Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par?

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Fieldthistle
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2006/07/31 13:43:52 (permalink)

Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par?

Hello All,
I wonder how good owners, managers and co-workers deal with older
workers who have given many years of good service, but age and health
problems, or even an attitude of being there so long that they are
"irreplacable" have made them "let the team down?"
This is a non-union workplace, and the fella is my age, 51, and he has worked here for 33 years. In the last five years, he has become almost worthless. My supervisor is not one to talk to him. Instead, the supervisor encourages everyone to belittle him, which sickens me. I have tried to talk to my co-worker, but he just doesn't get it. When it is convenient, he uses health problems, fatigue, you name it, to get out of
doing the hard work. He has filthy habits which doesn't endear him to anyone. I just hate to see this cycle of co-workers hating him and also him screwing us by his slackness. Any suggestions, and have you had such long-term workers and how did you deal with them?
Please help.
Take Care,
Fieldthistle
#1

21 Replies Related Threads

    roossy90
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/07/31 14:18:42 (permalink)
    Hey Fieldthistle,
    Sounds like this guy is tired of working, and is just using excuses, which reflect on the rest of the crew.
    It is hard when you work with someone to tell them to shape up.
    It makes for a bitter workplace.
    Remember the old mouthwash commercials where they used to leave bottle of mouthwash around to "gently remind people of nasty breath?
    Not to be underhanded, but maybe some strategically placed anonymous notes might wake this slacker up. Probably not.
    Maybe talking to your supervisors, supervisor would help, but that might make your immediate boss pissed at you and put you on his bad side in the long run.

    Your supervisor obviously has no back bone and HE should tackle the problem head on.
    Who knows...
    SOmetimes, you just have to bite the bullet and put up with it.
    Wish I could offer something constructive.
    Tara
    #2
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/07/31 14:18:53 (permalink)
    It sounds to me as if your work in a place where management is by intimidation, but management doesn't have the balls to do the intimidating itself. I would guess that this attitude might have something to do with your co-workers' drop in performance.
    #3
    the grillman
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/07/31 14:21:42 (permalink)
    It stinks when this happens. No one wins. This is a problem our country is going to be faced with more and more, as our population ages. Anyone over 40 is considered a "protected" class, so management must be careful.

    However, 51 is far from being a senior citizen, though. And he is far from retirement, so unless you plan on putting up with this for 14 more years, suggest you get it dealt with now. Belittling is not the way to go, and that disgusts me as well.

    Someone needs to have a frank honest discussion about job performance, and set realisitic measurable goals for improvement, along with a reasonable timeline. If the worker can't handle that, it's adios time.
    #4
    V960
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/07/31 14:37:56 (permalink)
    Fieldthistle,
    You now have one of the two most difficult people problems. Substance abuse and what my Father called the "I don't give a s**t because you won't fire me syndrom". Stealing is another big problem but that one is a no brainer.

    Sit him down, honestly explain that it is a business and his attitude just won't cut it. His problems and poor attitude cannot poison the other folks that work there (and they will ruin the moral of the team). That doesn't work...well there is always barber's school or Mickie D's.

    I had to let go (intersting term isn't it...I fired him) a person in our company that had become lazy and insulting. Had a prayer meeting w/ him and ended up sending him down the road a month later. I now have a age discrimination suit against the company. He had been w/ the company for 28 years. Excellent engineer but I should have done it two years ago. Don't wait too long, just makes it more difficult and tempers will flair because issues have developed.

    When I worked for ITT it was much easier. They expected you to fire a group of people every so often to keep the rest in line. I was young, ambitious and stupid...I fired'em. Still regret it to this day.
    #5
    tiki
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/07/31 14:41:19 (permalink)
    . My supervisor is not one to talk to him. Instead, the supervisor encourages everyone to belittle him,

    If MY boss asked me to do this id find another job! No wonder the employee has a bad attitude! Did it ever occur to you that may HIS attitude has something to do with your Bosses!??? Maybe this employee is a creep--but there is NO DOUBT that the boss is a bigger one!----and about this "PROTECTED CLASS" that us folks ovwer4 40 are supposedd to be in-----???????---not that Ive noticed!!! Anyone else here over 40 feel "Protected"?????? Seemsd to me that in this case---the patients are running the assylum!
    #6
    AndreaB
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/01 17:21:26 (permalink)
    The belittling thing needs to go. When I worked in kitchen prep in summers while going through college, we had a check off list each day and we all checked and initialed the things we had gotten done (not that I know if this man works in kitchen prep).
    Whoever's the boss there needs to talk to this man, and not push it onto other employees to belittle him. If he has filthy habits and his performance is deteriorating, well it sounds like he might have a problem. The boss / supervisor will never know if he / she doesn't discuss his performance with him. If it was me, I would
    try to find out what was wrong and have a heart to heart talk with him about his slacking performance, considering the years he's spent there.

