still go to conferences, but paying for yourself does not sound great!)

          A lot of people come back/stay on as consultants in our field, as well…

          1. AnotherOne*

            I work at a university and I’ve actually seen a few professors who managed to negotiate bench space so they could continue to do work after they retired.

            Apparently, it’s worked because they’ve continued to publish. (I think this says a lot about the relationships they built over the course of their careers more than my employer.)

    4. Lena*

      I don’t think it necessarily means Fiona hates her life. I just think in much of society (I’m American), our lives ARE our work. Work is where people make friends, interact, get out of the house, etc. Unless Fiona actively cultivated a religious or recreational life in the years prior to retirement, I don’t think she’ll be miserable but I do think she’ll be lonely.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Also the timing is weird. When you’re in your 20s-30s-40s, the demands on your time may be endless; you may be marrying, you may have young children, and/or you may be caretaking for your parents. I bought my first house in that era, which required sooo much more upkeep than I anticipated. I dreamed every day of retirement so I could focus on all the other parts of my life. But our society doesn’t let people quit working till they’re 60-70, by which time their kids may be grown, spouse may be in ill-health, parents may be gone. It’s obviously not universal, but there does seem to be a bit of a mismatch between need, money, and time.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          I think of travel that way…yes you can travel in retirement but physically travel gets harder for most as you age and you may not have a ton of highly mobile years left after 65. (Depends how you like to travel.) We need more time off for adventures earlier in life.

          My parents retired early and traveled a bunch — my mom was already slowing down so it wasn’t super ambitious but they took long trips to enviable places. Then cancer got her. I’m so glad they retired early enough to have that time. If they’d retired at a conventional age it would have been a lot less.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah a lot of my dreams of travel probably won’t be feasible when I’m 65-plus. I’ve just never had money and time at the same point in my career. But I’m realizing I need to **make** it happen.

            1. amoeba*

              I mean, seeing the amount of retirees out hiking in the alps (also often overtaking me, they are super fit!), I’m cautiously hopeful that I could still be doing that. But of course you need to be lucky for that – and apart from that, already integrate a lot of activity into your life now, because waiting for your sixties to start new habits does not sound very likely to succeed! So yes, I already try to do everything I’m hoping for after retirement now and then I’ll hopefully be able to keep it up/do more of it once I’m done with work…

          2. Artemesia*

            my parents dreamed of travel and my father was disabled from the time he retired and my mother was a caregiver for 15 years till he died — and then she was 80. I took her to Italy when she was 80 for 2 weeks, the only time she left the continent — but she didn’t get much retirement joy. My husband and I traveled every year once the kids were in school as well as taking vacations with them in the summer — We are lucky to be able to travel still in our 70s, but if we had not we would not have felt cheated. It is too bad that Americans rarely have the time to spend with family or to travel when they were young.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              Roger that. I finally moved on from being a caregiver and my body still hasn’t really recovered yet, and given my age, it might not. I still want to travel but don’t know if I’ll be able to.

        2. Tom*

          Friendly reminder that people in “our society” have longer retirements and ate in better health when they do retire than people have had for 99% of human history.

          1. Andy*

            I’m having a hard time figuring out the point of this comment – is it just a “don’t complain because historically things used to be worse”? Or am I missing something?

          2. Andie Begins*

            for some people, sure!

            as someone whose retirement is so far off I’m not counting on being able to* by the time I get there – I do expect we’re going to see that trend reverse.

      2. DJ Hymnotic*

        I began my career in the faith-based nonprofit world, and the funny thing is that while one’s religious life can indeed meet the needs you describe, it can also 100% create the circumstance the LW is describing. I cannot begin to tell you how many people I met in that world–both professional and volunteer–who felt they could not do the job being expected of them because the person who used to do that job refuses to completely step aside and let New Person fully inhabit that role.

        It doesn’t typically happen out of malice or ill intent (although it certainly can–I’ve seen that as well) but it happens all the time in religious life as well, and often for the same reasons you name for people not letting go of secular jobs–it’s what got them out of the house, interaction, etc.

        Not at all a critique of what you’re pointing out, merely an anecdotal observation springboarding from it.

    5. Bookmark*

      This happens often enough that I think it’s worth being empathetic and curious about what’s going on rather than just assuming there’s something wrong with them or they hate the rest of their life. Lots of people spend most of their waking hours at work, some out of necessity to put food on the table, some because they feel like they’re making a valuable contribution to society, usually a mix of both. It’s definitely where most people have the largest number of social connections. We also live in a world that values people for what they produce. It’s no surprise people have a hard time adjusting to a new reality, even if they’re excited to have more time for hobbies and friends and family.

      1. Too Long Til Retirement*

        Oh I get it if you HAVE to work. When someone retires, I immediately assume that they are retiring because they are in a place in their life where they can afford to retire, or their health makes it so that they have to retire. Either way, at that point the job is either not necessary for living or is actively detrimental to living.

        I have less empathy for people because my boss who is of retirement age actively rails against retirement, discourages other people from retiring, is anti-WFH, etc. So I have a knee-jerk reaction to this sort of thing.

        1. Olive*

          Having to retire from health can really suck and I totally understand why someone would want to be back in the office regularly in that case. I think when a lot of us picture retirement, we picture having full mobility – going to walk and garden and bike and… climb mountains even.

          My father has lost some mobility and a lot of days are boring for him, even though he used to have many hobbies.

          1. not bitter just sour*

            In the 3 years since my dad retired he’s:
            Gone through chemo and surgery
            Lost some use of his hands and feet as a side effect from chemo
            Suffered some other issues that have really impacted his mobility

            But I think all these things pushed him from being semi-retired to fully retired.

            Getting old sucks and it’s only going to get worse for everyone with the state of the planet.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              That hits me in the feels. I’ve been adjacent to one too many “retire to die” scenarios.

              1. not bitter just sour*

                It’s frustrating and depressing to watch. My parents were very careful in their retirement planning and it’s been somewhat meaningless since he can’t really enjoy all the things he loves.

                However the planning has meant they weren’t totally screwed in terms of paying for my dad’s medical care because good lord.

            2. amoeba*

              Eh, even with the current state of the planet, I think people in western countries nowadays still have the highest life expectancy (and also “healthy life expectancy”) we ever had! But then we also tend to retire later, so that does kind of balance it out. But with progress in medicine etc., I do believe that we have many more healthy years ahead of us than people did a few decades ago.

              Which does not mean I’ll postpone all my plans to my seventies, obviously! I also know from my dad that there’s no guarantee you’ll have a long and healthy retirement, unfortunately…

          2. Sloanicota*

            This is why I don’t buy in to the “work hard and save hard so you can have a great retirement” lifeplan. Yes, some people are lucky and retire at +/-65 and can still travel, enjoy hobbies, etc. But I believe the last statistic I reviewed showed that most people still retire either to their own ill health, or a partner’s, meaning it’s not worth it to be miserable now in the hopes of being happy later. Balance in all things.

            1. amoeba*

              I mean, also, if you postpone all those things to some far-off retirement age and work yourself to death now, this does actively lower your chances to be fit and healthy when that age actually comes around… (and even if you are lucky enough to still be healthy, you might not friends/connections/hobbies, and starting from zero at that age is certainly much harder!)

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            Retirement is so often venerated as “finally getting what you’ve earned!” But that presupposes enough money, health and mobility to enjoy those rewards.

            My dad retired and traveled as much as he could because his physical health was going to stop him sooner or later, and he knew it.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I’ve also seen cases where someone has planned for their life in retirement, how they will spend their days, but find that the reality does not match what they were hoping for.

        Sometimes it’s a simple as their partner has also retired, and views the new retiree as a 24 x 7 playmate/entertainment center, even when they’d seemed capable of occupying themselves on their own before 2nd person retired.

