Mind the Gap: Eric


Barbara is excited about being the President of her local REALTOR® Association. At age 54, she has a well-balanced career including a successful company, an outstanding volunteer life and a happy family. Barbara is on her way to the Association office with her power drink in hand: a grande, non-fat chai, no whip. Today is her first Board of Directors meeting as President.

Barbara arrives with plenty of time to catch up with colleagues while waiting to call the meeting to order. Tiffany, a new director of no more than 30 years old, is seated at the head of the table answering texts and emails. As the directors begin taking their seats, the latte is about to hit the fan.

Albert, a seasoned Board member, approaches Tiffany and says, “You are sitting in the President’s chair. Why don’t you find a seat further down the table?” Tiffany, is bewildered, but gathers her belongings and moves to another empty seat. However, her feelings of rejection stay with her throughout the meeting.

As the Association Executive, what advice do you give your President after the meeting to try to soothe the tensions between Albert and Tiffany?

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


In order to better comprehend the generation gap, it is essential that we become cognizant of the various values, viewpoints and influences that have shaped each generation. Discovering what makes them tick or shut down will be beneficial in managing productivity. However, be careful not to “close the lid” on the generational box and assume that because you were born in a certain era that you are a clone of it. Events, relationships and other variables influence our actions, reactions and understanding of the world around us. We can choose to enhance the positive or spotlight the negative. The choices we make cause us to expend time, energy and emotional resources that can sometimes be unpleasant and counterproductive if not managed according to expectations.

While I admire Albert’s perspective of respect for authority and honor of hierarchy, he actually thwarted the collaboration, self-confidence and realism that shape Tiffany’s Generation Y perspective. He should not have intervened and forced his views of leadership on her, but rather let Barbara handle the situation as President. Calling her out in front of the group and making her feel unappreciated is as unacceptable as Tiffany’s presumed lack of respect. Tiffany is most likely there out of encouragement from other members in the room. Her “seat” at the table is probably less important to her than her “seat at the table.”

Barbara, a Baby Boomer, is perfectly capable of voicing her opinion if she ever felt intimidated. Quite frankly, her generation shares the optimism and teamwork values of the Gen Y and probably admires these traits in Tiffany. However, Barbara’s reaction is probably a 50/50 because her generation also tends to respond better to attention and recognition. Chances are that Barbara might feel less “valued” if not at the head of the table, but her value of consensus building would probably have persuaded her to act more hospitable towards Tiffany—at least at the first meeting.

Tiffany, like her Gen Y counterparts, values achievement but has a relaxed view of authority. She feels encouraged by being elected to the Board. She would not have wanted to be a part of a group unless there were high expectations, a challenge and sense of independence. Tiffany should be coached to understand that the Silent generation is slow to change. But, the right environment can appeal to their desire for action even though Gen Y requires flexibility. Through proper coaching and mentoring, Tiffany will be able to overcome any temporary hurt feelings because this group is used to diversity, tolerance and confidence.

Promoting an environment where the different generations can interact is important if the groups are going to continue to work together. For the first time in history, we have four generations of Realtors active in the industry. Understanding the generation gap is critical if collaboration is going to be successful. Providing a cohesive environment, not necessarily the traditional space/office/board room is essential to cultivating a productive environment. The goals of Generation X in the workplace are balance and assimilation, with enough direction to be productive, but not so much as to be confining.

My advice to the President would be to remember that she has received the esteemed support of her colleagues by being elected to the office. She will better foster team support and unity by understanding that no matter where she “sits” at the table, the title of President goes with her and that leaders can be effective from most any location at the table. She may actually bring more people into the fold by going to a different seat at the table and making other members of the group feel even more included. She will grow by possibly seeing things from another vantage point. Join the activity. Maybe you can achieve more, maintain consensus and harbor complete collaboration by changing the “rules.”