Category Archives: Retiring

The Assistant (No More?)

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

For years I worked for an executive who was very high-powered and
driven. Over time he began to lose his ability to do his job well and
eventually sold the company to younger folks. Five years later they
have paid him off and bought him out and essentially retired him. But
because he doesn’t know how to do nothing he has come up with a
plan that he started out calling “middle class services,” a name I have
convinced him to abandon. His theory is that double-working
households need cheap labor to do all the errands and chores that
they don’t have time for during the week, so they can have some
quality time together. Great theory. But he wants to set up a college
dropout into business to provide the kind of services the kid provides
him to others. That means going head to head with established
concierge and care companies, of which I found several with excellent
reputations and lower prices than he is proposing, all in a two-minute
google search.

He wants me involved as the lemon-sucker and offering to pay for
my time. I think the kid is just nodding yes to the guy who pays him
now, and is too lazy to build a business upon. I don’t mind consulting,
but I do mind batting my head against a wall knowing it is going to
get bloody and bruised.

The Assistant (No More?)

 
Dear Assistant:

You can earn your keep as you did in the past: by being a truth-telling,
lemon-sucking consultant. Before anyone starts a business they need
several important thing. In rough order: an idea for a product or
service that people want; an idea that’s not already being sold by so
many people or so cheaply that there’s not room for more
competitors; enough capital to get the process going and to outlast the
start-up period; intelligent committed staff who are willing to work
extra hard without a guarantee of success; and sufficient
communication, bonding, and common vision among owners and
employees that the folks on the ground can tell the folks upstairs what
needs to change, and the folks with the money can decide how much
they want to commit.

 
In this case, either you or the proposed employee can research the
market and suss out who is already providing those services. The
would-be entrepreneur may falter at your news. If not, he should take
a couple pages out of the multi-level- marketing playbook. That means
identifying all possible people he could approach or the erstwhile
employee could approach in his name to say, Hi, so-and- so has been
employing me to so x, y, and z and thought you might want a personal
assistant too. If he can connect with enough folks who will pay for his
time to fill up the FTE he is willing to work, you’ll quickly be able to see
if he is cut out for marketing and working. But if he’s just looking for a
middle management paycheck, it’s a great time to learn that you don’t
get to the middle till you start at the bottom.

Stretched Thin

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Help me out of a pickle. When I worked, which is until I retired a year
ago, I was the contracts manager for a small company. I worked
primarily with two people: the president (who is now a consultant to
the same company) and with a man who was like my twin brother. We
saved each other’s lives emotionally more often than I can count when
working with the president got rough. I just walked into two vmails:
one from former coworker who’s managing a contract with my ex-
boss, and one from the ex-boss. They disagree about how much
money he should get on a project and what he should do. Each is
calling on me for help but nobody’s paying me yet for my insight and
advice. My sympathies are with my co-worker, but there’s a lot of
complicated history, and my ex-boss hinted he would pay me to be his
negotiator. What should I do?

Stretched Thin

 
Dear Stretched Thin:

You have a variety of choices about how to respond to each. The
simplest is to politely return both phone calls and say, You know I’m
really enjoying being retired. You two are going to have to learn how
to talk to one another without me. Say what needs to be said, and
keep talking until you agree. Option two is to decide whom you
genuinely like better, and if you can afford to let go of the relationship
with the other. That changes what you say on the calls. If you have
any interest in working for your ex-boss again tell him you’re happy to
serve as his contracting agent but here’s your fee. Make it high
enough to compensate for hazard pay. If you prefer to help your friend
and say the hell with the money, then tell your ex-boss No thanks, and
tell your friend your opinion on how to manage the work and the ex-
boss.

 

Even if you help solve this contest, everyone needs to recognize this is
a one-time pass, and that in the future you will politely decline to be in
the middle of any such dramas. Your simplest answer both of them is
really this: You know working together was great but retirement is
even better. I’m sure you can work this out. Your voicemails reminded
me how much I prefer my watercolor class. Good luck!!

Craving Space

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m a teacher who is returning to work this week. My husband is recently retired,
and suffering from the lack of social contact that he got from his colleagues. In
summer, when he had me around all day, we did a great many things together.
But when I would go off and visit my girlfriends or do volunteer work, I could tell
he was restless and overly needy when I got home. When I walk in the door after
teaching I need some time to decompress before I am ready to be social or to
take care of him. I simply cannot absorb or fulfill all his emotional needs. Ideas?