        I know two people who un-retired when that happened … They were like “I HAVE to get out of the house and go someplace where spouse can’t come with me”, even though they’d had a nicely balanced relationship and life together when one or both were working. Though, the one who went back to his former workplace did so on a consulting basis, with a clear role/project, and the other found a job at a different company; neither swooped back to hover like the Ghost of Christmas Past in their old job. They each were then to really retire a year or so later, I’m guessing after some frank conversions about not being joined at the hip with their spouse.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          My mother became a tax preparer when my father retired. It wasn’t about the money. Neither was it about hating one another’s company. It was about balance.

        2. Twenty Points for the Copier*

          Oh, man, that 2nd paragraph is 100% my partner. Even a 3 day weekend is tough on him. The upside is he doesn’t want to retire and is in a career where he’s unlikely to have to. I don’t particularly want to retire either and a lot of people in my field don’t, but I think it’s somewhat irresponsible to continue working to 80 and beyond without a succession plan. In his field, that’s much less of an issue.

    6. metadata minion*

      I have tons of hobbies and I can absolutely see finding myself at loose ends if I suddenly stopped working (I guess one doesn’t usually suddenly retire, but it doesn’t seem terribly unlikely for someone to not have made concrete plans for what their life will look like beyond getting their budget together). I really value having structure in my life, and I hope that in Fiona’s position I’d recognize that and sign up for a continuing ed class or a regular volunteer gig or something like that to give my post-retirement life some direction, but maybe she expected to find happiness and freedom in a lack of responsibility and is instead feeling aimless and lonely.

      1. nonprofitpro*

        I also have awareness around this. I have tons of things I like to do and a good number of hobbies, but I’m also worried that I might just sit on the couch when I retire. I find Gretchen Ruben’s “four tendencies” framework to be helpful. Some of us need external motivation (which a job provides) to be able to accomplish things. In her language this is an “obliger” – someone who works best with external motivation. A lot of folks on this chain I think have strong “upholder” tendencies and can’t quite imagine how we need to set ourselves up for sucess.

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, same here. I might be able to use my hobbies and other interests for structure, but those mostly happen in the evenings because well, other people are still working! Completely being left to my own devices without external structure tends to go… not great.

    7. Spicy Tuna*

      I spent my 20’s being underemployed and super frustrated that no one recognized my skills, drive, and willingness to work, in addition to being frustrated at my financial situation. I am 50 now and I think it will be hard to completely retire. I remember that angst about not enough money, no mental challenge and too much free time all too well.

      1. DannyG*

        I have a step down process planned: @ 67 drop back to a 0.8 position with the hospital system. @ 69 drop to a 0.4 position. Continue like that as long as my health & my wife’s health holds up. Of course I may go back to teaching 1-2 courses a year to take up some of that time. Then again, it may make sense to hang up the white coat and get some travel in. It will just depend on circumstances, what I like to call a “game time decision”.

      2. Tai*

        I hear you, I am back in school so that when I “retire,” I can still work 30 hours or so a week in a lower-key capacity. The difference between our plans and “Fiona’s” is that she is just hanging around. If you know you need something to work at, the best plan is to consult or advance yourself so that you have options. In my case it would be super inappropriate to hang around the high school where I work with no assigned role.

    8. not nice, don't care*

      Dude! I work in an academic library and am stunned at how many people seem unable to cut the cord after retirement, or actually brag about being so bored at home (supposedly sick) they ‘need’ to come in to work.

      Luckily newer/younger employees seem to have a more healthy attitude about work and the work addicts are slowly going away (whether they like it or not).

      I already added my (8 yrs away) retirement day to my work calendar and screen capped it to my boss :D

      1. somehow*

        I’ve known many people over my work lifetime who find retirement to be different from what they cheered it would be.

        It’s been interesting to see that much of the time, people aren’t nearly as noble about retirement when they do retire.

    9. Umiel*

      I know what you mean. I have known several people who spend all their time at work, won’t retire, and never take time off. Almost all of them have miserable lives at home and do whatever they can to avoid going home. I have a lot of sympathy for several of them, but they all become problematic in different way.

    10. TeenieBopper*

      Man, I dunno. I’m anti-capitalist and think there’s very little inherent redeeming quality about work (like, work isn’t honorable just because it’s work) but it came up a couple weeks ago in conversation that if I were to win the lottery, I wouldn’t quit my job (I probably would ask for part time, and stick to it, though). I like the structure it gives my life. I was actually super worried about my parents when they retired for the same reason.

      Like, I get it. And kind of agree with you. But finding that structure and purpose can be easier said than done without a job or career.

      1. Olive*

        I’ve thought if I won the lottery (or however I came into a huge amount of money), I wouldn’t make any drastic life changes for at least 6 months. Like sure, I’d hire a housecleaner and have a babysitter over more often right away. But I’d plan what I wanted to do and how to sustain it before making any changes that would be hard to reverse.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Husband and I actually had that discussion when the Powerball and mega millions were both pushing a billion. We agreed that with any sort of major windfall, we wouldn’t tell anybody (outside of like, a lawyer and a financial advisor, not any friends and definitely not our families) or make any major life changes (beyond paying off all our debts and doing some moderate home improvement projects) for at least a year. We wanted to have plenty of time to ponder options and to make sure all the initial round of administrivia (taxes, etc) was fully sorted out.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            That’s tough to do with lotteries, though, because the organizations want to publicize their big winners (“So and so won: will YOU be next?!?”) and take the picture holding the huge check and so on. Plenty of long lost relations, charities, and scammers pay realllll close attention to stuff like that.

            1. Lydia*

              I think winners can choose to be publicly named right away or not. It may be that eventually they can use your name, but I think they wait until you have all your protections set up before that happens for exactly that reason. And if you never want to be public, they should have to respect that, too.

            2. Jackie*

              Many years ago an anesthetist won the Publishers Clearing House money/or lottery?- it was a well known fact. He worked at a hospital not too far from where I work. Apparently the story was he was asked to leave his job because the hospital feared frivolous lawsuits from patients under his care.

      2. Gyne*

        How is it anti-capitalist to hate work? Isn’t the idea of a functional society that everyone had a niche that they fill that serves the greater good in some way? Regardless of whether you’re being paid in cash (capitalist) or in some more socialized way where you have unlimited access to food, housing, and healthcare, someone’s got to grow the food, someone’s got to get it to the people that don’t live by the farm, someone’s got to pave the roads, and so on. The structure of the economic backbone doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t have a job of some kind they have to do, in order to live with and take care of other humans.

        1. Lydia*

          Because the work the vast majority of us do is not niche and it’s not actually serving the greater good in any way. It doesn’t rely on your ability to make something and be paid for the actual value of the work, rather it’s paid based on what a rich person can coerce us into accepting. The “work” Teeniebopper is talking about is not farming that feeds people, or clockmaking that requires expertise and skill and artistry, it’s not working in a wastewater treatment plant to make sure things run smoothly and we’re not overcome by waste. It’s make-work that keeps us tired and busy and distracted from the exploitation we face.

          1. amoeba*

            Eh, is that true though? Certainly the commentariat skews that way (white-collar jobs and all that) but I’d say there are plenty of jobs that do, in fact, create value for people. Not just watchmakers or farmers, but everything from service industries (I very much value what a nice restaurant brings to society!), all civil services, a lot of people employed in producing industries/science/etc., transportation, science, medical professions, cleaning, childcare, teaching, and so on, and so on.

            I work in science and yes, making chemicals that are needed in everything from food to clothes to materials to new medicines does indeed provide a ton of actual value. So does making these processes more sustainable. And for that you don’t only need people doing actual labwork, or nothing ever gets done – you do need scientists and project managers and sustainability managers and so on. And I’m sure it’s the same in other fields as well!

            Now, maybe my bubble is not completely representative, but the idea that basically almost all jobs are just capitalist make-belief bullshit just doesn’t ring true. (Although certainly for a lot of generally very valuable jobs, capitalism has made them much, much worse for the actual people doing them! And it would be great to change that. But it wouldn’t actually mean getting rid of the work.)

