نشانگان بازنشستگی :: روانشناسی فراموش کردن
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|5010||2003||10 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : European Management Journal, Volume 21, Issue 6, December 2003, Pages 707–716
This article analyzes a problem that can be described as the retirement syndrome. In exploring the difficulties many leaders face in letting go at the end of a full career, it reviews a number of the barriers to exit: financial, social, and psychological. It looks at the physical and psychological effects of aging, in the context of retirement; examines the experience of nothingness that single-minded careerists often feel after retirement; describes the talion principle, a subliminal fear of reprisals; and discusses the ‘edifice complex,’ the wish to leave behind a legacy. The article concludes with suggestions as to how individuals and organizations can develop more effective and humane disengagement strategies.
In an Oscar-nominated bleak comedy called About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson stars as Warren Schmidt, a 67-year-old Omaha, Nebraska, insurance executive who is set adrift following retirement. The film is the character study of a sad, aging man who is face-to-face with mortality and the emptiness of a life near its end. Schmidt’s retirement party is the first of the movie’s painfully bittersweet ceremonies. The party, a somber event for Schmidt, portrays quite clearly that he isn’t looking forward to his retirement. He doesn’t understand why he has to be put out to pasture, and he doesn’t like the idea of being replaced — especially by a person he doesn’t respect. Given his career single-mindedness, the future promises no golden sunset for this retiree. Schmidt seems to have cultivated no interests outside work. He is at a total loss as to what he might do. Upon his retirement, he reassesses his life, wondering how all his hopes had come to this. He has grown to loathe his dowdy wife. His treasured but alienated daughter, who lives what feels like a world away in Denver, barely speaks to him and is set to marry a man he regards as a total nincompoop. Searching for some kind of meaning, Schmidt decides to contribute $22 a month to the welfare of an African ‘foster’ child. His frank letters to six-year-old Ndugu appear to be the only place where he is able to establish human contact, where he feels a degree of authenticity. When his wife suddenly keels over while vacuuming their home, the rest of Schmidt’s world falls apart. Unable to take care of himself, he begins to deteriorate physically. Not only does he neglect his appearance, it doesn’t take very long before his home is messier than a pigsty. On an impulse, Schmidt — uncertain about his future as well as his past — packs up his 30-foot Winnebago (which his wife had nagged him into buying) to set out on a cross-country journey to stop his daughter’s wedding. Along the way — no longer shielded from life by the work environment or his wife — he tests out the idea of connecting with other people. His efforts turn out disastrously: for example, he makes a depressing visit to his childhood home, which has been turned into a tire store, and he tries to strike up a friendship with a trailer-park couple he meets along the way that ends abruptly when he makes a clumsy pass at the wife. When Schmidt reaches Denver, he discovers that his daughter’s future relatives represent his worst nightmare: a rowdy clan of counterculture refugees and wannabes. His future son-in-law sells ‘top of the line’ waterbeds and wears his long, thinning hair in a ponytail. His son-in-law’s mother is the ultimate lewd old gal, who has him experience a hot tub (even joining him in the nude) and tells him far more than he would ever want to know about her sex life while spouting out psychobabble. Her intrusiveness is anathema to Schmidt, who has wasted away in the insurance industry for decades; whose sterile, middle-class life was micro-managed by his wife; and who, probably because of his own controlling behavior, drove his uptight daughter to a guy like his future son-in-law. During his mini-quest across the Midwest, we see a man gradually stripped of all his illusions about his past career, his marriage, his daughter, and his life. Schmidt seems destined to end his life as he lived it: a failure, going through the motions of living with a tight little smile that hides isolation, depression, and terror. If Schmidt had known that his retirement would turn out like this, he might have managed his life quite differently. Schmidt ends up a man full of regrets, a sorry example of poor career and life management. As the story unfolds, About Schmidt becomes a cautionary tale for the rest of us. It reaffirms the wise counsel not to put all one’s eggs — career eggs, in this case — in one basket. Although it has often been said that when we grow old, we have to give up certain things, this statement should be reframed somewhat: if we fail to give up certain things, we grow old. The challenge, of course, is knowing what to give up, and how. If we want to live life to the fullest in our later years, we have to give up, decades earlier, our single-minded devotion to work and the almighty dollar. We have to invest in matters other than work. If we invest in relationships, for example, we will create good memories with people close to us that will sustain us in difficult times. About Schmidt makes us realize how rare are people who grow old with grace. For too many of us, retirement comes as an unexpected shock, a stage for which we are poorly prepared. As the example of Schmidt illustrates all too depressingly, sooner or later people in positions of power and authority have to let go. The extent to which letting go is a positive or negative experience depends very much on the individual and his or her particular circumstances. Letting go has a devastating effect on some people; they perceive it as a hostile act, whether it happens at a prearranged stage in life (i.e. at retirement), through