Craving Space

 
Dear Craving Space:

Your hubby needs something to occupy not just his time but his
mental energy so that he has something to share with you when you
are together, so he’s not so needy that he pounces on you the second
you walk in the door. Consider: projects like things to do around the
house, a new hobby, volunteer work of his own, or to enroll in classes.
I always suggest having a signal (beyond Hi honey I’m home.) as a
cue that you are ready to interact. Even 10 minutes to put down your
purse, check the mail, make a cup of tea, and exhale can be enough to
reset your mood.

 
I suggest a family planning council where you sit down and talk about
a typical week. Map it out on the calendar, where you block out all
your commitments and obligations, as well as the things you would
like to do in your leisure time, both with and without him. Then ask
him to do the same. Hopefully the yawning void will inspire him. If not,
talk about things he “has always wanted to do,” whether it is learning
a foreign language (perhaps in preparation for a future trip) or a new
skill. Perhaps his former profession is useful to some non-profit in a
volunteer capacity. Help him get excited about possibilities, and
remember there’s always going to the gym. That alone should make
him look for alternatives, lol.

Benched

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

When I worked I was everybody’s go-to confidante. I’ve been retired
for six months and my life feels very empty. I know my stories but I
miss being involved with other people. I definitely don’t want to work
again, but I miss the camaraderie of shared enterprise, the
competition and the challenge, but mostly the sense that I am on a
team and that people value and rely on me. What’s the best way to
get that back, if I’m willing to invest ten hours a week, not forty?

Benched

 
Dear Benched:

Virtually every community newspaper runs a column called some
variation of Volunteer Opportunities where the non-profits in the area
run enticing little summaries of the chances to do good and help out
fellow citizens. My guess is that if you look there or google non-profit
+ the name of your city, you will find a range of places that would
welcome your ten hours a week, or even five, and that would afford
you a chance to do everything from help in animal rescue to food prep
for the homeless. You’d be working along side other volunteers, retired
and not, and have a chance to engage with them in improving your
hometown. You could also volunteer your skills at the city’s senior
centers, where there’s always classes in everything from crocheting to
tax assistance. Whatever you are good at, someone else wants to
learn to do better.

 
If you prefer the intimacy of one-on- one contact, visit the care
coordinators of the various live-in retirement centers. Virtually every
one will have seniors older and needier than you whose children or
other relatives live far away and who are lonely. You can drop in or
give them excursion treats, to a concert or even take them shopping
at the mall. You’ll have to provide some bone fides so the folks in
charge don’t think you are some kind of predator. But once you
establish relationships you will discover a world of need that’s waiting
for your time and attention. Regardless of where you choose to help,
the more you give, the more you will receive.

Too Much Hubby

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My husband is driving me nuts. I’m a teacher who just finished term
and is facing a shortened summer. He’s about to retire. I am happy
enough puttering in the garden for part of the day to get some alone
time, but he is ALWAYS HOME!! His idea of doing something on his
own is to go for a bike ride. But a 65-year old guy with a bad back can
only be gone for so long. How can I get him interested in involved in
volunteering, taking classes, or doing anything that gets him out from
underfoot. It will matter in summer, but even more so during the
school year, because I have a four-day teaching schedule and many
Fridays off. I’m afraid I will kill him if he is home on a Friday.

Too Much Hubby

 
Dear Too Much Hubby:

Getting alone time in a marriage or any live-in relationship is hard.
Many of us have activities we go out of the house to do with others,
but that’s not the same as sitting in a chair or chaise with a good
book, unplugging the phones, and knowing the only thing that might
interrupt us is a pet looking for a treat. Your husband is probably a
little afraid of all the times on his hands as well, and you are probably
somewhat of a security blanket.

 
The bad back suggests that taking yoga or joining a gym is a great
place to start. As for volunteering, sit down with a list of all the non-
profits in your area and talk about which ones interest him. Perhaps he
has always had a secret yen to learn something; find him a class.
Suggest that he tackle the list of honey-do projects that every
household has. He will still be at home, but then your together time
can be more playful. You are going to have to be more patient than
you feel this summer, but by autumn you should have established a
routine that gets you quiet Fridays and evenings.