        2. penny dreadful analyzer*

          The idea is that in a functional society people would do stuff because the stuff needs doing, whereas in a capitalist society, people sell their time to whoever owns the means of production in exchange for a wage that’s less than the value of what they produce; therefore, work done is based on whether the people who own the means of production think they can extract profit from the people who have to sell their labor-power for a wage, not on whether the work benefits society. Sometimes the market for stuff exists because the stuff really does need doing and sometimes it doesn’t, but the point is that “is it socially desirable” and “is it monetizable” are not the same thing. Even if you have a job that is socially useful, you’re not directly doing the job because it’s socially useful; you’re doing it because somebody with the money to hire you has decided to do that with their money, and you need that money.

          There’s an old and inconsistently adhered to practice in Marxist theory of differentiating between “work” and “labor”; my guess is that TeenieBopper was talking about labor (the structural phenomenon of having a job within a job market; i.e., a situation where somebody else who has the capital to hire buys chunks of your time and tells you what to produce with it) and you read it as work (the act of putting time/effort into producing something). I don’t think TeenieBopper was wrong in any way to say “work” instead of “labor” but there are definitely times when I think it’s useful to be able to draw a distinction!

          I more or less like my jobs as far as jobs go, but yeah, if I didn’t have to sell my labor-power to a private corporation to help it create market value for its shareholders, I sure as hell wouldn’t be spending 40 hours a week doing so. I’d spend it putting my productive efforts into stuff that I think needs doing.

      3. kiki*

        Yeah, I think this is always interesting because I *would* quit my job but I would not entirely quit working. I would switch industries, though. It’s not that I get my self worth from my job, it’s just that without some sort of enforced schedule, I tend to get nothing done. Why finish project X when I have an infinite number of open tomorrows available to get it done?

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        Structure: This. It is a bit like my family vacations. One week and we are sorry it is over and we have to go home. I am pretty sure that with two weeks, we would be totally ready to go back home.

      5. CommanderBanana*

        Same. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to be productive. I want to lie in the grass under a tree near a pond and slowly dissolve into the earth.

        1. starsaphire*

          Thiiiiis. OMG this.

          But first I would take a baseball bat to every single stinkin’ alarm clock in the house.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            We are sort of retired (maybe just unemployed?) and the best thing about it is no alarm clocks.

            We spend our time volunteering for various things – food bank, voter registration, political stuff – and goofing off.

      6. Ace in the Hole*

        Same. I need external structure in my life. I enjoy my hobbies, social activities, etc. much more when I have something to pin them on.

        Plus everyone talking about volunteering in retirement seems to be ignoring the fact that volunteering is just unpaid work! Why is continuing to work in paid jobs you find rewarding/satisfying any worse than taking on unpaid jobs you find rewarding/satisfying?

      7. Sunflower*

        The thing is, if you’re retired/rich and don’t have to work, even if you stay in your area of interest, you can shave off 100% of the annoying parts that people would have to pay you to do. You could volunteer or go freelance and have so much more control over what you let take up your precious time, since the threshold for what warrants your attention is higher and your living doesn’t depend on it.

    11. CommanderBanana*

      I always wonder about this. I was working part-time at a retail store on the weekends that had several employees who were in their 70s and 80s.

      While most of them were lovely people, they couldn’t physically do the job (required some heavy lifting) and we had several workplace injuries, at least 2 of them were having serious cognitive decline issues that were making them really hard to work with, and it made hiring and keeping other staff really difficult.

      I completely understand needing to keep working for financial reasons, but if you asked them why they were still there they’d say they just “wanted to keep busy” and then go back to complaining about being asked to do stuff like use the inventory system or not make loud racist comments about our non-white customers.

      1. Lydia*

        Well, some of those responses may be because they didn’t want to say out loud they couldn’t afford to retire full time. Or maybe they do like to keep busy by working and nobody is having the realistic conversation with them that it isn’t a long-term (or short-term in some cases) plan.

        I used to work with a woman who retired and she and her husband set out to travel the country in their RV. Within a month of leaving, her husband started declining rapidly and it turned out the leukemia he had battled previously had come back. He died within weeks and she went back to work because she didn’t know what else to do. Her entire retirement plan was that she and her husband would spend a few years traveling before taking it easy at home, and that didn’t happen. She liked being around the people she worked with and the students we worked with and not being at home by herself all day. Retirement is rough for some people, especially if your plans have to change.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I’m working on the assumption that they’re being honest. And really, it’s on the store owner (large antique market) for trying to cobble together retail staff from the vendors, instead of actually hiring a professional retail staff to work full-time. It worked when the store was very small, but it had become a large, 3-business operation and when I left it was floundering.

    12. Alicia*

      Too Long Til Retirement: I think this is unnecessarily harsh. It’s often difficult to make big adjustments in life, even if they are desired, and retirement is one of the biggest.

    13. Can't Retire Yet*

      My spouse is retired and around the house all day; they are not likely to ever work outside the home again or pick up any outside activities. I love my spouse, but I do not love spending 24-7 with them, and the pandemic really brought that home for me.

      On my own, I could easily occupy my days at home. But even if I get to where I can afford to retire, I’m likely to keep working, because that gets me away from my spouse for 20-40 hours a week and pays me for it.

      1. I Have RBF*

        My spouse is retired, I’m not yet. We have learned over the years with bouts of unemployment and illness that it is better to each have our own space that we can retreat to when we are “peopled out”. We have also essentially given each other permission to do this without hurting the feeling of the other. We don’t need to actually work to give each other space for solitude.

      2. allathian*

        Lots of people also get a divorce when the second spouse retires, simply because one spouse wants to spend all their time together and the other one doesn’t. I guess if the choice’s between working at least part time and divorcing a spouse you still love but can’t bear to spend 24/7 with, remaining in the workforce’s probably the better option. It’s certainly better if you look at the financial consequences of each option.

    14. Samwise*

      That’s unkind.

      Lots of people have their identity tied up in their job, or even just in working — in being someone who works. There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s common and it’s human, and frankly they deserve sympathy if they’re struggling.

      If Fiona did not spend time figuring out what she would do with her semi-retirement, then she is understandably at loose ends.

      Maybe she is lonely at home. Maybe she misses the social interaction, or even just being around other people. Maybe she has not yet developed a social network in her community. Maybe she thought she’d be spending time with her friends, but they’re all working or involved in something else.

      I think the OP needs to approach Fiona as Alison suggests, but to be very kind about it.

      [I personally have plans for how to spend my retirement –would retire today, quite literally, if I didn’t have financial and family reasons for working. But I can understand how others might feel differently about retirement, and why.]

    15. Shan*

      This feels unnecessarily judgemental. Just because you can’t imagine being bored or feeling adrift during your future retirement doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong” with someone who does, or that they hate their life. Maybe Fiona had expected to spend her retirement gardening with her husband, but he died. Maybe her best friend moved to another state to be near grandkids. Maybe she’d been planning to volunteer full-time with a charity she’d been involved with, but they just had a regime change and the place was full of bees. Maybe she just really loved her job!

      Obviously she can’t be allowed to keep coming in like she is, but I don’t think she needs to painted as some kind of pathetic weirdo.

      1. Too Long Til Retirement*

        Yeah I didn’t mean to be as harsh as this is reading to people. It’s just so unfathomable to me with all the things that there are to do that are NOT work….why would you choose work if you don’t need to?

        Maybe some people struggle doing new things? I love learning and doing new things, and work means I can’t learn as many new things as I would like.

        1. Lydia*

          That feels more likely. If you don’t have many close friends, or your family doesn’t live close, it may be difficult to learn new things. When my MIL and FIL retired, they became full time RVers and that worked for them. The problem was neither one of them considered what would happen if they outlived their money (they did) or one of them grew too ill to continue traveling (he did). My FIL passed away and now my MIL lives with us, and it has been a struggle for her to find her own place to be. She has a church and I connected her with some volunteering, but she is elderly and trying new things is not high on her list of things to do.