    Andrea
    #7
    John A
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/01 18:01:40 (permalink)

    I’m a General Manager and have attended a number of Labor Law seminars. Your supervisor is stupid (As is his Supervisor for not being aware of the situation), he is inviting a lawsuit against the Company; do not get involved. Your co-worker may be acting upon the advice of an Attorney, even if he is not it’s an explosive situation. Steer clear of it.

    John
    #8
    Greyghost
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/01 19:09:51 (permalink)
    John A is right, harass this employee enough and he will wind up owning the place.

    So he started at age 18 and has been there for 33 years. That sort of loyalty should count for something. Maybe he should be "promoted" into a new and more satisfying position so the other employees wont complain so much. I think I might be a little testy myself if I went for 33 years without a promotion.

    My advice: Give the guy a break and create a position for him that will assuage him. Doing so will reduce greatly the possibility of him being on the side of a winning lawsuit. Of course, maybe the rest of the employees would prefer him owning the place rather than tolerating a slacker put into a position where he may prove to be better suited.
    #9
    oltheimmer
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/01 19:14:07 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by stlouisguy


    However, 51 is far from being a senior citizen, though. And he is far from retirement, so unless you plan on putting up with this for 14 more years, suggest you get it dealt with now. Belittling is not the way to go, and that disgusts me as well.

    Someone needs to have a frank honest discussion about job performance, and set realisitic measurable goals for improvement, along with a reasonable timeline. If the worker can't handle that, it's adios time.

    I agree, 51 is NOT old. The issue here is performance, not age. I'm not up on all the legal aspects but I would think a good talking to by the manager is in order; if he is avoiding the problem, you and several of the guy's co-workers should go to him to urge him to do something. The belittling is disgusting and undoubtedly isn't working.
    #10
    Adjudicator
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/01 20:17:31 (permalink)
    Document, Document, Document. If it isn't documented then it never happened. The "manager" obviously should be replaced.
    #11
    garryd451
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/01 21:32:59 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Adjudicator

    Document, Document, Document. If it isn't documented then it never happened. The "manager" obviously should be replaced.



    You are so right!!

    If You don't Document, You might as well just give him the place, because without documentation the court will give him the place!!!
    #12
    AndreaB
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/02 03:09:45 (permalink)
    Yup re the documentation and also how's it going to look if it goes to court and other employees come in to testify they were told to belittle him? Considering the years this guy has spent there, it sounds like a trainwreck waiting to happen if someone higher up doesn't address the problem in a professional manner.