Mama’s Left The Building

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I worked long and hard before I retired. I was the administrator of a
small company and wore many hats. Over the decades people
acquired the habit of “Just ask Susan!” whenever they had a problem
that needed some, hell any, intervention. I played the role of human
resources manager, contracts manager, marketing manager,
administrative manager, executive manager, and on and on. Some of
the roles were what I actually got paid for but more were because
people became increasingly dependant on my ability to cut through all
the bull**** and use common sense to stop problems. Ever since I’ve
retired I have gotten lots of whiney phone calls. Not as often as when I
was M-F 8-5 but enough to disrupt my exercise and recreational
routines. I like these people but they need to grow up. What should I
say?

Mama’s Left The Building

 
Dear Mama:

You can deal with them one-on- one or as a group. I’d start with one-
on-one, but in a very consistent manner. If your former company is
like most others, there are groups of allies and cliques and as one
person from each circle approaches you and gets a similar answer, the
word will spread. If necessary you could send a group email, but it
seems like overkill for the short-run. But of course it’s not my phone
that’s ringing with needy whiners.

 
Caller ID is great. Let people leave messages rather than delivering
the no thank you news voice-to- voice. Then respond with an email:
Dear ____: Thanks for the call. I’m sorry you’re having a problem with
______. I’m actually retired, but here’s my two cents about where to
start. Use your common sense. Talk to the person on the other side of
your problem directly. Ask what’s they key issue preventing closure
and be prepared to disclose your own. Keep talking until you identify
an option that’s acceptable to both of you. If you can’t, go to [Big
Boss]. Either s/he can fix it, or you can suggest hiring me. My new
consulting rate is $50-$100 an hour. I have faith in you to choose the
right solution.

Don’t Want To Drown

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a plan to retire after thirty years of supporting myself as a
single parent and a working wife. Though my husband’s teaching job is
officially temporary, we think he’ll eventually get formally hired. To
hedge our bets I have made a deal with my boss to allow me to go to
half-time this summer, and take a year to train my eventual
replacement. I know there are a zillion unemployed people. How can I
winnow the flood of applicants I expect to receive?

Don’t Want To Drown
Dear Don’t Want to Drown:

Set up a formal job description. If your company has a website, post it
along with the ad that you will also place on hiring boards and in the
newspaper. Specifically outline what are the minimum qualifications.
As you get applicants, winnow as you go. Those who lack the
minimum quails should go immediately into a No pile. Those with quals
and experience that are very far out of league ob the high end should
go into Maybe, because they night desert you if something better
comes along. Be sure to identify a salary range for the position, with
the note: salary based on experience. Request salary history along
with a cover letter and resume. Ditto a writing sample if it is relevant
and transcripts if a college degree matters.

 
Once you have a pile of strong Yeses, conduct a 5-10 minute phone screening
with each of them. Ask anyone who makes the cut to send you references,
professional not personal, and say you may prescreen those before the in-person
interview. If the applicants have too many jobs in a short time you may be
legitimately forewarned. Ask each person about each job, what did you like most
and least. Ask what their fantasy job would be and what they hope to be doing in
five years. For some, 5 minutes may be more than you can bear. For those you
like, 15 won’t be enough. If you get to 15 minutes and genuinely like the person
you are talking to, they get an in-person interview. In a situation like you are
describing, after actual qualifications to do the work, fit is all.

Pinch-Hitter

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I worked for the same employer for almost thirty years. For the last
twenty I was the Human Resources Manager. That entailed monitoring
the emotional well-being of a staff of seventy-five, as well as ensuring
that shoot-from- the-hip executives did not land us in legal hot water
by making unenforceable promises, setting bad precedents, or hiring
disastrous applicants. I did a great job and was appreciated and well
compensated. I retired two years ago, but now realize that it would be
nice to have more money than I do. I have a chance to do some
consulting for a very up-and- coming business (in a completely
different industry) doing a survey of staff satisfaction and identifying
problems lurking beneath the surface. I seem to have parked my mojo
with my alarm clock. Do you have any tips fro finding or recreating it?

Pinch-Hitter

 
Dear Pinch-Hitter:

You’re like the actor who played only one role for your whole career
and fears you’ve forgotten that what works for that role will also work
for others. Here’s the bottom line: What made you good in your old
job will make you good as ac consultant. While you may have had a
network of established relationships that you relied upon in your old
job, when you walk in the door as a consultant you will be wearing a
cloak of competence and insight that will invest your presence with
authority. If the folks who own this new company are paying for you,
people will have an incentive to cooperate.