        2. EchoGirl*

          I think some people — myself included — also just don’t do well with a lack of external structure. I thought I would like a life where I could “do anything”, but it turns out I have a LOT of trouble doing things when I have no structure, not because I don’t want to but because my whole life just feels directionless and even time itself feels like it takes on a different meaning. Having a small amount of structure (like a part-time job or a class to take at a set time) makes me MORE able to do other things just because it provides me with a sort of anchor. (And no, I can’t impose those kinds of structures on myself, my brain just doesn’t work that way so it doesn’t have the same effect.)

        3. amoeba*

          It can also be the opposite way around though! My job makes me learn new things almost constantly, and at a very high level that would probably be next to impossible in other, non-work interests (because I would have neither the time nor the professional resources that went into my education). Sure, I could learn how to crochet or read tons of books or even sit in in courses at university (it’s a whole thing for retired people here), but that’s not the same thing as high-level, detailed science.

          1. Winter*

            Exactly. I learn new things all the time at work and am constantly solving difficult, complex problems.

            I do not enjoy any kind of handicraft like knitting, crocheting or embroidering. It’s is very boring to me and feels pointless. I don’t mind cooking but I do that anyway. Gardening is also boring. I like talking to friends and reading and I’m in a choir already, but I don’t want to do that 40 hours a week.

            I was a SAHM for 8 years. I will never take work for granted, I’m so much happier.

    16. Dinwar*

      “Imagine hating your life so much that you don’t want to do anything but go to work. ”

      Why do you assume they must hate their life? They may just love their work.

      I knew a few emeritus professors in college who came in every day, Monday through Friday, because after they retired they finally had time for the FUN research. A former mentor is similar–he retired, so now has time to do things like map out ancient lakes and play with LIDAR drones. I knew another guy who loved going to certain areas, because the fishing was good, and if he did a few days of work the company would pay for the trip.

      For other people, work is such a huge part of their lives that they don’t know what to do without it. Pratchett discusses this in “Night Watch” (the Discworld novel). I’ve seen it a few times myself, and can easily see myself doing it. Your work is a source of pride, accomplishment, status, where you see most of your social circle, where you have the strongest relationships. This is VERY easy to fall into if you travel a lot. Realistically your options are 1) re-invent yourself from the ground up, 2) find some way to continue working, or 3) die. #3 is surprisingly common. (Yes, I’m aware of the problems here and am actively working on it–again, it’s really hard when you’re also actively working on not being in a location for much longer.)

      This idea that work is a necessary evil is pervasive, but I don’t find it convincing. Some jobs, maybe, but I like my job, and if you gave me $100 million tomorrow I’d still do big chunks of my job.

      1. Too Long Til Retirement*

        “Your work is a source of pride, accomplishment, status, where you see most of your social circle, where you have the strongest relationships.”

        See that is something that not many people can attain. Status means that there are a good number of people lower on the ladder who can’t rise up because said status person won’t leave and let them. If your main social circle is all work, that to me is a failure because you can never leave when you’re supposed to be off work.

        I think the issue is that the people who actually love their jobs like that are the ones perpetuating the redundant 40-hour-work-week style and, in America, the anti-vacation ethic. They assume that because they get all of their prestige and status and value from their jobs, that everyone else should. And because they can’t seem to stop working, they create the culture where everyone feels like they have to work more in order to keep up.

        If I loved my job like the researchers you mentioned do, I might think about working post-retirement age. But I have too many other interests to want that to take up most of my time.

        1. Dinwar*

          There’s nothing in this post that’s not unnecessarily hostile or “My views are the only ones that matter.”

          1. Festively Dressed Earl*

            Cosigned. I don’t think Too Long thought this out before posting.

            My aunt taught music for 40 years in a rural community. She’s also very active in her church, has a large circle of friends, enjoys many hobbies, and it was still more of a blow than she expected when she retired. She certainly wasn’t in it for the prestige or status or to climb the ladder; it’s just that she was lucky enough to do something she really enjoyed for most of her life. Does that mean there’s something “wrong” with her or that she was a workaholic?

            I understand that a lot of people feel trapped in their jobs, frustrated with the system, and are stuck doing something they genuinely hate, but projecting that on to people who aren’t in the same boat isn’t productive or accurate.

            1. amoeba*

              Yeah, I don’t think “status” necessarily means “high up the ladder, pushing down people below you”. For me, it’s about identifying with your chosen profession. I’m a scientist and that’s certainly a big part of my identity, although I’m not in any kind of fancy management position. I actually never would want to move to one because that would mean quitting actual science! My dad was a musician, again, anything but rich/famous/whatever, but he certainly did define himself by that and would never have stopped. Other people are teachers, or nurses, or doctors, or chefs…

              No everything is about status and money and prestige!

              1. Dinwar*

                “Yeah, I don’t think “status” necessarily means “high up the ladder, pushing down people below you”.”

                Agreed. For one thing, one of my job requirements–something I’m evaluated on in my annual reviews–is how much I help junior staff in their careers! There’s also socioeconomic status to consider. I grew up poor, and through my job am firmly middle, boarding on upper-middle, class.

                In general, humans are social creatures. Status in the group matters. Someone who does worthwhile work at a high level is going to be more respected in the group (even outside of work) than someone who sits under a tree gently returning to the earth. This has nothing to do with keeping people down–I have as much respect for a plumber or electrician as I do a manager or executive–but rather with knowing your worth, and having others recognize your worth.

                Part of it is also internal. I have a nearly pathological need to prove myself. My job has allowed me to do so. I’ve been able to accomplish things that few people have, and have been recognized publicly for it; that’s objective evidence that I’m good enough. You don’t get that sitting under a tree gently returning to the earth. Maybe that’s unhealthy; I’m not a psychologist, I can’t speak to that. I will say I enjoy my job, it’s one that objectively helps people, and if I can prove myself while doing something I enjoy and making lives longer and better I don’t really see a downside.

        2. Winter*

          I’m a teacher in a fairly disadvantaged area. I love my job and can see every day that what I do has tremendous benefit for the children and families that I work with. I am challenged and stretched and I learn new things constantly. I love working as part of a dedicated, highly-skilled team. And I’ve been doing this long enough that I have had plenty of feedback from people saying I have made a material difference to their lives.

          How would learning a new hobby even compare? Volunteering wouldn’t require the same kind of skill level or provide the same intellectual and emotional fulfilment at all.

          I have hobbies and friends and I’m a mother and a wife and a person in the world. But I’m also a teacher and I’m very proud to be a good one. I’m also truly glad I’m not living life desperate to retire. That seems sad to me.

    17. fhqwhgads*

      I know someone who retired and unretired twice before the third retirement finally stuck. Dude could only play so much golf. He was bored and also really really really enjoyed his work. The only reason his third retirement stuck when it did was likely because he realized his own pattern and joined a bunch of boards so he still had stuff to do.

    18. Emmie*

      Maybe she doesn’t hate her life. Maybe her identity is tied to her professional accomplishments. It is difficult to adjust to a major life change – especially if her identity was tied to work, or she had a consuming job, or many of her friends are still working. This is not her employer’s job to solve, but I hope we give her some grace. After all, I hope to be healthy enough when I am retired to be a little bored.

    19. Helewise*

      I really love to work. I don’t like every minute of it, and I’d rather have more control over my time, but I like learning and being challenged and contributing. You don’t have to hate your life to like your work.

    20. Csethiro Ceredin*

      This is really common in my dad’s area… he worked several years longer than is usual and also was given an office and time on the specialized equipment after retiring. Several others kept going in too. The government agency likes it because it was a way they can keep access to the expertise these long-term folks have but also hire new people to gradually take over programs.

