Mind the Gap: Scott
Frank, a 39-year-old broker, is teaching a class at his local association suggesting creative ideas to change the way some agents do business. Tracy, a 22-year-old agent in his office, is vigorously typing away on her smart phone during the class. Shelly, 61, a seasoned veteran and icon at the board, is visibly upset.
At a break, Shelly privately tells Frank that whatever Tracy is doing on her phone can wait until later. It is really distracting, disrespectful and inappropriate—and Frank should do something about it. He hears her out and then briefly checks his phone for messages before the break is over. Frank notices a push notification from Facebook; a post from Tracy saying, “In an amazing class that my broker Frank is teaching. I’m learning a ton.”
Tracy tells Frank before the class starts again that she is getting comments from friends in the business who wished they were at the class. She feels good that she is actively participating in the association. Frank is not sure how to address the situation because of Shelly’s comments to him earlier.
What should Frank do to help both agents feel better about the conflict and understand the other agent’s point of view? Why do you think Tracy, Shelly and Frank all view the same situation so differently?
Did you Mind the Gap correctly? See what Scott Lalli, NARLA 2012 Graduate, has to say:
UTAH – SOLUTION
Perspective is a funny thing. An action that may be offensive to some could be considered helpful by others. Why? Perhaps the mix of multiple generations that are intertwined in our lives, particularly in the workplace, provides some explanation. We know that many factors influence human behavior. Some are inherited genetically, while other traits are learned and shaped by our surroundings. Because of these influences, certain distinctions can emerge that characterize a generation. Of course this doesn’t mean that those characteristics apply to all people just because you were born between certain years, but it does help us understand a group of people in a general way that tend to express similar views, traits and opinions.
In this discussion scenario, we can see perceptions at play when looking through the lens of a particular generation. Frank, a Gen Xer is wedged in between the lenses of Shelly, a Boomer, and Tracy who is Gen Y. Boomers tend to be dominant risk takers and may have some entitlement issues. They tend to be workaholics who have sacrificed for the greater good to feel like they belong to something. Shelly has put in a lot of time and effort with the association and may feel that both she and the association deserve more respect than Tracy is showing.
Tracy doesn’t see it that way at all. Tracy grew up with social media and believes that most things should be social and collaborative. Sharing information during a meeting using Twitter or Facebook is second nature to her and not intended to be disrespectful in the least. Perhaps it doesn’t even cross her mind that Shelly may feel this action is disrespectful to the association as Generation Y tends to feel that institutions in general are irrelevant and individual relationships are more important.
Being pragmatic and practical is a trait of Gen X. That is why Frank finds himself in a little bit of a quandary. He can relate to both Shelly and Tracy and wants to find a solution to resolve the issue. Gen X also tends to be accepting of diversity, so he may be less rigid than either Shelly or Tracy in his opinion on who is doing the “right” thing here. Most likely he just wants to hear both Shelly and Tracy say that the class was good and that he did an excellent job. Being driven by recognition is also a trait of Gen X.
A group that was not specifically addressed in the scenario was the traditionalists or the Silent Generation. They are referred to as the Silent Generation because they tend to internalize things. They may not have said anything at all, but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have had an opinion on what was going on. This is the generation that is always willing to attend a meeting and to serve in an organization. They tend to be slower to accept change, so they may not have liked the content of Frank’s discussion and might be slow to accept Tracy’s belief that sending messages on her phone while Frank is speaking is actually helpful.
As earlier stated, these generalizations do not apply to everyone, but it does lend insight into certain behaviors and how others see things. It helps us all to understand that we all have different points of view that are developed from various places. For us to transcend those differences and truly communicate and collaborate it helps to take a second and understand why another person may be behaving the way they are. Once we understand that, we can better adapt our communication style to help facilitate our interactions. Will we ever all be on the same page? Probably not. But knowing about the traits displayed by the different generations can help us understand each other a little better. And that is a good place to start.
So, what should Frank specifically do to help Tracy and Shelley bridge the gap?
The answer depends on the relationship Frank has with both Tracy and Shelly. If Frank has a good relationship with Shelly he could privately explain to her that Tracy is actually engaging in the class in a way that is familiar to her and her peers, tweeting and posting, hoping to give Shelly a different perspective to look at. Shelly may realize that this is less about a lack of respect and more about interaction in a different way than she is used to. Being a friend and in Franks office, Frank may choose to ask Tracy to hold off of posting info on her phone until there are breaks, explaining that there are some in the room who view posting during a class as disrespectful, even though that is not Tracy’s intent. Frank could let Tracy know that he appreciates the kind comments and that he recognizes that her posting in class is in no way intended to be disruptive or disrespectful.
If he has little or no relationship with one or either of these people, he may simply address the group in a general way. He might start off after the break by saying that he appreciates everyone’s attentiveness thus far and that he has even noticed that some have posted comments on Facebook or tweeted out info about his class. He could further add how interesting it is that we all learn and interact in different ways. Some take notes, some just listen quietly, some tweet or post. Perhaps in a general but subtle way, Tracy and Shelly will recognize the diversity of the group and be a bit more tolerant of each other’s behaviors.