voluntary or imposed redundancy, through an organizational or political coup d’état, or through ill health. For leaders, the relinquishing of power is especially difficult. The public recognition that has accompanied their position at the top has been a major dimension of their lives. Just as trees need water and sunshine to flourish, many leaders need the admiration of their subordinates to feel truly alive. They crave an endless supply of narcissistic stimuli. For them, retreat into the private sphere represents an enormous reversal. They are suddenly deprived, at retirement, of what to them are essential nutrients: identification with an institution of great power; influence over individuals, policies, finances, and the community; and constant affirmation of their importance as individuals and of their role as leader to others. The prospect of climbing down off the top of the heap and becoming a nobody holds little attraction for them. As former president Ronald Reagan once quipped: ‘Two weeks ago I went into retirement. Am I glad that’s over! I just didn’t like it. Took all the fun out of Saturdays.’ This article explores the difficulties many leaders have in letting go at retirement. It discusses a number of the barriers to a graceful exit — financial, social, and psychological — and reviews the physical and psychological effects of aging. It also discusses a number of psychological processes that affect retirement: the experience of nothingness perceived by many in the absence of work, the talion principle (i.e. the fear of retaliation), and the ‘edifice complex’ (the wish to leave a legacy). Although these psychological processes are discussed sequentially, they occur in no special order (and often in combination) in the inner world of the executive, making retirement an insidious process. In conclusion, the article offers observations on how individuals and organizations can develop more effective and humane disengagement strategies.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Loss of status, loss of recognition, loss of income, physical aging, and emotional stress: the connotations of letting go can seem overwhelmingly negative. Organizational culture and societal pressure frequently reinforce this negativity. It is clear that the problems of the retirement syndrome have to be addressed on both an individual and an organizational level. Organizations are notoriously negligent in this regard. People on the verge of retirement are all too often abandoned to sink or swim, with no help or preparation from the organization. And many of them sink; they plunge down into bitterness, resentment, and depression through their own inability (or unwillingness) to face up to reality and let go. John Simon was a leading executive with an investment bank. His experience of letting go reflects many of the negative and damaging effects that lack of personal preparation can have: Well, of course I didn’t want to go. Nobody ever does. They might talk a lot of rubbish about looking forward to retirement, but they’re only trying to make the best of it. They had the cheek to offer me early retirement when I was fifty. I thought it was a joke at first and couldn’t believe it when I realized they were serious. They didn’t push it once I made it clear how I felt. Then when my fifty-fourth birthday was coming up, they suggested I might like to reconsider. The human resources people had spent God knows how long preparing an in-house brochure on retirement strategy, and I remember them handing it to me as if it was some kind of prize. I made up my mind right then that I was going to stay on as long as I could. Nobody else knew as much about the business as I did. I thought they were ignoring everything I’d done over the years. I mean, I hadn’t put all that into my work just to turn it over to some business-school graduate with a silly haircut because the human resources people thought I should. I didn’t think about retirement at all. Towards the end, I cut down the amount of traveling I did, but that was because the company decentralized a lot of operations and much of what we handled went directly to the regional offices. I didn’t feel any more tired at fifty-four than I had done during the previous fifteen years. At times I felt a bit out on a limb. Nearly all my colleagues had gone and my division — like the rest of the company — was full of much younger men and women. They seemed very cliquey and I didn’t have much to do with them. I was very friendly with the outgoing CEO. We’d joined the company at the same time back in the 1970s. Our wives were friends and we all met socially. He stayed until his sixtieth birthday, then came in twice a week in a consultancy capacity for a further fifteen months. I assumed I’d do much the same thing; at least, I certainly didn’t think that at fifty-four that would be it, finish, the end. When nobody said anything about consultancy, I mentioned it myself, and that’s when they dropped the bombshell about dismantling the division. They tried to do it nicely. The VP of Human Resources said it wouldn’t be ‘viable’ anyhow once I left; the company was getting behind the regionalization policy and opening more offices overseas. But I got the impression they thought I was taking up space. I seemed to be the only person to whom it came as a surprise. I felt stabbed in the back. I know I was bitter. It didn’t help that I started to get ill for the first time in my life. Just aches and pains — the doctor couldn’t find anything seriously wrong — but I had to have a series of tests and got into a depression. I refused their offer of a leaving celebration; it seemed such a sham. Who was celebrating what? Now I regret that a bit because I left under a cloud, after more than twenty-five years in the place. That was three years ago. I feel better now. I’m off the anti-depressants and quite by accident last year I discovered a real passion for gardening. We’ve got a large garden but I’d never really done anything in it — just used to pay the gardener. Then last summer