Merge's Blog

Working with an older experienced employee? Seek a “non-compete” agreement

Back in September last year, I told you about Martha, an older more experienced employee who’d been in my department for a very long time AND who unfortunately carried a huge chip on her shoulder.  My reason for telling you about Martha was because her experience was most likely under-utilized and under-appreciated.  But it’s these very employees that can be a valuable resource to you and your department IF you can find a way to capitalize on their strengths.  Since I first told you about Martha, I’ve offered you a couple of ideas to bring out the best in such employees – specifically acknowledge their experience, and use them as sounding boards for new initiatives.  Here’s another approach – seek a “non-compete” agreement.

Let the Marthas in your world know that you have no desire to compete with them.  If you’re fairly new to the department or organization, it’s unlikely that you will have the same in-depth knowledge that your older more experienced employees do, so what’s the point of pretending otherwise?  Instead, try the direct approach: “I acknowledge and value the breadth and depth of experience you bring to our department, and I’d like to collaborate, not compete, with you.  Can I count on you for that?”  Now don’s assume that you’re going to get a positive response right away (you won’t), but at least you’re engaging your Martha in a dialogue, and that’s a step in the right direction.

So … what do you think?  Have you tried this approach and has it worked?  Do you have an alternate suggestion?  Do share.

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