JUST because you have been in the workforce for more than 30 or 40 years is no excuse to act any way you want to and do anything you want.
There is still a code of conduct you should adhere to.
Puan Sri T.D. Ampikaipakan, consultant and trainer of Ampi Skill Builders, says firstly, seniors should dress appropriately.
“Dressing is very important. The types of colours they choose, they way they dress, it should be appropriate for the office. This includes no sleeveless, no short skirts … the office is not a place for sexy clothes.
“It should be appropriate clothes, appropriate colours, and suitable for the climate. By suitable colours, I mean colours that suit your skin tones; it doesn’t have to be dark and drab. You can dress appropriately and nicely. For women, that means a touch of make-up and don’t dress in a sloppy manner, no plunging necklines ….”
She adds that how you treat people is also very important. As seniors when you walk into the office, you should be polite to everyone you meet and be an example to the younger workers.
“You’re telling the younger person not to bring their moods into the workplace, however frustrated or disappointed they are. You park your moods outside and come to the office and be professional.
“The older people need to share information because they have travelled, they are knowledgeable, they have worked through the system, they have gone through life, they have brought up children, they got married, some have divorced, they know what the feelings are like – imagine the wealth of emotional expertise and experience that an older person has.
“Seniors should always keep in mind that they are role models for the younger ones. I think that is their largest role.
“If older people can recognise that they’ve gone through the whole gamut of life, of emotions and working with various people – arrogance, egoistic, smart alecs, idiots, people who have no ethics …. If they have worked with all kinds, how much of knowledge and information, they would have. Why can’t they pass it down by behaviour?”
She advises seniors to always remain professional.
“It is the seniors who can teach the juniors what professionalism is all about,” says Ampikaipakan.
She says that this would include not griping about the company to colleagues. Seniors, she says, should teach the young employee to fit in rather than complain about the company.
“Social etiquette in the business world still applies. The golden rule of business – do unto others as you would like others do unto you. You treat everybody with respect. Respect is earned and not demanded. Respect authority. Work professionally. These are the basic tenets of business ethics and business etiquette.
“What does professionalism mean? It doesn’t matter what your personal preferences are or your personal influences are about people, you treat the person the way you would treat a normal person during a normal day at work. That means, if you don’t like your boss, when you are talking to your boss, your voice has to be of an even keel, you have to talk about business, none of your facial expressions should show that you don’t like your boss. The way you speak to him, there should be no undertones of aggression. It’s hard, but it can be done,” says Ampikaipakan.
Look in the mirror
She emphasises that senior citizens should leave their personal and health issues at home. It is bad enough if you harp on the fact that you had a heart bypass or that you’re going through menopause. It would only be worse if you used your health issues to skive off work or avoid more work.
If senior citizens find that nobody is listening to them at the office, Ampikaipakan says they should examine themselves first to find out why nobody is listening to them.
“You have to internalise and think why doesn’t anyone listen to you. Are you a nag? Are you only talking about your illness? You need to make sure you’re not still making the same mistakes.
“Then if somebody is having a fun conversation, just ask if you can join in. Nobody is going to say no. Just join in and contribute,” she adds.
Just like the younger ones shouldn’t think that the world owes them a living, it is the same with the seniors.
Ampikaipakan says senior citizens should not expect allowances and leeway just because they are older.
“I wouldn’t expect them to behave like the youngsters. I would expect them to behave their age. They don’t have to look or behave old but they have to have a certain amount of decorum.
“Life doesn’t stop because you’re old; age is just a number. If you have the energy and the willingness to push yourself and to learn, and not be selfish and impart knowledge, the world will be a wonderful place,” she concludes.