      It wasn’t that my dad didn’t have a ton of other hobbies, but he didn’t have a multi-million dollar telescope he could use at home and it was hard to give up.

      So it’s not always a sad thing. But it wouldn’t be fair to do if someone who was meant to be replacing you was left hanging.

      1. amoeba*

        Hah, yup. The equipment you have available at work is certainly something you cannot easily transfer to your home to keep involved in your discipline for fun!

    21. Been There*

      That seems unkind. The switch from working, especially full-time, to spending all day at home is incredibly hard on a lot of people. There are entire courses to help people prepare for retirement.

    22. The Prettiest Curse*

      Newsflash: other people are allowed to feel differently about their work and what it means to them than you feel about your work. And that’s okay.

      1. Sunflower*

        I think some people really do need this kind of wakeup call. And they need it before they’re 70 years old and discover that they haven’t invested enough in their own lives.

    23. Elizabeth West*

      Some people just really like to work. I had a boss like that and a friend like that. It doesn’t mean they hate their lives. I know Fiona said she hates being at home, but retirement is weird–if you’ve been busy with work and not cultivated things to do outside of that (whether you’re partnered or not), sometimes it takes time to ease out of the work mindset and find other things to do. Case in point — all the SAH partners whose spouses retired and are now wandering around the house getting in the way.

    24. Sunflower*

      I agree. This is why I’m so opposed to those letters from people who “choose” to answer emails on weekends/PTO, or who don’t want to take their PTO because they “don’t want to sit at home watching TV.” It’s just sad to see people whose real lives outside of work are so anemic, but who don’t consider that a spiritual emergency that needs to be rectified ASAP!

      Life is an “if you’re bored, then you’re boring” situation. Make new friends! Explore hobbies! Read! Create art no one else will see! Develop yourself intellectually and spiritually! Spend time in nature! Etc etc etc. And if there’s nothing interesting to do in your town, make something!

    25. Mobius 1*

      I feel like it’s probably mechanically similar to a couple who, on becoming empty nesters, realize they don’t actually have much of a relationship between the two of them specifically and just never noticed because raising children can be A Lot.

  2. Mmhmm*

    To answer your question succinctly: Is this situation potentially problematic? No. It’s definitely already problematic.
    I feel for Fiona – shifts in life like retirement can be hard. But you can be warm and supportive without letting her do whatever she wants in the workplace.

  3. Smithy*

    Generally, I agree with most of what’s said – but just want to give some pragmatic advice if the intention for Fiona was to have her genuinely still work part-time for an extended period.

    If the plan Fiona had initially thought of was to work half days, 5 days a week – those 4 hour days can easily end up as basically ~6+ hour days if you don’t have much else going on yet. Asking her to switch to 2 full-time days, and one half day when she arrives at noon can help set up boundaries around her hours without having to actively police her too much.

    1. Olive*

      That’s a great idea. I don’t want to “retire” to 20 hours a week and then work 40 hours for half the pay, but as someone who is tends to be either all the way on or all the way off with work, on the days that I’m all the way on, it would be hard for me to come in for four hours and then leave with potential work still on the table.

      Really, I’d like a part time job where I could work all day when I feel like it (and sometimes I do!) and not come into work at all when I don’t feel like it – but there’s a reason those are almost impossible to find.

    2. cncx*

      So much this. I broke my arm and was cleared for 50 percent, so I was like, ok half days to rest my arm. Those half days turned into 8-2 or 8-3. Like Fiona, I didn’t mind but I probably would have been better off in terms of being vigilant about 20 hours by starting at noon to really lock it in. In my mind the extra hours was to compensate my slowness. It’s not the same situation as a retiree who won’t go, but it is the same in that starting at noon is a really good way to break a habit.

      1. Smithy*

        Exactly – also, it alleviates either a supervisor or another member of staff having to police Fiona’s time. I understand that’s the role of a lot of hourly supervisors, but it can easily sour a relationship if it has to be done regularly.

  4. MishenNikara*

    I’ve seen way too many in the Boomer generation who made their job their whole being, their everything, and just NOT being ready whatsoever to have free time or have to find a hobby. They get so focused on retirement then forget they have to actually find something to do with it and they go back to the only thing they really know: Work.

    1. Petty Betty*


      A lot of people have made “work” their entire focal point in their lives so they don’t know what else to do. For a lot of people, enforced idleness from plague shutdowns helped us reset that mindset, but as we’ve seen, a lot of people really didn’t learn, they just continued to lean in to their “all work all the time” mentalities.
      This is where being well-rounded in your life is going to be crucial as we age. Friends, hobbies, interests that aren’t work-centered/focused, wanting to travel (or not), enjoying our home-life, enjoying the people in our home (or enjoying the solitude in our home), whether we have pets to enrich our home life, etc.

    2. Velomont*

      Can people please stop generalizing and labelling generations? It’s intellectually lazy and inaccurate. I’m a boomer (you know, the people that destroyed the planet and ruined everything?) and out of my 4000 person workplace, I’m one of only 100 who bikes to work on a regular basis, and has biked, bused or walked to work for my entire working life.

      And when I retire, you’ll find me on my bike or at a favourite coffee shop, not hanging around my old office.

      1. shrinking violet*

        Thank you! Another boomer here. And since retirement, I’ve had a few urges to look for a job. They normally last about 1/100 of a second.

      2. Too Long Til Retirement*

        I get that you’re tired of being generalized, I am sure it gets annoying. Unfortunately, you are more the exception than the rule of your generation. I know a few other boomers who have retired and are enjoying their lives! But they are very much outnumbered by the ones who are actively working against progress in society by perpetuating the butts-in-seats, anti-work from home, anti-transit reform mindset. These generalizations aren’t talking about you!

        1. wordswords*

          Okay, but I would say the opposite in terms of numbers for boomers I personally know. Can we not do the “I get that you don’t like hurtful generations, but face it, most of your [category] are in fact assholes! We’re not talking about YOU though!” thing?

          (Speaking as someone on the cusp of Gen X and Millennial who knows a lot of kind, generous, thoughtful Boomers: I absolutely hate the way some people my age and younger talk about age and generations as these absolute categories in which older people are all rich, self-centered assholes, when many young people are that and many older people are none of the above.)

          It is true that Boomers are primarily the ones having trouble adjusting to retirement after having had lives defined by work, because they’re the ones at retirement age right now; before that, it was the Silent Generation and before that it was the Greatest Generation (a term I hate, but whatever) and on back. Give it 10 or 20 years and we’ll all be talking about how Gen X or Millennials can’t adjust to retirement because they’re uniquely shaped by the hustle culture mindset or whatever.

          Having trouble adjusting to losing something that structured your days and weeks and defined your life for decades is a common problem, though certainly not a universal one; some people prepare much better for it. It’s generational only in that retirement is generational. But the fact that Fiona is having a hard time readjusting doesn’t mean the solution is “just let her keep coming into work all the time without getting paid for all of it,” because obviously it’s not.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          ^^ Thank you. Also, @Velomont, this is kind of a big derail. The LWs question had nothing to do with biking to work or the environment.

        3. Sugarplum Visionary*

          Let’s call a halt to sweeping, negative generalizations about other generations.
          How about this: Younger people stop talking as if the Boomers are responsible for every problem on this planet and Boomers stop calling younger people a bunch of sniveling snowflakes. We can all get a lot more done if we just stop it with the generational insults!

      3. Arglebarglor*

        Seconding Too Long Til Requirement. Can we not with the anguished “But NOT MEEEEEEEE” that’s happening here?

      4. ferrina*

        Boomers are the generation that are currently the majority of retirees, so this is what most folks are thinking of when they think of retirees (Boomers generally defined as born 1946-1965, currently ages 59-77). So that’s the cultural reference point for most folks.

