I have always said that the first rule of retirement is “stay away.”
Throughout my career it was a bit heartbreaking for me to see retirees return to the workplace to see their old colleagues. In most cases the old colleagues don’t quite know how to react to this kind of drop in visit. They know the retiree wants to be reassured that the old place just isn’t the same without him ; that it is going to hell in a hand basket; and that his replacement is disliked and incompetent.
But that is almost never the case. One of the biggest mistakes employees make is developing a feeling of indispensability. The truth is when someone retires, the result is often an upgrade. It gives an opportunity for a younger, more enthusiastic, more energetic, and more tech savvy person to show their stuff.
I told myself when I retired I would not only stay away, I would move away. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to live in the community where you were city manager. So I moved from my old city in Arizona to a new city in northern California to be with my sons and my grandchildren. As a result I haven’t had to fight the temptation to visit city hall to be reassured that I am missed.
It’s been six years since I made the move, and while I never expected to be missed, I also never expected to be totally forgotten. Last month I had to call my old Human Resources Department to straighten out my retirement health care plan. I was delighted to get someone on the phone whom I knew and remembered (when I was city manager I had 2,000 employees and I made it a point to know everyone’s name). And she seemed to remember me … until she said, “Let’s see…what department were you in, Will?”
In addition to being humbling (which my wife says I need from time to time), this interaction re-confirmed my admonition to all retirees: stay away!
But then yesterday, out of the blue I got the following email from a retired police officer: “Will, it’s been a lot of fun following Will Unwound throughout the years. How did you really remember the names of our city employees? Yes sir, your heart was there for us as city employees. You were there when we needed you! Thanks a million for everything you did for us.”
Thanks, Bryan. I needed that. Perfect timing. Merry Christmas!