Q: I'm part of a small team where I am an informal leader based on seniority and expertise, and am planning to retire within the next year. I care about this company and my co-workers, and I want to make sure that my co-workers are prepared for my absence. The flip-side is that I don't want to be considered a "lame-duck" employee for months on end. Given this, when should I inform management of my planned retirement date?
-- Phoebe, 66, business analyst
A: Consider the benefits and risks of your various options.
At one extreme, you could let them know now with nearly a year to go. On the positive side, this enables in-depth knowledge transfer to your colleagues.
This would be especially beneficial if your team has tasks or deliverables that are on a periodic cycle, such as quarterly reporting.
You could fully transfer tasks you are currently responsible for and provide oversight, letting the new task owner work through any complexities, building comfort and ensuring a smooth transition.
At the same time, you are concerned about becoming irrelevant. Think more about that and whether it has practical implications. Are there decisions you currently help make that you would be excluded from?
If so, I wonder if your concerns are driven more by ego and less by actual need.
Or do you perceive a risk that they would decide that they don't need you and would push you out sooner than you prefer?
This would be an excellent reason to delay your disclosure.
Then think about your shortest feasible timing. It's probably longer than two weeks, a typical notice period. Count back from your imagined last day and list the steps that need to be done to figure out how much time you need.
This includes the types of work transfer we have already discussed.
Add in the administrative aspects of moving into retirement to make sure you are building in enough time for paperwork.
Get input from others who have been through this. This could include those with specific knowledge of you and your situation such as friends, family or your financial planner.
You can also learn from others who have written about their move into retirement, finding books or searching online for articles about the challenges they faced.
As you assess your options, keep in mind that the external environment, particularly the economy, could have an impact on your decision. If you need to defer your retirement, it may be harder if you have already given your company a date.
On the other hand, you might be excited about this next step and want to be able to be open about it. Consider the social pluses and minuses, as well.
While you are in this interim period, whether or not you have shared your decision, also spend time reflecting on and planning for your next phase of life. Think about the social, emotional and practical aspects of life outside the workforce.
Then, once you are fully prepared, you can have a sense of control of the situation, sharing your decision at a time that best meets your needs.