    Andrea
    #13
    Fieldthistle
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/02 04:44:07 (permalink)
    Hello All,
    Thanks for the advice so far. Perhaps I didn't phrase the "belittlement" quite right.
    The co-worker is not belittle to his face. He is the butt of comments behind his back,
    which I don't appreciate.
    My supervisor has hinted that he has documented many, way too many, incidents where the
    co-worker has messed up. I don't know if he has turned it over to the manager of our
    department, but truthfully the manager of the dept. is rather inept and waiting to retire
    in a few years.
    My supervisor has changed the co-workers duties, reduced them to the point of silliness.
    The co-worker has some health issues which he could manage better, but he seems to purposely
    do things to make himself feel bad. For example, he has sugar problems, but he will eat
    candy and drink sodas til he has to go home early because he feels bad. (His sugar problems
    are not the type that he needs to eat some candy to moderate sugar levels) He's on all types
    of pills, is overweight and our job requires being on your feet and moving all night long.
    As far as promotions, the co-worker is the assistant supervisor in job ranking. There is no
    other department that he could be "promoted" to because no one would have him and he has no
    desire to learn anything new.
    Actually, I think everyone in charge is just afraid of change. Over the past three years our supervisor has basically given me the duties that the co-worker can't do or does so badly.
    I guess I was hoping for a silver bullet that doesn't exist.
    When I first began working here 11 years ago, it was like we were a family. Now, it's a
    job that revolves too much on negative feeling others feel toward the co-worker. Please understand,
    my supervisor and co-workers are bad people. We've all bent over backwards to accomodate this one guy
    because of his long service and health problems. I'm just sick to the negativity and jokes behind his back.
    Thanks again,
    Take Care,
    Fieldthistle
    #14
    Oneiron339
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/02 07:21:21 (permalink)
    As someone who has been involved in labor issues for 20 years, I would suggest you deal with this one just like all employee issues - consistently and fairly. You address the employee's behaviors which need attention, how they affect the business, and what will be done if they are not attended to. Hopefully there is a progressive discipline policy in place which is consistently followed. (It sounds as though it is absent.) And when it becomes a problem, then you document as indicated above. If you follow everything correctly, then you should have no qualms about firing someone - they actually fire themselves by not adhering to the policies or work instructions. As often is the case, management is to blame for allowing this to persist and cause more problems in the organization.
    #15
    bassrocker4u2
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/03 08:33:06 (permalink)
    all the advice i have read on this matter seems great, except that most seems to be directed to your supervisor, instead of you. sadly, this same scenarion is playing out at hundreds of different places all accross the county at the same time. it seems that you, fieldthistle, are the one most upset with the situation(the only one with a heart and concious). perhaps you, should be the one to request transfer to another department, and leave the jokesters and sneeres to waller in their own dirty tub.
    #16
    prisonchef
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/04 17:11:27 (permalink)
    fieldthistle,
    get copies of all documentatiom from your manager. you need to get your house in order and fast and you need to stop the talking also as that will haunt you.
    if it makes you feel any better i am 55. in the past 2 years i have seen 4 managers come and go and the oldest was 30. the owner has been trying to get me onto a 3 day week so i only have to work 6 days out of 7 but everytime it comes around another person in their 20's is arrested for drugs or theft charges. the owner likes me because i advise all new hires that i don't work with stoners or juicers and i expect them to turn out at least the same amount of work that i do. so far i have had no trouble keeping up with them and advised the last guy fired that i could turn out more work in 8 hours asleep then he could in 24 hours awake!!!
    i don't think a persons age matters at all. it all boils down to their personal ethics and sadly that appears to be something that is going the way of the horse. or as my 82 year old father told me "jack my generation was not raised to be lazy or rude, nor did i raise you that way, but it appears that society has forgotten that and we as a civilization will pay the price for it"
    hate to say it but i think that he is right.
    jack
    #17
    Fieldthistle
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/05 03:23:03 (permalink)
    Hello All,
    Again, thanks for your advice. It is good to have a place to vent and also ask for help and advice.
    My desire has always been to see how others dealt with similiar situations, beyond firing someone.
    Listening to you all has made me see clearer much about my work place and about myself. I'm not
    sure how to handle it, or if I can, or should. If anyone has ready Dante, perhaps I'm in a level
    of hell that just is. That's the pessimist in me. But I try to be more, and will use your advice
    to inch out of this place. Sometimes for the good of others, the business, and myself, inching change
    works better than a mini-revolution.
    Bassrocker4u2, I'd love to transfer to another department, but with my skills I'm at the highest I
    can go here. Well, that's not true. It's the highest that management thinks I can go. It's like the medieval times where there people in their places and places for the people. And frankly, that will never change.
    Prisonchef, my supervisor really likes me, but he would never share documentation. He likes me, but would
    do nothing that would jeopidize rule#1, "Cover my ass." And he is always looking to cover his ass. And I
    don't blame him for that. And also, I was brought up and live in the house of your 82 yr. old father when
    it comes to a work ethic. I think that is why my situation bothers me. I could ride the same wave as
    others at work, but find it disturbing. So I will inch change to the best of my ability.
    I can't cut throats...and the politics of work frown on that when it comes to old timers anyway.
    So, thanks for all the advice and I will labour on.
    Take Care,
    Fieldthistle
    #18
    ann peeples
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/05 07:56:57 (permalink)
    just one more thought-and I mean really think about it-since the situation doesnt seem to be changing, YOU have to make the change.It is time for a new job.While I am sure this may not be easy for you, sometimes we have to take a step backwards to, indeed, move forward.I found myself in the same situation awhile back, and it was beginning to affect my personal life because I was so stressed out.Not worth it.I took a lesser paying job, was infinately happier,and within a year, based on my work performance,making nearly the same money as the job I had left.There is nothing you can do about another coworker that management cant or wont do something about
    #19
    interloper
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/05 16:07:24 (permalink)
    Fieldthistle, you certainly have a difficult problem, one that all American businesses will increasibgly face as the population ages. As previous posters have noted, the potential for lawsuits is very real when making employment decisions (such as discipline or termination) on workers aged 40+. I teach and consult in the area of human resource management, so I'll try to give you some advice from a legal and managerial perspective.

    Basically, the law protects older workers who are affected by an unfavorable employment decision solely because of their age (ages 40 and up)--it does not protect older workers who are fired for cause (like poor job performance, being late or rude, etc.). So the first thing this person's boss needs to do is to begin documenting all instances where this person's job performance was poor. For example, if the guy is clocking in late, save copies of the card used for the time clock. If he refuses to do his share, get an account of the incident from several employees who corroborate one another. If he's rude to a customer, get the customer's story, along with their name and contact info. You get the idea. If he's as bad as you suggest, this shouldn't take long. The important thing is to document and corroborate evidence thoroughly--and write everything down.

