Mind the Gap: Jennifer


Grace is a 68-year-old buyer’s agent. She is used to face-to-face interaction and the utmost professional courtesy. While she recognizes that times are a-changing, she still thinks all agents should follow a respectful code. Imagine Grace’s anger when Tom, a 30-something listing agent, did not follow through on several fronts of communication. He never phoned Grace to inform her that an offer (other than hers) was accepted and—even worse—Grace’s clients found out, over the Internet, the property was pending.

When Grace called Tom to ask him to return her offer package, he said he would at “his convenience.” A week later, with no word from Tom, Grace showed up at his office expecting her papers to be there. Rather than meeting Grace in the lobby, Tom told Grace via phone that he would e-mail them when they were found. He was disturbed that she showed up at his office.

You are Tom’s office manager and happen to know Grace well from your years in the business. How do you handle this simmering conflict so that your office’s reputation isn’t damaged while also giving Tom the support he needs?

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


If I were Tom’s office manager, I would respectfully discuss with Grace the next-generation methods where personal contact isn’t always the best plan of action. That contact is being transferred into other modes of communication, such as text messages, e-mails and phone calls. The days of three-martini lunches with business associates are being replaced by three-word texts. Of course, this is no excuse for losing an agent’s paperwork. I would recommend to Grace contacting Tom for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the missing paperwork.

As office manger, I would commend to Tom that he should get the property in escrow and then subtly ask him how he informed the other agents their offers were not accepted. How Tom does his business reflects on our office, so I want and need to make sure he is professional, even if it is not convenient or necessarily catering to other agents. Tom needs to be aware that some agents demand more follow through, and if that is requested, he should make an extra effort to appease them. If Tom states that it is better for his business to avoid personal contact in any capacity, that is his choosing, and that will be his reputation. Failing to respond to requests for missing papers is unacceptable, however, and for that Tom should either apologize personally to Grace or look for them in a prompt fashion, rather than at “his convenience.”

Becoming an expert on the generational tendencies may not be an exact science, but it is important to be able to read the person on the other end of the phone. Communication is a two-way street. One person’s right of way may run contrary to another’s. Understanding where each person is coming from is a necessary step that crosses all generations, making for an amenable solution.