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How Well Do You Treat Older Workers?

Many readers of this blog know all about my dog Daphne. I started blogging on EO right around the time that Daphne was born. Over the years I’ve used my experience being Daphne’s mom as a way of highlighting all sort of things about life, my moods, and strategies for dealing with workplace behaviour.

Daphne is older now, turning twelve this year. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, her breed, have an average life expectancy of twelve years so I know the sun is setting, and I’m really starting to see it. She sleeps a lot, wakes up disoriented often, and has a little limp. She has little lumps all over her body and has a hard time getting up and down on her bed. Despite this, she shows extreme enthusiasm when it is time to go for a car ride, her favourite thing. In these moments, I forget that she isn’t a puppy.

Recently, we took a drive to Oakville to walk on a trail that we thought would be good for her because it has plenty of things for Mars to do and she can walk slowly and sniff. We had to cut the trip short though because her limp was getting bad. She had trouble getting into the car too. When we got home, my other dog Mars bolted out of the car, knocking Daphne out of the back seat of our SUV and onto her back on the driveway. For several days she seemed a little out of sorts (I would be too) and I spent a lot of time on the floor giving her kisses and telling her she was going to be alright.

In people years, Daphne is 84.

Switching to HR, I want you to think about how you treat “old” people in the workplace. You know, those people whose ages start with a 5, 6, 7 or maybe 8. Are your practices respectful, entrepreneurial and win-win?

In my early career in HR, I worked with companies where there were lots of people in their late fifties and early sixties. Back then, that age was viewed as a liability. People of that age were known for doing things manually, not embracing technology, and were considered untrainable. They were known for not being team players, and for being costly terminations. The word mentor was not popular; and quite frankly not embraced. A lot of people were exited without really having been given a chance. I’m glad things have changed, although probably not to the extent they should.

I remember watching a scene in the movie About Schmidt a few years ago. Schmidt retires from a role as an underwriter at an insurance company. In his heyday he created insurance products. Soon after his retirement he stops by his office to check-up on things and discovers his entire career in boxes ready for destruction. A new generation had come in and learned nothing from the past.

Daphne can do most things she used to be able to, but chooses not to do them. She’s just more relaxed about things. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve learned to appreciate her for that. She makes a much better housemate in her older years.

I hope we can view our older co-workers the same way.

Just remember that someday you will be the older co-worker.



  1. Hi Bonni,
    I truly enjoyed reading this blog for several reasons. Firstly, I am dog-lover. Happy co-owner (shared with my parents and sibblings) of a black lab, whom I love with all my heart and soul. Secondly, I couldn’t agree with you more about learning from our older generations.


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