No more corner office
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By Susan Hooper
Advertiser Staff Writer
In the past two years, the leaders of several Hawai'i corporations have turned out the lights in their corner offices for the last time.
The list includes Paul Casey, who resigned from Hawaiian Airlines in May after a planned merger failed; John Monahan, who left Liberty House in July 2001 after Macy's bought the retailer; Wayne Minami, who retired from American Savings Bank in May 2000; and Lawrence Johnson, who announced his resignation in August 2000 from Bank of Hawaii parent Pacific Century Financial Corp. amid shareholder concerns over the company's stock price.
The current activities of these fifty- and sixtysomething former captains of industry are as varied as their reasons for turning in their keys to the executive washroom. That's not surprising, say business consultants, because longer lifespans are extending the opportunity to work and the definition of retirement is changing.
Some of those who bid aloha to their jobs are enjoying what could be considered a traditional retirement, trading the daily grind for the chance to travel or pursue favorite hobbies.
Others have replaced one CEO business card with another. Mitch D'Olier left Victoria Ward Ltd. in June and went to the top spots at the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and its asset-management arm, Kane'ohe Ranch.
At least one former corporate leader, Randy Moore, whose departure from the Castle Foundation made D'Olier's move possible, headed in a completely different direction, switching from the boardroom to the classroom to become a public school teacher.
Some former executives may have trouble adjusting to life below the top rungs of the corporate ladder, no matter what their reasons for leaving their jobs, says Gary Farkas, a Honolulu corporate psychologist.
"People who have experienced the ability to marshall and control great resources in their career often have a lot of difficulty adjusting to an environment where they don't have that kind of responsibility, whether it's due to enforced retirement or retirement by choice," he said. "Certainly those people who don't have a choice may have more difficulty."
Several Hawai'i executives who recently left top posts have reached the traditional retirement age of 65 or are close to it. However, the phrase "retirement age" is increasingly elastic.
"The lifespan has increased so much over the last 30 to 40 years that people have the luxury of working if they want to, because many people's health is accommodating the desire to work," Farkas said. "Some people, given all the money in the world, will continue to work, because that's where they derive their happiness in life."
At the same time, Farkas notes, the definition of retirement is evolving, giving people options they may not have had a generation ago.
"There are different meanings of retirement," he said. "For some people, it means not to work. For some people, it means to find another line of work. And for some, it comes down to another line of work within the same career field."
Or, Farkas adds, "Do they completely switch their career field and do something they always wanted to do but were never able to ... ?"