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mature age workforce



Are you engaging your mature workforce? Robyn Vickers-Willis provides insights into the engagement and motivational drivers for people entering ‘midlife transition’

Mention the term ‘midlife crisis’ and it is likely to instigate jokes and stories about flashy sports cars, young blondes and endless hours in front of the mirror. To use the word ‘crisis’ to describe a man’s experience at this time of life can be destructive to his own growth, for by doing so a mindset can be created that this is a thing to fear, to avoid, to repress. This stereotypical way of viewing men’s midlife change as a ‘crisis’ adds even further to men’s anxiety as they feel from within a need to make significant changes in their life. For between the ages of 35 and 50 their psyche is pushing them to do the significant inner psychological work of midlife transition. It is not only Australian men who are misled about the importance of psychological growth at midlife. For Australian women at midlife there has been such a focus on their physiology and biological functioning, and at midlife on hormonal changes in particular, their psychological development at this stage of life has been completely overlooked. What’s midlife change about anyway and why are understandings about this stage of life important to individuals and organisations?


Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychologist, coined the 48


term ‘midlife transition’ to describe the midlife experience for psychological and spiritual development that ideally occurs over an extended period of time of up to seven to 10 years in the middle of life. If navigated, it leads us to a natural and necessary passage to become a more complete human being. It is a time of the emergence of our shadow or our ‘unlived selves’. For healthy development in the first half of life we create a life and an understanding of ourself based on what parents, other significant adults, our peers, partners and society in general expect of us. As we learn that parts of us are not acceptable we repress them in our unconscious. For healthy development in the second half of life we create a life based on who we truly are and to do this we complete two main developmental tasks during a period of midlife transition. First, we find ways to look within to reclaim these repressed parts of ourselves as well as others we have never known. And second, we create a personal and professional life based on this fuller understanding of our true nature. Despite the necessity and frequency of psychological and spiritual growth in the middle years including midlife transition (roughly from 35 to 50 years) and middle adulthood (roughly from 50 to 65 years) the significance of supporting the workforce at midlife remains one for which leaders and organisations are, on the whole, lamentably ill prepared. Because of this, organisations may lose what they most need to retain. It is vital that organisations accommodate midlife change if they are to make the most of an ageing workforce. Some midlife change is triggered by external events: an executive faces an irresolvable values conflict

Human Capital magazine issue 10.08  

The magazine for people who manage people

Human Capital magazine issue 10.08  

The magazine for people who manage people