 
My suggestion is simple. Grab a clipboard and a bottle of wine. Spend
an afternoon/evening or two reviewing the highlights and low points of
your former career. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Which
situations you saved the company from harm and which were
intractable problems that kept causing hassles for the owners and
managers. These are not unique to one company, industry, or set of
people. Develop some simple checklists and questions that will help
you quickly get insights in the new company. Before you begin, ask
the manager who is bringing you in the door whom s/he considers the
most and least reliable sources of insight and information. Start with a
few of the best sources but don’t work all the way top down. Sprinkle
your interviews throughout the company. Keep them short and
informal, and let folks know you will be circling back. Promise
confidentiality so that people feel safe talking to you. Then tell the
manager what s/he needs to know. My guess is that you will love
doing this and have lots of fun. If not, do something else for more
money.

Have Perspective

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m semi-retired. I had a job I loved until the last minute of my
farewell party. Since then I have embraced retirement with gusto. I
have a happy mix of exercise and volunteer work, family and friends,
and enough money to be comfortable, if not extravagant. My former
employer is going through some major changes and they’ve asked me
(the former administrator) to consult with various levels of staff to
enable a smooth transition. My problem: the employees see things
that the managers do not. The managers are paying me, but seem
completely resistant to input they don’t want to hear. As my brother
used to say, The Nile’s not just some river in India. (Get it :-)??) I
wouldn’t mind earning the consulting income, but it feel like I’m
chasing my tail. What should I do?

Have Perspective

 
Dear Perspective:

Immediately sit down and write an interim report on your findings.
Submit it to the managers with section headings that go roughly as
follows: Corporate Transition Context; What You asked Me to Do;
Management Perspective; Staff Perspective; Issues Where Perceptions
Don’t Line Up; Options for Intervention. This last category should be
intentionally broad and hyperbolic, including the options of Fire
everyone who won’t do what management says to Change our goals to
what employees suggest. Only you can know if you want to commit to
making specific recommendations, I’d suggest that you do, if only to
make it clear that you have formed an opinion. Submit an invoice for
your consulting time so far and try to avoid getting sucked into more
work until you’ve been paid.

 
The hardest problem you will face will be deciding how much more
effort and time you want to invest in this venture. If you are truly
happily retired and don’t need the money, consider carefully how long
you want to be on tap for other people’s work lives and competing
perspectives. There’s an endless source of discontent in most
organizations. If management is willing to listen to your
recommendations, you should be able to train an internal person or
another consultant to implement them. If they won’t honor your
opinions, take your money and run.

64 (But Who’s Counting?)

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I recently retired from a job of two decades. I care a lot about the
people I used to work with, some of whose lives are in major transition
(divorce, pregnancy, home-buying, etc). I’m not really used to
retirement yet, though I do have hobbies, a house that needs
attention, and a body that needs exercise. But I miss the regularity of
a daily schedule, the social networking that comes with the Hellos and
How are yous? of an office, and the updated news of the people I care
about. I’m tickled to have left behind office politics and deadline
stress. But my life feels flat and uninteresting. And I don’t want to feel
or become useless. I see long decades stretching in front of me. Do
you have any advice about the transition?

64 (But Who’s Counting?)

 
Dear 64:

The best advice I’ve heard given to the newly retired is not to make
any big commitments right away, where right away has been anything
from a few months to a year. I’m sure a year sounds long in your
case, but a bigger danger is filling up your life so quickly that you
never have time to reflect on how to create a new way of living.

 

A couple of simple suggestions: Keep in touch with the people you
care about from your former job. Talk about their personal lives and
stay in touch. But if the conversations turn to the who-did- what-to-
whom of office politics, put a quick end to that part of the
conversation. Set up a code word. Perhaps something absurd like
Tofu! That you or the friend can use if you skate too close to the edge
of involvement. It won’t last forever but will help in the short run.
Then set up a semi-schedule for your life. Book no more than fifteen
hours a week for things like time at the gym or walking with personal
friends, or taking a class in something you care about. Make lists of
the projects that are calling to you (or that you’re avoiding).
Everything from inventorying hobby supplies to planning a new
creative project. Separately, assess your house and home priorities.