he was off with a bad back for several weeks and I took the place in hand. Now we’re really making it into something special. It’s practically a full-time job. Things are better with my wife as well. It was misery when I first was at home. She’s an artist, very wrapped up in what she does, and of course there’s no retirement ceiling in her kind of work. I don’t think she understood what I went through when I retired. It was ironic that the same week I left the company she had her first major solo exhibition. We’re the same age and there she was, getting all the accolades, still pushing ahead, when I felt pushed aside. We talked about it. It wasn’t easy. Last month was my fifty-eight birthday and she gave me an oil painting she’d done of my favorite part of the garden. I hadn’t known she’d done it; it was a fantastic surprise. It seemed to round everything off, somehow. John Simon came to terms with his position, but the cost was high. Though his personality contributed greatly to his problems, they were exacerbated by the insensitivity with which his company dealt with him. Although the firm’s efforts to confront the issue of executive retirement had been well meaning, they had not gone far enough to be effective. Contrast Simon’s experience with that of another retiring executive, in much the same situation. Victor Carlotti was managing director of a chemical division of a large multinational company: When I was in my early sixties, the company was taken over and the parent company began intervening more in our operations. Shortly afterwards my old [managing director] left and the atmosphere changed overnight. I became increasingly unhappy with the changes and on my suggestion my early retirement (albeit only one year early) was accepted. My pension was unaffected, the company continued to pay me until my sixty-fifth birthday, and I received a small bonus. I’d begun thinking about how I’d manage my retirement at least three or four years earlier. I knew I’d have to try and structure life after retirement in the same way I’d structured it in business. I knew I’d need a certain amount of discipline, and as far as possible I planned things in advance. I wanted to do some charity work, and I had that lined up for the time when I left the company. I finalized all those details about six months before I finished work. I took a couple of courses on post-retirement. They were organized by a local organization. I also took a coach to help me explore various options. The company was very helpful in providing me with one. As the time grew nearer, I had generally very positive feelings about retirement. I suppose I felt apprehensive about some aspects, but basically I took it philosophically, if not 100 per cent enthusiastically. The company’s attitude helped; they were happy for me to work from home several days a week. I wasn’t too bothered about the loss of responsibility and decision-making. I was most worried about having nothing to do, which is why I put so much preparatory effort into restructuring my life. I was prepared to manage on less income and in fact we moved to a smaller house about a year before I retired, as our old house was starting to need a lot of maintenance. With the children out of the house, it had become far too big for us. I knew the person who took over from me quite well. As a matter of fact, I trained her for the present position. In the last few months, I took her around, introduced her to my major customers, and did a certain amount of handover work with her. I felt kind of proud of how effective she proved to be. Initially, I did think about taking on another position, some sort of paid employment. I made some inquiries and talked to a few people. But with all our children and grandchildren living abroad, I knew we’d be doing a lot of traveling and that really ruled out that sort of commitment. We spend at least four months of the year out of the country. When we’re in England, my voluntary work for the cancer society regularly takes up two mornings a week, with some occasional meetings on top of that. I’m on two boards as non-executive director, a position that doesn’t take too much of my time. Most of our friends are also retired, so we see more of them. I read more, and enjoy it more, swim and walk a great deal, and go to the theater or to a concert at least once a week. We’ve also made it a habit to take two major trips a year. The most recent were one to India and, eighteen months later, a tour around the world, something my wife and I have always wanted to do. My wife and all my family were very helpful and positive about my retirement. In the end, we were all looking forward to it. Now, three years on, I can genuinely say that I feel contented and very much engaged with life. I’ve met many people who feel that they’ve lost a lot with retirement, but that’s not the case with me. I did wonder before whether I’d feel resentful, whether I’d feel I was missing out, or left high and dry. I know plenty of people who do. Would I go back now? Well, a couple of years after I’d left, my old company approached me with the offer to become the interim COO. I was very flattered, very pleased; it did mean a lot to have been asked. But the office has relocated, and we travel so much. . . . It wasn’t too difficult to decide to turn it down. In the end, the most important things for me were that I was both fortunate and determined: fortunate that I found it easy to adjust first of all to the idea of retirement, then to retirement itself, and determined that I was going to make it work. And of course I had my wife with me all the way, encouraging me to see retirement as a new phase in life, rather than as the end of something. Not everybody has Victor’s foresight and up-front approach, of course, and not everybody facing the necessity of letting go has either the time or the inclination to prepare as he did. Furthermore, not every company is as helpful as his was at easing the retirement process. For Victor, retirement was an event, and a positive one at that. In