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My Time by Abigail Trafford

For Older Workers, Bonuses Cut Both Ways

By Abigail Trafford
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page HE06

Randy Chambers, 61, of Worthington, Ohio, remembers the day he told his supervisor at Home Depot that he was taking a trip with his wife in a few weeks and would not be at work.

"I don't know if I can let you go or not," replied his supervisor, a man in his twenties.

"No, you don't understand," said Chambers, "I'm not going to be here."

The kid gave him an odd look, but very quickly his leave was approved. A year later, the same thing happened with the next supervisor, a young woman. Chambers told her that he and his wife were going to St. Louis.

"I'll have to get that cleared," she said.

So he said it again: "I'm just telling you I'm not going to be here."

This is not the boss-pleasing attitude of the typical worker. But then Randy Chambers is not a typical worker. He is the new Bonus Worker -- a person who has officially retired and is back in the workforce. But he's working on his own terms.

Key is control over his time on the job. He wants to work part time and have a flexible schedule. He also wants to enjoy the work. He is not in it for the money. At $11.70 an hour, this is no way to get rich, he says. But he has a pension after 34 years with American Electric Power, and his wife is working full time.

At this point in his life, he has nothing to lose. What are they going to do -- fire him? It would be their loss. He is a valuable salesman. He knows it. Home Depot knows it.

This mind-set is a radical challenge to corporate America as well as to volunteer agencies. Chambers represents a burgeoning generation of older workers who demand autonomy, flexibility and satisfaction on the job. In the power hierarchy of organizations, workers are supposed to submit to the will of management -- not the other way around. As Chambers said, when his last supervisor dealt with him, she "wasn't sure what rung she was on."

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