        Out of the Boomers that I personally know, a lot struggled/will struggle with leaving their career. Some just didn’t stop working; some went on to secondary jobs within a few years of retiring. A handful fully retired, never looked back and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
        To be fair, when I retire I’m probably going to quickly bounce into a secondary career, so this might be less of a Boomer thing and more of a human thing.

        And don’t worry about the planet-destroying. That had been in the works since the Industrial Revolution.

        1. starsaphire*

          Agreed – I did not see anything about Them vs. Us. I saw shorthand for “who is retirement age and retiring right now.”

          I’m a fairly early Gen X myself, and am a good decade or more away from retirement.

      5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Most of the people who are (a) retired and (b) bored are Boomers, because relatively few people younger than that have been able to retire yet. It’s not because most retired Boomers are bored or lonely enough to want to go back to their old jobs, but the happily retired ones, or people who are unhappy about other things, aren’t asking Alison for advice.

  5. ZSD*

    I can understand why Fiona feels a bit rudderless and hates being at home, but there are places she can go other than your office! Join a club, go for a long walk each day, take up yoga, whatever – she can develop a new goal that gives her a sense of purpose other than not abiding by her retirement agreement.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, it takes time to figure out what ELSE to do with your time, but you’ve got to actually do that!

      1. Hannah Lee*

        What’s that saying?
        “If you want a fresh cup of tea, you first have to empty your cup”

        And it can be hard to tolerate that ’empty cup’ at first, and figure out what your new routine, your new focus is, and what is going to allow you to feel connected, to feel a sense of purpose.
        If Fiona was a friend of mine, I’d suggest she pick one or two things, like a class that meets weekly for 8-10 weeks, or something she does daily (a walk with a friend or breakfast at a local diner or listening to an episode of Fresh Air the same time every day) to give some structure to her time and know at x o clock, I will be doing xyz. Or that she pick up a copy of The Artist’s Way and work through the exercises, as a way to get to know herself, who she is without her former work life and maybe find some new interests or rekindle some old ones.

        But for the LW, as much as you my like Fiona personally, the work place is not a drop in center for whoever wants to hang out there. Well, unless you actually run a community drop-in center.

        1. La Triviata*

          I’m a boomer (71) and am planning to retire in a few years. Meanwhile, I am coming into work on a regular basis, I am contributing to the office and keep myself mentally engaged with younger people. I keep getting notices of a local group for retired people that I can’t get involved in since all their events take place when I’m at work, so there are community groups out there. A number of colleges and universities have programs geared for the retired. There are volunteer opportunities – libraries, schools, tutoring – so retirement doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at home alone with nothing to occupy your mind. My grandfather (born in 1888) did retire at 65 and that’s pretty much what he did. He didn’t interact with anyone much, watched TV and never understood that the world had moved on. He was lonely, angry that things were more expensive than in the 1950s, that he couldn’t use racial slurs as freely as he had, that it wasn’t necessary for women to get married by 18, that things had changed. I’d have felt sorry but he was really unpleasant to be around.

    2. somehow*

      She very likely knows that, but is still struggling to adjust nevertheless. That struggle isn’t for her workplace to manage, but I must say…I find it astonishing that this commentariat’s typical embracing of mental health issues and challenges stops at this particular situation. The ageism is palpable.

  6. Kevin Sours*

    Note that the exempt minimum is $64,480 in California (it’s tied to twice the minimum wage at full time hours).

  7. Choggy*

    I was hired to take over for someone who was leaving, in 6 months. I did not last 3 months at the job because I could not tolerate listening to their view of every employee they supported, instead of me just getting to know everyone and forming my own opinions, and the over explaining of things I already knew how to do. It wasn’t a rocket science position!

    We also have employees where I work who continue working in a consulting/contracting position after they retire. Some are for the purpose of providing much needed information to the new hire, but others for the same reason as the OP employee, they don’t have much else going on in their lives.

    1. ferrina*

      We contract with a couple retirees- they are industry experts and they come once or twice a year to give specialized trainings. They might be invited to join a specific project, but it’s always clearly defined what their scope of work is.

      The contractor solution has worked really well for us. It gives our contractors the flexibility to pick and choose what they want to do and when they want to do it, and it immediately sets up a scope or work and estimated hours to help avoid the nebulous roles.

    2. MikeM_inMD*

      I worked as a civilian at an overseas USAF location. My replacement, Janet, showed up six months early because her husband was needed immediately. After two months, she pointed out that I wasn’t turning over much of the tasks to her – and she was right to call me out on that. So, I quickly gave up the bulk of my duties, only holding onto “walk around and find short-term odd tasks”. And answering Janet’s questions.

  8. The Person from the Resume*

    Is Fiona the boss/owner? Of course not, but that means she doesn’t get to set the terms of her employment all on her own. Who is supervising her because it doesn’t sound like the LW is cause she said: “I think she’s working at a slow pace and tending to non-urgent tasks.”

    Fiona’s manager and other managers need to decide what Fiona is tasked to do, for how many hours/week, and where she will work as a part time employee of the company. And then they need to enforce these standards on Fiona’s performance.

    And Sally needs you to do this now. If Fiona is a part time employee, the task break up needs to be clear to both Sally and Fiona and needs to be enforced if Fiona is trying to do duties now assigned to Sally.

    This sounds like a mess. But a manager needs to manage this. I mean it sounds lovely to keep a long time employee on part time to keep that knowledge around, but not the way it is happening as described in this letter.

    1. Hannah Lee*


      I was thinking of the LW with Frank the frequent visitor, but had forgotten how great the update was! Thanks for the reminder.

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I was thinking of this too! And this letter backs up Allison’s advice to just talk frankly with Fiona. Great things might happen!

  9. LawBee*

    Oh fix Fiona’s schedule! She gets to work two days a week (or whatever) and that’s it. If she comes in on the other three days she is kindly sent back home. Blame the law—she is only scheduled for two days and you can’t pay her for three and she can’t work for free.

    I suspect she may slowly start valuing her free days as she is forced to take them, and the semi-retirement may end entirely.

  10. HonorBox*

    Woof. I can’t imagine having to address this, but you absolutely have to. You have the law at your back, as Alison suggests. It isn’t about wanting Fiona there or not. It is about your legal obligation to pay her correctly and (potentially) offer benefits. That should be enough of a reason. As others have suggested, having her adjust her hours would be beneficial to her, just so she can have a very set schedule she needs to follow. And I understand how uncomfortable it would be to have to tell someone everyone likes that they can’t be there, but you’re going to have to be direct with her and let her know what her hours are (and aren’t). And hold to that. She comes in early? Do what you’d do for an interview candidate who shows up 45 minutes early. Send her to a coffee shop or the library. Schedule her to be there when you close and don’t give her opportunity to have a key to lock up.

    And I mean this only partially as a joke… maybe give her a pickleball paddle as a retirement gift. She may just need to figure out what else to do to pass her time. But that’s her thing to worry about, not yours. And certainly doing menial tasks at the office isn’t something reasonable to do to pass the time.

  11. Sara without an H*

    Ummm…why is no one managing here? LW, if you’re in charge of Fiona, you need to regularize her schedule. I like Smithy’s suggestion, of designating 2.5 days a week, rather than five half days. Fiona needs a regular schedule, a job description with specific duties she’s responsible for, and regular feedback on how she’s doing. You also need to get clear on her pay and benefits. If your firm is too small to have dedicated HR, you still need to get this cleared up and put in writing. (There are probably contracting or consulting firms in your area that can handle this.) Yes, Fiona probably feels rudderless, but letting her drift around her old workplace isn’t going to help. Give her some structure, both for her sake and for yours.

    Sally is probably wondering right now if she has a job or doesn’t. Sit down with her soon and go over her job description and schedule. If you can differentiate her responsibilities from Fiona’s, that would be good for both of them. Make sure that she understands that she has a real job with you, and don’t leave her hanging in limbo while you figure out what to do with Fiona.

