Last week, I watched a video clip from a leadership speaker named Ed Cohen. He was talking about some of “not so obvious” implications of the current economic crisis on organizations. The one that I found very interesting was something he called the resentment gap.

Most companies have become aware of the impending transition in the workplace when the Baby boomers retire in large numbers over the next ten years or so. Some of the smarter companies have been actively preparing for this transition through success planning. They have been getting the next level leaders ready to step up and take over for these boomers as they leave. This transition was set to begin over the next couple of years.

But then the economy struck. Retirement savings have been decimated. The impact is that these retiring boomers are moving back their retirement dates. Instead of retiring in two years, it’s now five. Here is where you find the resentment gap. Those retiring leaders resent having to stick around. They have been preparing for a life of golf and travel, but instead they will be stuck in the office, watching the days pass and hoping the market improves so that they can leave. Not exactly your model for engaged leaders.

More significantly, those next level leaders who had been preparing for their shift at the helm are now being told to be patient. They are resentful of being asked to put their plans and dreams on hold until the obstacle (err, person) ahead of them decides to leave.

This could be really catastrophic in situations where that next level leader is a Gen X’er who’s already half skeptical about wanting the job. This is just more reinforcement that you can’t ever take “the man” at his word. Smart companies will keep very open lines of communication with all the parties and will orchestrate a way for the retiring executive to stay but move out of the way for the successor to begin the transition into that role.

We do live in interesting times, my friend.


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