 

 

Review your finances and see if you need to make lifestyle changes to
match your new income. (One common trap is to fall into shopping as
a hobby.) Leave yourself open time and space to read and take a nap,
and occasionally just be lazy. Slow down your life so you are not
measuring against deadlines. This will help encourage a long view that
opens up new possibilities. You might volunteer more, join a local
choir, acting troupe, or senior sports team. Look for ways to connect
with people you do not yet know, especially peers who are in a similar
phase of life. Virtually every retired person says after six months, My
life is so busy and full I have no idea how I ever had time to work.
Enjoy!

My Turn

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I&'ve been a cantor/rabbi for more than 30 years. You can imagine the
hours: 24/7 for decades. People asking for everything from weddings
and funerals, hospital visits, speaking at community events,
committee meetings, b’nai mitzvah tutoring, plus my regular duties at
Talmud Torah and services. My wife and I have taken some vacations,
including congregational trips to Israel, but now I want time for me.
Unscheduled, uncommitted time to figure out what I want to do more
of, which includes playing my cello and perhaps taking up watercolors.
I love Friday night services but don’t want to feel obligated (note: the
new rabbi doesn’t sing as well, sshhhh). How can I convert myself
from a public citizen into a more private one?

My Turn

 
Dear My Turn:

By learning to say some simple phrases like: I can’t commit to that
right now. I’m sorry, I’d love to, but I am practicing saying “Not this
year, even for you.” It’s the new rabbi’s turn. And so on.
The classic dictum for new retirees is to take the first year without
making any big commitments. Most people, fearing big stretches of
time looming, over-commit too soon and find themselves as busy after
retiring as they were before. Perhaps even more so. I suspect your
wife will echo what I am saying, as she’s probably sacrificed a lot of
family time over the decades.

 

Plan a trip for the two of you (and your children if you have them) for
shortly after you retire. When you return, tell people you are taking a
three-month absolute sabbatical and will make zero commitments when
it is over. As you ease back into regular life, spend some time each day thinking
about what you miss and what you do not. Offer to sing at services perhaps once a
month, so that you have access to that well of good feeling. Resist any
attempt to get you to commit to other regular commitments. Revisit
your priorities ever few months. The big picture will emerge and
people will adjust.

Not Indispensible

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a protégé from work whom I really like. I did what I did for a
long time, with no one to train. I thought what what I did was not a
transferrable skill but it turns out that with someone with the right
personality and aptitude, and with changes for the better in the
organization, that I can bring her up to speed. I am being paid as a
consultant to do it, but not at the vast quantities of time she is
draining from my life. She’s bright and has good instincts, but is young
and inexperienced. Is there a way I can structure a downsizing
program for myself that will help them, help me, and help her?

Not Indispensible

 
Dear Not Indispensible:

It turns out that none of us is indispensible. That’s the good news and
the bad news. The really good news for you is that your old company
is willing to pay you to train the protégé/replacement. The bad news is
that she needs more help than they may pay you for. You need to set
up a weaning program for her, much as a mother has to train a toddler
that breast milk is no longer an on-demand process. The process
should be a lot less painful than for you than for a mother, because
you won’t have nights of crying and fussing.

 
I suggest setting regular access times for check in and sending her an
email every morning about we you are and are not going to be
available. Perhaps the company would pay for a block of time for you
to sit and make list of the primary responsibilities, and then she could
record you giving her advice as you go down the list. That limits you to
what others might hear, and you might prefer to be completely candid
about what works, what doesn’t and ides for change that you might
not have been able to implement when you had the job. But the really
good news is that you can pick up some pocket money helping out,
and enjoy the process of mentoring and empowering someone else.

Ex-HR Director

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I recently left a job I&'d held for almost 20 years. Virtually everyone
who works there is someone I recruited and hired. I know and like
almost all of them. But it seems that without my presence human
relations and communications are falling apart. I&'m getting calls
weekly from various contenders in departmental dramas, all of whom
seem to think I can still fix everything. How can I maintain friendly
contact but not get sucked back into the reasons I left?

Ex-HR Director

 
Dear Ex-HR:

You have a responsibility to your former employer and to your ongoing
friends to be honest with them. To virtually everyone who calls with
tales of woe you need to say the same thing: I empathize. I
understand these are difficult personalities and issues, and that the
solutions seem as impossible and intractable as they did when I
worked there. But you need to talk directly to So-and- so. If necessary,
you need to call on [name of your replacement] to help.