    Based on the letter, the situation is solvable, but LW/Management/both are going to have to make some decisions, communicate clearly, and follow through.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah it kind of feels like everyone in this situation is waiting for someone else to step in and set some clear rules, and because no one has Fiona’s just going to keep doing what she’s doing and while everyone else is unhappy about it.

      Someone in senior management needs to figure out where PT Fiona’s place is in the org chart (it can’t be where FT Fiona’s place was — that’s where Sally is now) and then make sure Fiona and whoever will be in charge of managing her understand the new hierarchy. If Sally’s put in charge of managing Fiona someone should also make sure Sally understands that just like any other employee she might manage, she can end the PT arrangement if it’s not working.

    2. takeachip*

      Yes, this line stood out to me: “should we leave Fiona to do what she wants?” It makes me wonder about the culture of the place because “just let an employee do what they want” shouldn’t be an option, unless you’re talking about personal choices that don’t affect anyone else. Sure, there’s a level of flexibility & autonomy, and “use your professional judgment to determine the best way forward,” that’s appropriate much of the time–and then there’s the kind of hands-off, “how could we possibly tell someone what to do?!” mentality from managers that makes work so much harder than it needs to be. A manager has not only the right but the obligation to set limits, convey expectations, and hold people accountable. The conversation may be awkward but it doesn’t have to be harsh and it shouldn’t be avoided.

  12. doreen*

    I’ve known a whole bunch of these people – and it’s not that they hate their lives, it’s that they don’t really have any life outside of work. There are a surprising number of people who don’t really have any friends and don’t have any hobbies. I know someone who was annoyed that his social security benefit had to be paid electronically – he felt he needed the monthly trip to the bank for social interaction.

    I am very happy to be retired (retired when I was 58) and have not thought about going back to work for even a second. But about the generalizations – I’m part of the tail end of the baby boom and most of the Boomers I know who delayed retirement did so for financial reasons. Not because they overly identify with work, not because they have no friends but because they can’t afford to retire. For every person I know who delayed retirement because they don’t know what they would do with all that time , I know two who say they can’t afford to retire. I’m pretty sure most of them are telling the truth – because I wouldn’t have been able to retire either if I had spent what they did on their children’s college education and weddings.

  13. Coin Purse*

    I had a wonderful job in my field….a very unusual niche gig….to replace the retiring position holder who was beloved. After I took the job she just kept showing up. Not just now and then but a couple days a week for many months. I’d find her in my chair. I don’t think it was intentional but she undermined many of my clinical decisions.

    I finally had to go to my boss and tell her that this was interfering with my work. She had the director contact the retiree and say you can’t come to the work floor any more. She still met with people in our cafeteria for years but at least the desk was mine again.

    Hangers on do inhibit the work flow. It’s important to make expectations clear to retirees.

  14. Sloanicota*

    I suspect I’ll be re-reading this letter in a few months, when our long-term ED finally retires, because she plans to stay around in some sort of part-time or board capacity, and I don’t expect that to go well for the new ED. I’m sure they’ll be grateful at first, and then eventually come to realize it’s really hard to make any changes when someone who’s extremely wedded to the Old Way – who invented the Old Way, in fact, and has been faithful to it ever since – is quarterbacking from the sidelines.

    1. Seconds*

      Oh, yes—this happened to a the founder/director of a nonprofit that I was involved in, only worse. She passed over leadership to the new person, with the understanding that she’d stay involved in various ways.

      I don’t think the rest of the leadership ever intended to keep her involved. Once she was out, she was out. It really caused her pain.

      And she was the type who gave her all to work. (Not a Boomer, and not American.)

    2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      I work for a nonprofit, but not as high up as Executive Director. I am thinking of joining the board after I retire, but I plan to wait until at least a year has passed (the board usually has one former staff member) . The transition from day-to-day to big picture is hard. Time has got to pass to make it work.

  15. Coin Purse*

    Also, on the Boomer issue…..I worked 52 years, full time. I threw myself across the finish line for full Social Security. Retirement is everything I dreamed of and more. I have no intention of cluttering up the work force again. We aren’t all sad clowns, pining away for seniority in the work place.

    1. Too Long Til Retirement*

      I am so glad for you!!

      Maybe the problem is that the people who are not retiring are the ones making it hard for businesses to be innovative(in good ways, not Stockton Rush ways!), thus perpetuating the anti-Boomer mentality. If more were retiring there wouldn’t be the stereotypes.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        If only everyone old enough to retire could afford to do so! My social security just barely covers my rent and basic utilities.
        I consider myself fortunate, but I skipped a lot of vacations and little luxuries to save for retirement. Not everyone could or chose to max out their 401K, and few people receive corporate pensions any more.

        1. Coin Purse*

          Pensions are the great divide for my generation. There is a stark difference in quality of life between those who do and don’t. A 401K just doesn’t provide the same security.

  16. AnotherSarah*

    My husband was Sally in his last job…and it undermined him the entire time he was there, even after his Fiona left for good. Please make sure Sally can do her job and that Fiona isn’t hogging parts of the job (certain clients or contacts etc.) and not handing them over.

  17. metzengerstein*

    We currently have a similar situation at my workplace. A coworker retired, we threw her a big party–and she showed up at work the next week! She has volunteered for months to show her replacement the ropes, but I don’t see how it’s legal for her to do that and not be paid.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      And the answer is easy: it is not legal in the US. If you work, you must be paid, and you specifically are not allowed to volunteer for your for-profit workplace doing the same job you are paid to do. (And maybe you can do that if you have retired, but I suspect there’s a mandated window of time before you’re allowed to volunteer.)

      If she won’t leave, maybe let the folks in HR who deal with worker’s comp insurance know, because if she’s injured in the workplace it’s going to be a mess.

      1. EssEss*

        Agreed. Plus later, if she knows (or realizes later) that it isn’t legal to do for free, she can come back and sue for payment for all the hours she worked. Plus possible fines/fees and legal costs.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To expand on this:

        (And maybe you can do that if you have retired, but I suspect there’s a mandated window of time before you’re allowed to volunteer.)

        You can never volunteer for a for-profit, even if you’re retired, even if there’s a window of time first. For-profits cannot use volunteer labor, period.

        1. metzengerstein*

          Thanks for the info! We’re actually a public two-year college, and HR and upper management know, they just don’t care. They don’t compensate non-exempt employees for working overtime either.

  18. Goldenrod*

    We’ve seen situations like this in “Ask A Manager” before! In particular, I remember one guy who kept coming into work after retirement – but he ended up volunteering somewhere else, loving it, and even marrying the volunteer coordinator into the bargain!

    Fiona really does need to be kindly but firmly shown the door. There are tons of places that actually need volunteers and would love to have her! I worked at a hospital where we had tons of senior volunteers – they were great, they helped, we loved them – and they loved feeling needed and helping. It’s a win win!

    Also, any time I’ve been in Sally’s shoes, I absolutely couldn’t WAIT for the “Fiona” to leave. Even if you like the person, even if they are helpful – you can’t carve out your own place and make the role your own with the former person hanging around.

    1. Ama*

      I’m not retiring but I’m planning to leave my job in the next year to do freelance work and I suspect that my bosses will panic and try to get me to agree to be a consultant while they hire and train a replacement (I don’t think they would do this if I was going to another full time job but I suspect they’ll hear “freelance” and think I’ll be happy to have some extra paid hours). All the comments here are giving me better ways of articulating why this would be a bad idea — the new person needs to have room to make changes without the bosses telling her to run everything by me if there’s a question (which they would absolutely do — my current boss seems to try to avoid ever making a judgment call on her own).