    Then, call the guy in for a private meeting to discuss his performance, and confront him with the evidence you've collected. Give him a chance to offer a rebuttal, but make it clear that his performance is unacceptable and must change (there may be a legitimate reason for his slackness, and to protect yourself from unintentionally violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, you need to ask). Tell him that any repeat of the incident in a specified period (usually 4 weeks or so) will result in further disciplinary action.

    If he turns his performance around, great! If not, have another meeting. Again, confront him with the evidence of poor behavior, let him know that it's unacceptable, and that any reoccurence for a longer period (say, 6-8 weeks) will merit further disciplinary action--probation is longer this time. Also, have a letter typed up that spells out what's happened so far, and the terms you've laid out. Make the guy sign it before he leaves the meeting, and put it in his employment folder--let him know it's now a part of his "permanent record."

    If there's no reoccurrence, great! But let's say the guy blows it. I'd have one last meeting, letting the guy know that the next time poor behavior occurs, he's fired. Again, record everything in a letter and have him sign it before leaving. If he goofs up, make good on your promise.

    For the sake of argument, let's say this guy's drinking buddies urge him to sue for age discrimination. To have any chance of success, the guy would have to go to his local EEOC representative, present his evidence, and ask for their endorsement (most judges will not hear a discrimination case that isn't endorsed by the EEOC). EEOC officers are overworked and pretty savvy, so they can sniff out (and reject) the spurious cases pretty quickly. But let's say the guy is a smooth talker who spins a convincing tale. The boss will get a call from the EEOC officer asking for employer's side of the story. All you have to do is present the documentation and timeline you've carefully collected, including the signed letters. I guarantee the EEOC officer will be very annoyed and you'll get the last laugh, because the guy was obviously terminated for cause (i.e., because he deserved it).

    If this sounds like a hassle, well...it is. But it's what you need to do to be absolutely sure that you protect your business from discrimination lawsuits. It's also important to remember that the laws are in place for good reasons, and they are one of the things that make America a great country (most countries don't have EEO laws). Fortunately, having a meeting or two is enough to either straighten out most employees, or to prompt them to leave. Good luck!
    #20
    Blakely
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/05 17:51:59 (permalink)
    Boy, this really burns me for the position your manager has put you and the company in...legally and in the actual working conditions. Attitude runs downhill. Your co-worker has no respect for anyone and sure doesn't deserve any himself. I'm 58 and in the RV rental business. I've had employees from 18 up and it seems the younger they are, the more the older group can work wonders around them...and this guy is an embarrassment to people my age.

    Have a talk-to-Jesus meeting with this guy from a co-worker to co-worker position and let him know how your team feels...it sure doesn't look like your manager wants to handle it. If your manager can't handle something like this, what else is he not doing professionally? Your manager is messing up more than just this and how can the owners not see this...are they not there or is the owner part of the problem as well?

    Cover yourself on every step you take, so if something does happen, a finger doesn't get pointed to you for taking actions that a manager should do.

    I usually try to hire an older person whenever possible, even the retired. They have a better work ethic for the most part; will work harder since corporate Amercian has seen fit to put a target on our backs; I've had to send them home sick when they still came in to work; and if retired, can't work full time for the most part; and I save on benefits (even that's not my goal, it's a plus, but not the goal).

    Good Luck.
    #21
    prisonchef
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    RE: Dealing with older workers that aren't up to par? 2006/08/06 18:29:25 (permalink)
    fieldthistle,
    just reread this thread and finally read between the lines. i have been in your situation before and all i can say is to keep fighting the good fight,save up some bucks which will allow you to review your options under much less pressure and do a little thinking.
    just never make the mistake i made 15 years ago when i took a job with an unethical company in construction. i almost sold my soul on that one but on the drive to cape kennedy i finialized my plans for what i knew needed to be done and not only told the contractor where the contract was being cheated by my predicesor (i inherted the job upon my arrival) but ran him zerox copies to use!!! thankfully i used the excuse of a house closing to delay this meeting. the house did close so there i set, no job,a wife, a kid and a mortgage. just the push i needed to go to culinary school at age 41!!! but the main thing was at the very last moment i came to my senses, maintained my good name and more importantly maintained my self respect. so hang tough. i for one am darned sure pulling for you and i know in time you can figure a way out of the situation while retaining your honor.
    jack
    #22
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