Episode 165.5 – Green Apple Slice


Redefining Yourself When You No Longer Have Your Work Identity



The Green Apple Podcast does weekly “Green Apple Slices”, where John Garrett and Rachel Fisch discuss a recent business article related to the Green Apple Message. These shorter segments are released each Monday, so don’t miss an episode by subscribing on iTunes or an Android app.

This week, John and Rachel discuss a Courant article, “What Next: Redefining Yourself When You No Longer Have Your Work Identity” by Sarah Wesley Lemire.


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    Good morning. It’s John Garrett coming to you with another episode of Green Apple Slices this Monday morning with the Accountants and some things for Sage — golly, I’m terrible at this. What is it again?

    Rachel: Accountants & Alliances for Sage Canada.

    John: Alliances.

    Rachel: Yeah.

    John: I’m just going to look up all A words and just throw out two of them.

    Rachel: Sure.

    John: Accountants & Alliances for Sage Canada, Rachel Fisch.

    Rachel: Hi, John. How are you?

    John: Great. Really good. Fresh back after that intense TV shoot, which is really fun.

    Rachel: Awesome.

    John: Yeah. Then I had an event in Saint Louis. That was fun too.

    Rachel: Oh, very nice. I am home until after Christmas, if you can believe that.

    John: Wow.

    Rachel: I know.

    John: Holy cow. What are we going talk about?

    Rachel: Oh, gosh. I don’t know.

    John: Well, we could start talking about this article then. We’ll do that.

    Rachel: Sure. Let’s just get to it.

    John: Yeah. It was an article by Sarah Wesley Lemire. It was “What Next: Redefining Yourself When You No Longer Have Your Work Identity.”

    Rachel: I was looking at this. I’m like, “We’re talking about retirement now?” I’m not sure how we can advocate for positive corporate culture in retirement, but I got it. Why don’t you tell everybody why are we talking about retirement, John?

    John: Well, when you no longer have your work identity — and the thing is that your work identity shouldn’t be all work. Your work identity should be your passions and interests outside of work as well. Therefore, when you retire, it’s not really that big of an adjustment because you’re not facing, “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to go do now. I don’t even know who I am anymore. Because I’m not an accountant anymore or a lawyer or consultant or an engineer,” whatever it is. What defines you isn’t your job. What defines you is you and probably more of your passions and interests. If you keep that as an identity, then that shift to retirement isn’t really that big of a deal.

    Rachel: That big of a deal, yeah. I mean I think it’s probably the saddest thing in the world when you hear people passing away like very shortly after they’ve retired. It’s like their whole body just has no idea what to do and shuts down, which is crazy. Or kind of conversely is then you hear retired people talking about, “This is the busiest I’ve ever been.” I’m like, “Is it like you’re afraid to be alone with yourself and so you’re taking on anything that comes your way to fill the hole that work did for 40 years or however much.” Can I just preface this by saying I am nowhere near retirement age. Be quiet. Shush. Don’t say anything. I’m like the younger person looking at what I see, so just a little bit of a caveat there. I haven’t certainly experienced this but I feel like I need a caveat.

    John: Right. John, however, has retired seven times or been fired, whatever it is, either way.

    Rachel: Oh, you’ve seen that too, right? When people tried to retire and then they keep coming out of retirement to take on special projects or to continue working. Then like, “Oh, no. I really do want to not work anymore.” They’re like, “Oh, but now I don’t know what to do so I’ll go back to work.”

    John: I think that’s the number one reason why succession planning is so bad at firms. It’s that the older people don’t want to leave because they don’t know what to go do. It’s like, “You know what? Go. You’re done. We’re done with you. You’ve done your work. You’ve put in all the work you can. You’ve done all your ideas. But you’re holding us back a little bit. You’re also not allowing younger people to develop and move up in the ranks.” If you make that transition smooth and overtime, then it’s pretty seamless. But if you just stay working there until you’d pass away, well, then that’s a pretty abrupt change in client service, in the firm and everything. Then the people don’t know what to do. I think that’s the number one reason why succession planning is so terrible. It’s that people don’t want to leave. It’s their whole identity. It’s sad. I mean I’ve had some firms that I’ve consulted with, some of the partners have said to me, “Hey, I’m going to retire in five years. I don’t know what I’m going to go do.”

    Rachel: Boy, you’ve got five years to figure it out.

    John: Right.

    Rachel: When I was at the AICPA Global Women’s Leadership summit in New York a few weeks ago, I was in a session with Jessica Porter who’s a gender scholar and consultant. Her session was specifically on negotiation, which I thought was really interesting. But one of the questions that came up at the end of the session was, “My father is the managing partner. We talked for years about me as the daughter coming up and taking over that role. Now that it’s that time, he’s pushing back really hard and not wanting to make that switch.” One of the things that I also thought Jessica said that was really wise was saying, “Then maybe there are other ways that he can contribute where he can almost be the face or the figurehead of the firm without having to do all of the work that’s involved in the managing partner role. Since those tasks have lightened up over the years anyway, then maybe it’s time to become founding partner where it almost feels like there is a little more permission to relieve some of those duties but to still have an element of importance. I mean that doesn’t fix what happens when he retires but it actually might, in this case, make the road to retirement a little smoother if there is value in that role.”

    John: Totally. Absolutely. Now, that’s a great idea. That’s a great idea. If you want to read some of the other ideas that were in the article, more about people that are adjusting to retirement and how to go about doing that, you can check it out at greenapplepodcast.com. The first line of the article, “What do you call a person who is happy on Monday? Retired.” That’s the first line. I say it’s the person that listens to the GreenApplePodcast. That’s who’s happy on Monday.

    Rachel: That’s right. Every Monday morning.

    John: That’s the answer. But, yeah. Hopefully everyone has a great rest of the week. Enjoy your time home.

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