      1. takeachip*

        If you need an easy out or another reason, you can remind your boss that an employer can’t hire someone as an independent contractor (which is usually what they mean when they want someone as a consultant) to do the same work the person did as an employee. There’s a 3 year waiting period required by the IRS. So they would have to rehire you as at least a part time employee and deal with everything that entails.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I would need to look this up to be sure, but I don’t think there’s a three-year waiting period required by the IRS. Some companies have their own internal rules about waiting periods to avoid top performers trying to quit and immediately return as a higher-paid contractor. But the IRS contractor/employee rules don’t care about waiting periods (again, 99% sure but going off memory here); they care whether the work you are doing qualifies you to be a contractor or an employee, period. And if the work didn’t qualify you to legally be an independent contractor today, that won’t change just because you wait three years. They would need to make fundamental changes to the role itself, which they could do one day later if they wanted to (which might be what Ama’s employer would propose); the issue is the nature of the work/role, not the time period.

          1. takeachip*

            Ah, I was confusing the 3-year look-back period with a hard requirement. My org had an IRS audit a while back & had to pay some fines, and then put rules in place to bar former employees serving as independent contractors for that period to prevent any further issues. I guess it’s just about avoiding the possibility of misclassification based on the results of the previous audit.

  19. Annie*

    This happened to me at a previous job: my predecessor wanted to go very part time. I was hired to replace her.
    She unilaterally decided to stay full time—and just did it-and our bosses didn’t do anything! They just kind of ignored it (though I assume they kept paying her her old salary).
    I had to deal with her for years, it was super awkward (she wasn’t very good at the job, either, so I still did all the work-I never figured out what she was actually working on for 40 hours a week- and came very close to quitting over it (I did ultimately leave that job).

  20. Pipe Organ Guy*

    I’m retiring in a few weeks; my final church service as organist is on September 10. I gradually disengaged from my office duties starting a couple of years ago, and can finally look at the Sunday bulletin and say to myself, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” (Moving the bulletin from WordPerfect to In Design was an incentive to pull back, since I didn’t feel like learning new software.) My successor as organist is set to be on board after September 10, and I will probably start feeling a bit lost on September 11. However, I will have turned in my keys, and my work email address will be assigned to my successor (it’s an address much more for the position than the person). The plan is that I will deliberately keep my distance from the parish for a while, so that the new organist can establish herself without the previous organist hanging around. I think there’s no shortage of ways I can use my time.

    Musicians tend to keep at it till they die or their bodies refuse to cooperate; opera singers especially often retire in their early sixties. Occasionally, musicians die in the middle of a performance; I don’t want to be one of those and traumatize the audience.

  21. MagentaPanda*

    I recently retired, and I missed being at work for literally half a day. What helped me is that I never associated what I did for a living (earning money) with my identity. My self-worth wasn’t tied up in my job. I walked out the door on a Friday and never looked back.

    1. LJ*

      At the same time, I think it’s important that we don’t shame people for being invested in their jobs. Channel the energy into new pursuits, yes, and absolutely stop them from coming to the office and interfering, but hopefully no one’s casting judgment on them while they’re already down

    2. allathian*

      My self-worth isn’t tied up in my job, either.

      I’m lucky enough to work at a job I’m at least reasonably good at and regularly get positive feedback and thanks for, and that matches my moral values. I work for a governmental agency because I’d rather work for the greater good than to enrich an already rich person given that I find too much personal wealth (more than a few million in the hands of one person) to be morally abhorrent.

      I also get a reasonable salary and have great flexibility, and by US standards lots of vacation time in my job, as well as a really great manager and coworkers I enjoy working with. But when the time comes to retire, I doubt I’ll miss working.

    1. Sacred Ground*

      I assume that the people who declare this with such confidence have never been let go or laid off from a job. I used to think that about myself too. Then I lost yet another job and now feel utterly worthless.

      1. Goldenrod*

        I’m so sorry to hear that, Sacred Ground! :(

        Just to clarify: Even when a person intellectually knows that their job doesn’t define their self-worth, you’d have to be a robot not to feel bad about losing a job (or two)!

        You have my full sympathy/empathy, and I definitely don’t think it’s weird to feel bad about being laid off. That’s traumatic! And I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I’m sorry if that’s how it came across.

  22. .*

    Wonder if part of it is that Fiona is difficulty letting go and thinks the world would stop if she left. People like Fiona tend to want to feel needed and that’s more their identity rather than work.

    It can be hard to convince someone that people might miss her (or may have counted the days if she was coasting or kept a process stuck in the past), but the work must go on. As we have seen before, if things hit the fan because Fiona retired, there were larger issues. Fiona working as much as she is or at all is not helping that situation. But I think it’s more that Fiona feels only she can save the day.

    But this doesn’t matter due to the legal issues Alison brings up. The legal element just makes the path forward more clear than waiting for something to come to a head of Fiona to Peter out.

  23. Overthinker*

    So reading this made me start thinking. With $35,568 as a break point for exempt/non-exempt status, how does it work for these CEOs that supposedly work for $1/year? Do they really get paid $3,000/month or is there something I’m missing?!?

  24. Lily Potter*

    One huge issue I see with this situation is that Fiona is choosing to do non-urgent tasks at a slow rate. Does Fiona get to decide how she wants to spend her work time? No wonder she doesn’t want to work less – she gets to spend her time doing only the tasks she likes, while leaving the unpleasant stuff for Sally. On top of that, she gets to work at a leisurely pace. A dream job. I wouldn’t stop working either.

  25. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    This seems an odd arrangement. Fiona used to be full time. Now Sally has replaced her in the full time role, presumably also full time and for a comparable salary. Fiona is working half time (officially). So whereas before you had 1 FTE doing this work, you now have 1.5 FTE – but the workload doesn’t really seem to support that (as Fiona doesn’t appear to be doing much). How did that get approved in budget terms – as that is actually a headcount increase? What was the business justification? As much as I hate to say it, it sounds like the 0.5 FTE may be redundant and should be laid off.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Reading that back it seems harsh so this is my reasoning:
      Fiona had the role “analyst (40hrs)”
      Fiona didn’t want to work full time any more, just so happens it is semi retirement, but could just as well be to spend more time with cats or whatever.
      Company agrees to create a “analyst (20 hrs)” role for Fiona and backfill the “analyst (40hrs)” role.
      Fiona moves into the new role
      Original role is backfilled with Sally
      Becomes clear later that there is not enough work to support “60 hrs a week”.
      The new role that was created appears not to have worked out and is not needed.
      There ought to have been a discussion to that effect at the time Fiona took on the new role, but it doesn’t seem like there was.

      When someone goes part time that is a property of the role rather than the person. I think that is why the situation is unclear.

    2. Orange You Glad*

      It’s possible that experienced Fiona got a lot more done in 40hrs than new Sally would at first. Depending on the type of work, I could see a company jumping on the offer in the short term until Sally got up to speed. If it were me managing the work, I’d be evaluating the arrangement every 6 months or so.

  26. Robert Teachout*

    A truly top-notch, well crafter answer, Alison! I enjoyed that you hit both the legal compliance issues and the employee relation and workplace issues.

  27. NellBee*

    I feel for Fiona, it’s certainly sounds as though retirement is not panning out the way she intended. The conversation is going to feel like a rejection for her and it’s going to sting, especially as she’s evidently choosing her old office as the place she feels most herself. When things like this touch on identity it can get really painful. But it’s time she found alternatives to stringing out admin tasks at work and maybe this will be the nudge she needs to go looking?

    I’m not great at these sorts of conversations, and maybe someone else in comments can find a way to say this that is less patronising sounding, but could the LW suggest an informal coffee chat with Fiona and then ask what sorts of hobbies she’s considering? Depending on how well liked she is, continuing to invite her to team socials, or even starting one for everyone, might be helpful too?

  28. Pamela*

    Didn’t read all of the comments but did note one who can’t understand why someone would actually WANT to continue working. Guess what – some people actually enjoy their work and enjoy working! It doesn’t mean they have no other interests or relationships. It may mean they find work challenging, interesting and meaningful. Many of us truly appreciate feeling competent and productive, and that we contribute to the organization, our colleagues and our clients. Just sayin’ – please to disparage us.

Comments are closed.