most companies, unfortunately, retirement planning is viewed as largely a personal concern, and management provides little or no feedback or guidance. In view of the effect that senior executives’ poorly managed departures can have on company morale, this policy is dangerously shortsighted. It may reflect a company philosophy that is equally blinkered. Today organizations are tempted to ease out senior people at relatively early ages for several reasons: early-retirement policies can be seen as a way to rejuvenate the organization, as an alternative to laying off people during downturns, as a way of saving money (after all, older people are generally more expensive to employ), as an alternative to firing because of poor performance, and as a way of unclogging employment channels in order to create promotion opportunities for younger people. However, early retirements can create critical shortages of experienced personnel, and the loss of senior people may affect the organizational ‘memory,’ which in turn can have negative effects on morale and performance. Organizations that fail to deal effectively with retirement issues need to face up to and deal with several major issues: how to recognize and maximize the value and quality of experienced executives, how to anticipate and contain the emotional and psychological costs of retirement and redundancy, and how to balance the psychological needs of executives with good policy for the company. The development of strategies to meet these issues can greatly ease the stresses of the retirement syndrome. No one can avoid aging, but most folks can opt to age productively. Retirement policies should be enabling, allowing executives to address the adjustments they need to make when counting down to retirement. One such policy is phased retirement, whereby individuals can control their own gradual reduction in working time. Phased retirement can have the additional benefit to the organization of encouraging experienced personnel to remain in an increasingly part-time capacity. The cost of retaining older executives on a part-time basis is far less than recruiting, selecting, training, and motivating younger people with less work experience. Likewise, giving outgoing CEOs the opportunity to serve for some time as a consultant to the company makes the retirement process less painful and facilitates a graceful exit. Cutting down hours, phasing in the company pension, job-sharing, and working at home — all variations on the gradual process of letting go — can help to cushion the shock that might otherwise come with an abrupt departure from work. The feeling of still being needed reinforces executive morale and promotes a positive attitude toward the future. Companies that build in policies such as these and help individuals prepare for departure give outgoing executives the opportunity to look beyond work and enhance their quality of life after retirement. Anyone who thinks that such a plan seems too idealistic, given today’s economic and social realities, should remember that sooner or later we are all going to have to let go of our professional tasks and ties. Intelligent and sensitive organizational policy should recognize that universal transition, building room and time into the organizational culture to deal with it. Helping executives depart with grace is good for the retirees, of course, but it has a positive effect on the working atmosphere as well, making the organization a better place to work. Companies have an obligation not only to the bottom line but also to the men and women who work for them. The high price that organizations pay when senior executives hang on beyond their ‘expiration date’ tends to be visible to all, and companies that address retirement issues often do so only to avoid that price. But the dark side of power-holding can strike anyone, from retiree to neophyte, with its ability to detach the individual from the realities of life outside, its diminution of a personal life, its tendency to warp the responses of both leader and followers, its propensity to enmesh a leader in isolation, and its over-reliance on external symbols of success rather than inner stability. We dare not forget that real aging comes not when we pass a certain birthday but when regrets take the place of dreams, when we desert our ideals. Worry, doubt, self-interest, and despair are the furies that destroy a person’s spirit. We need to go beyond Benjamin Disraeli’s lament that ‘youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.’ Retirement and old age may seem a long way off to many of us. But on the day they come, it will be too late to do anything about them. If we sow little but weeds at the height of our career, we cannot expect to harvest a valuable crop later. We need to own our own lives now and at every stage we enter; and that kind of ownership requires that we diversify our interests and keep on learning. As Aristotle once said, ‘Education is the best provision for old age.’ In addition to investing in new interests, we need to invest in meaningful relationships. In fact, that is the best investment we can make. If we want to create a pleasant ending to our life, we must make and cherish happy moments during earlier years. Possessing good memories gives us a sense of aliveness at any time, and memories offer a fine cushion in old age. If we plan ahead, value our relationships above all else, keep learning, and allow ourselves to let go, we need not follow the route of Warren Schmidt, the tragic hero of About Schmidt. Knowing how to grow old in a dignified way is what wisdom is all about, and wisdom rather than Schmidt’s regret can be our destination. When we accept that life is full of tension; when we are no longer tormented by childhood guilt; when we are able to pass up short-term pleasures for long-term values; when we are able to use judgment astutely and compassionately — then will we be on the road to wisdom. Attaining wisdom is one of the most difficult chapters in the book of life, but also one of the most rewarding.