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What Can You Do When an Older Employee’s Performance Declines?




An employee is starting to show her age. She’s losing her hearing and becoming forgetful. She wants to work to age 68 — three more years. What do we do? 

This is a tough one. You want to be loyal, but you can’t afford errors or to allow other employees to see you tolerate them. The best strategy is to focus on performance, not the person. “Deal with issues for what they are — not for the reasons behind them,” says Kate Peterson, president of consultancy Performance Concepts. If your older associate mishears something and this leads to a problem, address the problem — regardless of the underlying cause. A person can deny their hearing is failing, but not the consequence. Consider investing in a retirement package, or employ the associate as a “goodwill ambassador.” If it’s time to part ways, ensure every detail is handled correctly. “You can’t terminate an employee for failing hearing … but if necessary, you can for continued failure to deliver to the job requirements,” Peterson says. 

Our optical business is three generations old and family owned. The problem is, we never formally settled ownership. Where can I find a mediator to help us with this problem?

In most major urban areas there are Centers for Dispute Resolution that have lists of trained mediators who do this type of work, but keep in mind that arbitration is binding, says Lauren Owen, a principal at Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching. Some of them are attorneys, some are former judges, some come from other fields. Again, Google is your friend, says Jo-Ann Sperano, a mediation specialist. “Google ‘mediation+services’ and ‘family law’ and see what comes up,” she advises.

One of our ODs is due to start maternity leave in about two months. Where’s the best place to find temporary ECP staff? 

Start with, which connects ODs looking for a little extra work (assignments can be as short as half a day to as long as a couple months). Also check out:,,, (AOA’s career center),;(the Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute’s board),;(a recruiting service),

Given that who you hire basically determines the success of your practice, you should also make a point to register with optometry school websites and your state and local optometric associations.

One of my sales people has asked me if I’ll take on her 16-year-old daughter as an unpaid “intern”/sales assistant this summer to give her some experience. What are the legal ramifications?  

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has specific criteria governing unpaid intern programs. Among them:

  • The internship is for the benefit of the student.
  • The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.
  • The intern cannot be guaranteed a post-training job.
  • If those conditions are not met, the intern is considered an employee and is entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. 
We have our 60th anniversary this year and have yet to come up with any good plans. Please help. 

The most common approach we’ve seen is to host an in-store event (“Remember 1957” theme, with ’50s attire and music) with discounts on merchandise that somehow reflect the occasion. So, in your case, you might invite 60 of your best clients and offer discounts of 60 percent on a range of goods. Make a special effort to reach out to long-time customers (a prize for the customer with the oldest receipt), and former staff members. Set up a showcase of vintage eyewear and ask old-time customers to lend you their old frames. And in the run-up, devote your sandwich board, email bulletin or social media posts to weekly historical highlights: “Flashback: March 15, 1957 top song, top movie, top news event.”


This is obviously also a great time to reinforce community links, so do something charitable, like a $6 or $60 donation for every pair of glasses sold that month to be split between local charities. Finally, get some recognition. Look into seeking local government support to have the date declared “(Your Practice’s Name) Day.” And don’t forget to invite the press. 

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2017 edition of INVISION.




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