Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

E-Alerts: Organizational Effectiveness Archives

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Transitioning And Flexibility: What's in it for senior professionals and executives?

April, 2005

Many of the stories about senior professionals pressured to retire so the next generation can take over are not pretty. Ironically, they clearly contradict the long-held notion of what a partnership should be at a time when less formal "partnerships" are a management buzzword for getting things done in business.("We partner with..." [our clients, other organizations, etc.]) And long time partners' needs and futures beyond financial arrangements are neglected .

In my February e-Alert, "Transitioning is the New Retirement," I promised to suggest how to find solutions built around the *Next Generation, Next Destination* approach, saying: For the younger generations in the workplace to get what they want, there must be something in it for the more senior people too. Here are my thoughts and recommendations.


There may be a number of ways that tensions between the generations in the workplace are manifested, but the root causes tend to be one or more of the following:

* Younger professionals wanting to wield more authority, and senior people being reluctant to let go
* Differing work and life objectives between the generations
* Openness to new ways of doing things vs. "the way we've always done it" culture
* Compensation issues and policies

In order to get buy-in to do things differently in risk-averse cultures/organizations, there must be a basic level of a safety net.


No one would argue with the statement that people at all levels should be treated fairly, but how "fair" is defined and how it is implemented often is in the eye of the beholder. "Fair" relates to compensation, opportunities, and ability to choose. Many firms limit choices because it is easier to administer and measure everyone the same way. Typically, arrangements that allow options or choices are not only arrived at in an ad hoc fashion, but also they are undisclosed to those not directly affected. Most organizations that have flexibility polices do it as an "accommodation" for people with childcare responsibilities - as if those were the only people with a need for flexibility in their work lives!. Senior professionals are rarely included, though they may have elder care responsibilities, other personal needs, or simply want to cut back on their billable hours (in exchange for reduced compensation) but still be a productive contributor to the firm in a variety of ways. Offering them those choices would be fair. More openness about the benefits to the firm of individual arrangements would reduce resentments and stigma, and be more likely to be perceived as "fair."


Even if they have led very pressured lives for many, many years (and maybe because of that) most senior partners/professionals want to continue to make valuable contributions and have opportunities for growth and learning - but not at a continuing rat-race pace. They want to use their experience and skills in ways consistent with their values, and they want more breathing and renewal time. Some would like to stay with their firm or organization for years to come; others would like something different for their next phase. In either case, firms can benefit in terms of goodwill translating into client referrals and recruiting and professional development success by instituting a coherent flexibility policy as a key element of transitioning planning.

The issues involved in transitioning and flexibility for people at all levels can be quite sensitive, often more for the more senior people than the younger ones. Part of management's role is to provide the needed push toward the outcomes desired, being aware of the frequently strong emotions involved. Management can

* Support planning and show respect for senior professionals and executives who have contributed so much for many years.
* Provide a transitioning and future planning workshop for professionals and executives over 50.
* Provide coaching for individuals who need guidance in identifying and planning for their next career/life destination and in transitioning responsibilities and clients to younger generations.
* Set clear time frames, expectations, and criteria upon which performance and behaviors will be evaluated.
* Accept that times and expectations have changed and that there are solutions if there is an openness and willingness to find them. You don't have to have all the answers yourself;. take advantage of or lead people to valuable resources.


The first thing is to face the reality of coming change whether by your choice or not. Identify what you would like your future to be. With good health you have many years to go; shouldn't you be doing what you want to do? Perhaps a new career, full or part-time is an exciting prospect. How do you get from where you are today to your next destination? Or how can you continue indefinitely to be valuable to your firm? How can you transfer your skills or pick up new ones? What would you like to be your legacy? What do you need to maintain your identity, self-worth and financial needs?

Start thinking and mapping out your next phase of career/life early so that you can reach your desired place on your timetable - rather than have someone else or controllable circumstances take your options away.


This is a dual responsibility and challenge - for firms and the affected individuals. Don't wait until a change in status is looming and people with no plans feel as if they are about to fall off a cliff. Planning ideally will start at age 50, and certainly by age 55.

* Talk with knowledgeable advisers to develop and implement a program and policies.
* Put the pieces of the puzzle together and offer a program that will answer the important questions, create reasonable expectations and foster positive, ong-lasting impressions and relationships between the firm and personnel at all levels.
* Schedule your first workshop.

I feel strongly that the above is both the right thing to do and smart business. Call on me and Practice Development Counsel for information and help. Explore *Next Generation, Next Destination* to see if it meets your needs.

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2005. All rights reserved.