Many seniors have been out of the work force for years and because of economic pressures feel compelled to return to the workplace. Browsing the help wanted ads, making a few calls is doable for many retirees. However, assuming that a job was secured in relatively short order, things have drastically changed in the workplace over the years and being able to break old habits and fit in with younger coworkers may be the toughest challenge of all.

I often thought about how I’d function in a modern day work place environment and the probability that I’d last a week, maybe even a day, without incident is questionable. Here are a few phrases that may have been acceptable when we were earning a living, but today the rules are dramatically different. These examples reflect the dramatic shift in the work place etiquette revolution.


Then: And exactly when do you expect me to have this on your desk?

Today: Sure, no problem, I can work late; whatever it takes.

Then: There’s no possible way that can work.

Today: I’m not sure if that’s feasible but I’ll do everything possible to make it happen.

Then: You’re pulling my chain, right? Nobody can be that dense.

Today: Really? I hadn’t thought about it that way.

Then: I’ve got plans for lunch; try somebody down the hall.

Today: Absolutely; I don’t mind coordinating that issue for you during my lunch break.

Then: That’s your problem, not mine. I told you not to do it.

Today: I’m not aware of that, but I’ll look into it right away and get back to you.

Then: I couldn’t give a rip less if I tried.

Today: That’s interesting; can you tell me some more about it.

Then: There’s no way that’ll work, and don’t tell anyone I had anything to do with it. 

Today: If it can be done I’ll make it happen for you.

Then: Is there some reason you waited until the last minute to tell me this?

Today: I may have to juggle a few things, but I’m sure I can fit that into my calendar.

Then: How long have you been living in a secluded cave?

Today: If you have some time now I can brief you about that.

Then: You got this job because you’re related to someone up the chain, right?

Today: Pardon me, but I don’t understand? Do you have time to explain that again?

Then: It doesn’t need to be fixed, it’s fine the way it is.

Today: If I understand you correctly, you didn’t care for it? I’ll correct it right away.

Then: The pay’s the same whether I do it now or later.

Today: I’m really maxed out, but if it’s that important to you I’ll take care of it for you.

In addition to being somewhat out of sync with the lingo spoken in the modern day workplace, another displaced virtue seems to be in vogue - blind obedience, or “professional bonding” of the grandest kind; formerly known as sucking up. Regardless of how you slice it, reentering the work force is going to demand some etiquette tweaking for those who haven’t ventured into the real world lately to earn a pay check. 

Here are several inflexible rules that may keep you employed and out of trouble, at least for the first few days.

If you’re talking with someone stare directly into their eyes; never glance below the neck regardless of their gender, especially if it’s a female. I don’t care if they haven’t seen their feet for years, cleavage is definitely off limits. And don’t even consider gawking at that “tramp stamp” tattoo demanding your undivided attention.

Clean up your language and that means removing all one syllable words from your vocabulary. Derogatorily descriptive words such as dufus, moron and the like are also good choices for the “don’t say that” list. 

It doesn’t matter that you’re old enough to be the parent or grandparent of your boss, you’re not in charge, so let it go and make sure your ego remains at home or in the trunk of your car. Even if you’re younger co-workers encourage you to tell the boss how to do the job because of your invaluable prior experience, let it go. Otherwise, you’ll be the one that’s let go. 

The axiom that wisdom comes with age no longer cuts in the new and improved work place. What it boils down to is that you’re probably being paid less than everyone else to perform the same job. It’s easier to swallow if you view it as having reached another rung on the golden ladder of age. Welcome to the club.

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