Older Workers Better at Managing Work Overload 

Companies are often remiss in assessing the performance of younger workers as compared to older workers.  I’ve told the story a number of times, how one company was going to let “the old fat guy with a beard” (not me :) ) go because he always left at 5:00PM while other younger workers showed greater commitment by working late and on weekends.   When they checked the output of the “Old Fart”, they found he resolved three times more support calls than most of the “Young Hot Shots”.  He was the top support analyst … a rock star.

Younger generations may take more time to adapt to the needs of the workplace, while older workers have learned how to manage information flows and ignore unnecessary information. –More than two-thirds of U.S. workers suffer from work overload – Story

This is born out by this study which attributes older worker resilience to learning information flow and discerning what is unnecessary information.  In my experience this is true, however they missing two important strengths of older workers.

1. Dealing with Distress

Where two or three gather you will have conflict.  Older workers often are superior communicators. This is born out in the study which shows that Boomers are more likely to choose face to face communication.  When I consulting for software development company, there was a client-wide software glitch caused by some hastily pushed out code.  Even though 75% of the clients were unlikely to have noticed it, I counselled the CEO to immediately phone all the clients personally.  Why?  Respect.  Hiding a screw-up is 10 times as bad as admitting one because it betrays trust.  Most clients appreciate knowing the truth. since it means you are leading a company which is committed to the truth.

Why do younger workers often avoid conflict?  It has been my observation that younger workers tend to choose to avoid the lesser current distress in the hopes of avoiding a bigger future distress.  Older workers have learned that distress is part of life and something that is better faced head on.  “You just take your lumps”.

2. If you think you are communicating enough, you aren’t.

Communication is difficult work.  The old know this truth as do a few rare younger workers.  Miscommunication is endemic to the human condition and if one is not intentional about communicating to clients, coworkers, and management, unnecessary troubles are sure to ensue.  Watch how often older workers tend to be proactive communicators.  Watch how often younger workers tend to be reactive communicators.

3. Don’t Squander the Gaps

Older workers use slow downs to catch up or for proactive improvements to their work flows.  This is one of the reasons they are efficient. When I was young, there were periods I thought, “There is nothing to do for a few hours.”  Of course, there is always something to do, even if it is to reorganize your files, run some diagnostic software.  Or as #2 teaches … connect with people.

Please let me know what in your experience have been the benefits that older workers have developed through experience?

Now please enjoy one of Canada’s great old farts … Bruce Cockburn … singing about a dream which overcame his fear of a Soviet/West Nuclear War …

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