Mind the Gap: Heather


SCENARIO

Norma loves getting dressed up. She remembers the 1920s themed party her Board did in 1973 and still revels in the moment of winning “Best Dressed.” Every event and meeting is a moment for Norma to show off her new styles.

Eric was a huge Nirvana fan in high school. He was the guy in high school who set the style with his ripped jeans and black t-shirts. Now that he’s been in real estate for five years after playing with a successful band, he’s comfortable in dark jeans, a button-up and a trendy jacket for membership meetings.

Norma sees Eric at a meeting and politely says, “Eric, in my day, my dates wore the most dapper ties you could ever imagine,” trying to strike up a conversation with Eric. He feels the voice of judgment from his grandmother coming back and immediately lashes out at Norma. Kate, Eric’s 21-year old buyer’s agent, discovers a stunned and hurt Norma crying in the restroom. When Kate hears the story, she immediately knows it was Eric.

How do you see this playing out?

Did you Mind the Gap correctly? See what Heather Ozur, NARLA 2012 Graduate, has to say:

CALIFORNIA – SOLUTION

Watching a 57-year-old man walk into a casual picnic dressed in Abercrombie and Fitch or Affliction can often bring internal giggles to Gen Xers, while the skinny jeans on a Gen Y male makes his grandma wonder about his gender identity.

Fashion has been a defining part of every generation. Workplace dress has seen a drastic evolution over the past 50 years. Casual Fridays were once rarely seen, ties on collared shirts were expected and Capri pants were something only to be worn at the beach.

Today, walk through the halls of any real estate firm, and you’ll see everything from full business suits, heels, hose and full accessories to dark jeans, designer T-shirts and Converse “Chucks.”

Boomers tend to be divided in the business fashion realm. As products of the “buck the system” 1970s, many had to conform to the Man when it came to attire. Some still hold onto the conservative business setting. Boomers are quick and kind to help younger agents understand appropriate attire for special events and meetings.

Silents tend to remember the good ol’ days yet still respect the fashion of today. In fact, many of them are seeing their fashion trends come back full circle in the Hipster style. Silents love to talk about the past with youth. It helps them keep in touch with that part of their lives.

Norma simply wanted to start a conversation with Eric. Perhaps a better opening would have been, “Eric, I love your look. It’s such a nice contrast from the men of my era.”

Eric completely overreacted. Perhaps climbing the ladder to get where he is, he has taken a beating. Grandparents have been tough on their Gen X grandchildren. Eric likely heard the voice of the past and lashed out. Still, Eric needs to control his reactions.

Kate, as a Gen Yer, completely gets it. Gen Y has a great appreciation for retro fashion but they also view Silents as heroes. Many of their great grandparents fall into this generation, and they have the utmost respect for them.

As Eric’s employee, Kate has to approach this situation carefully. She would be best served to assure Norma that Eric perhaps has a history of being judged, and he would never intentionally hurt anyone. Kate should approach Eric in a quiet spot and first ask him, “So, tell me about your interaction with Norma recently.” Once she hears Eric’s side, she should ask further questions that could facilitate him to understand how his reaction was inappropriate. With the right leading questions, Eric will likely reach out to Norma, with some nudging from Kate.