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Companies must find ways to retain middle-aged managers

Government and companies must find ways to secure the continued contribution of key experienced workers in their late middle-age, says a study sponsored by the ESRC. If early retirement options vanish, work itself may need to be restructured to harness the needs, aptitudes and talents of these older workers, say the researchers, led by Professor Lorna McKee of Aberdeen University Business School.

The project set out to explore the attitudes and experiences towards work, non-work and retirement of a sample of male, middle class managers and professionals in their late 40s and 50s, working in the oil and gas industry. It found that they represented a highly work-centred, productive generation who have invested long hours and much creativity in personal success, though often at a cost to their family life and involving gambling with their health.

Middle-aged men looked at for the study benefitted from an industrial and global success story of high profits and financial rewards. Many were pioneers in their field and derived huge personal satisfaction from their work, having been creative, industrious and well-remunerated for their efforts.

But the overall picture is mixed and at times full of contradictions. The risks of burn-out, stress and disenchantment with work were apparent. At times the corporate dream seemed tarnished, says the report. Growing work pressures and a sense that the company environment was deteriorating has led to a drift into self-employment consultancy as these men grow older.

Taking early retirement has become a legitimate way out which could lead to new freedoms and a reinvigorated working life. But it could also lead to inequalities of opportunities and new risks. Employers could dictate who could go and when, as well as determine differential terms and conditions of severance.

The dependency of self-employed men on the industry they had served was seldom broken, the research team found. Self-e
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Contact: Anna Hinds
anna.hinds@esrc.ac.uk
Economic & Social Research Council
24-Jan-2003


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