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Generational Wars: How to Keep the Peace When Cultures Collide Onsite

Generational Wars

When onsite conflicts arise between members of different generations, a proactive community manager can help bring people together.

The new community in the District of Columbia is what you imagine when you think of the slick, urban apartments that many developers are building around the country. With exposed concrete throughout the common areas, an open lobby with benches that provide plenty of space for residents who telework, a community room with pool tables and a rooftop deck with a huge television and great views of the city -- it offers something for everyone. 

In this case, everyone includes Millennials and Baby Boomers. And, according to one resident, that can present problems. As she was entering the elevator, the resident, a woman in her 60s, said she loved living in the building, except for one issue—the Millennials. She claimed they took all the spots around the pool and hosted loud parties.

This conflict is common, says Diane Batayeh, CEO of Village Green.

“When you have multiple demographic cohorts within one community it can be challenging to make everyone happy,” she says.

In fact, Tina West, Chief Operating Officer for Capstone Real Estate Services, says that working with a range of demographics and learning how to identify with diversity is a required skillset.  Emotional Intelligence also becomes a high priority in today’s culture.

“We are working with such a range of needs today from the Millennials, to Gen X to the baby boomers,” West says. “Finding opportunities to bridge the gaps is a top of mind issue.  From employers who are seeking best strategies for learning and work environments to our resident base where needs and wants to vary, we are tasked to be open-minded to a plethora of ideas.  It is not uncommon today to use your creativity with the types of events offered, the amenities in place or the way we communicate to residents.”

When it comes to resident and neighborly disputes, solving problems before they grow out of hand starts with the community manager.

“You have to have someone with the emotional intelligence to keep everyone open-minded, communicative and reasonable,” West says.

Typically, property managers know when an issue is emerging onsite. If they should somehow miss it, the situation will usually show up in online reviews.

“You are always going to have the one complainer no matter what you do,” says Vanessa Siebern, Vice President, FPI Management. “They are going to leave bad reviews. You must look for the themes in reviews versus one-off complaints. Once you start to see themes, that’s when you want to start looking for things that you might have missed.”

The best way to stop conflicts with residents is to eliminate them before they start. To do that, Batayeh, like many executives, suggests holding community social events. Village Green employs a Lifestyle Director at its communities. This person is responsible for surveying residents and developing and hosting onsite events.

“We generally find common ground among the various cohorts and bring them together to attend community events,” Batayeh says. “The main goal is to form bonds and relationships.”

When residents form these bonds, Batayeh says there is more flexibility and less complaining about their neighbors’ activities.

“Once residents get to know one another and become friends, they are more understanding of one another’s differences,” she says.

West also believes that community events can solve a lot of issues.

“[Residents] usually start to come together at these events,” she says. “When you know your neighbor, you’re more likely to be more forgiving [when there is a problem] because you have a relationship.”

The challenge for community managers is to find ways to get residents engaged with each other. “While the ever-popular movie nights, breakfasts on the go and other monthly activities remain a go-to, finding ways to bring people together for a cause can bridge generation gaps or differences,”

West says. “Look for opportunities to serve as a community—perhaps seek out holidays for outreach events, support a need or raise awareness for a cause the residents desire to support.”

Batayeh says barbecues, wine tastings with local restaurants hosting and doggie splash day can help bring residents together. “We allowed residents to bring their dogs to the pool the day before closing it for the season and let them jump in,” she says. “Of course, nothing is better than having the pets mingling to bring people together.”

West cautions that community managers need to have events that are geared to the entire community. Otherwise, they are just creating a wider rift.

“If you have an event that is geared to a younger group of residents, you might just add to the issues,” West says. “You need to cater to all of your demographics.”

Batayeh says one attraction at many of Village Green’s communities is diversity. When problems arise, the company’s onsite staffers will emphasize that strength.

“What we also find is that residents enjoy living with different age groups,” she says. “When [there is disagreement], we take that opportunity to remind them of that of our diversity and ask if they’d prefer a more homogenous environment,” Batayeh says.