 

You’re a well-established habit and, as we all know, habits are hard to
break. The problem is that if they continue to rely on you, either to
make helpful suggestions or to vent, that they will not be able to
develop new functional patterns within the firm. Complaining, whining,
and arguing all have their place as tension release in organizations.
But they’re also a way to perpetuate problems rather than resolve
them. Unless you bear ill will towards any of the people involved, or
the organization itself, you need to lay low and butt out. If absolutely
necessary send an email to each of the dialers that says I miss you all
but not the drama. I’m happy to talk about everything from the
weather to your love life to your kid’s latest achievement. But for the
next six months I am taking a moratorium on everything that’s about
the substance of work. You might create some distance in friendships,
but that’s a necessary part of the transition if they persist.

Exit Speech

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m retiring after almost 25 years as the administrator in a consulting
firm. The company was almost bought twice by two big firms but the
deals fell through. Now some young mid-level managers have stepped
forward to try and keep the place together. Many of the employees are
in organizational whiplash because of all the different possible futures
and bosses they have had to juggle coping with. There are also all the
usual internal political and financial rivalries. I want to leave on a rah-
rah cheerleading note, but also to address some of the serious issues
that I think people will need to face. Can you please put some words in
my mouth.

Exit Speech
Dear Exit Speech:

If I were in commandment-writing mode, here’s some I might advise.
You can choose some or all, and don’t need to find some magic ten.
Speak from your heart and make it clear that you really care about the
people and the organization.

Try these:

Be positive: Change can be scary, but it’s time to develop
new responses to entrenched behaviors. Communicate often and
honestly: Talk to, not about, one another. Be creative: Develop new
ways to solve old problems. Support the new owners: They stepped
up and took a risk by buying in, so cut them some slack and help
them. Be collaborative: Think about the big picture and the whole
firm, not just your short-run or personal bottom line. Be
entrepreneurial: Develop broader working relationships within the
firm and you’ll develop new markets outside it. Value administrative
staff: They do many necessary and under-appreciated tasks. Respond
to their emails and information requests promptly and respectfully.
Say Thanks! and Good Job! more often: It matters both to say and
to hear. Be kind to your colleagues: They’re trying as hard as you
are. Believe in your collective future: Help make the firm the
thriving and successful place it can become.

 

End by saying how much you value each person. If you have a party
or get goodbye notes, send a personal email thank you note to
reinforce the messages. And me to you: I hope your retirement offers
you the time and space to pursue everything you’ve put on hold for 25
years.

Retiring Slowly

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve worked at my engineering firm for almost thirty years, starting as a mid-level
analyst and rising to a revenue-generating project director. I have seen this
company through huge cycles of change, in ownership, profitability, market
orientation, and staffing. I’m almost the last of my generation left, though there
are still two graybeards who may die at their desks. I’m in my second marriage,
and the job certainly contributed to the demise of the first.

 

I could retire but my wife works for our health insurance and I genuinely like what I do. So I negotiated a .25 FTE for 2018 (primarily reading project work plans and draft final reports) to see if it was possible to take a job with huge stress and frequent deadline-
imposed weekend sprints and turn it into a quasi-hobby while I develop some of
my former hobbies into avocations. I’m looking forward to making art, going to
the gym, and volunteering as a wine steward at the local jazz club. But people
don&'t seem to realize that reducing my FTE means I am not available 24/7 to
respond to emails or bail them out of crises, self-imposed or thrust upon them by
clients. It’s Monday at 9:00 (not an official workday for me) and I’ve already had
two “Helllp!!!!” calls and many more emails. Am I delusional thinking this will
work?

Retiring Slowly

 
Dear Retiring Slowly:

As you suggested, this is an experiment, and like most experiments, it may fail or
give you a result different from what you hoped for or were expecting. The critical
thing you need to know is that the burden of setting boundaries will rest
exclusively with you. Your colleagues are likely beleaguered and envious, neither
of which gives them any incentive to learn new behaviors. Like any form of
behavioral change– think recovery from substance abuse– both they and you will
need different patterns reinforced.

 
For them, have an auto-reply for your email and a message for your voicemail
that explains your new working hours and assures them that you will reply ASAP
with emphasis on the as possible rather than the soon. A clear conversation with
each is a good way to reinforce this, reinforcing that you are quality control on the
front and back end of projects but hands-off in the middle. For yourself, every
time you think about work, or responding to work outside your new hours, put a
two-minute timer on and then unplug from that world. When it&'s over put a
ten-minute timer on and think about your new life. Repeat until you are only thinking about wife, wine, workouts, and art.