Fighting Apathy #3: Managing Respect in a Condo Association

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – community association managers – your Association’s Management – are the glue that hold an Association together.  Management is in the thick of every issue and challenge an Association has, working to resolve issues so that everyone has a happy and safe community.  This means they have the challenge of dealing with Owners, who on bad days can be disrespectful or downright insulting.  Management also has to deal with Boards, who on their bad days can be bossy and demanding.  Through this, Management must remain cool, and make sure that they are managing respect in a condo association – not losing respect.

Like most jobs that are “front line” customer service (and Management does so much more than that, too) – it is not a job for the thin-skinned or faint of heart.  But there is also an important distinction Management has – they are the ones who are paid to do the job.  Everyone else involved in the Association is a volunteer.  Management are the pros.  

Be a Positive Force

Management sets the tone for the entire Association.  You are the first line of fixing things for Owners.  You are the trusted advisors to the Board.  When Owners are screaming and Boards are being petulant, you must be a rock.  You must be Alfred from Batman.   You need to lead by example, be complete professionals, and not fall victim to the desire to dehumanize Owners.  

Alfred would be the best at managing respect in a condo association. But he's too busy fighting crime.
Alfred would be the best at managing respect in a condo association. But he’s too busy fighting crime.

What do I mean by “dehumanize?”  I mean mock, demean, or be disrespectful.  Language like: “So and so is such a raging jerk.  He’s an assole.  He deserved his denial from the Board.”  Even if the Owner completely deserves it – save the venting for home.  The problem is that Boards pick up on this negative attitude and start thinking poorly of the Owners they serve.  There are plenty of jerk Owners out there – but there are also just frustrated Owners.  Every frustrated Owner is not a jerk.  Let the true jerks show their own colors to the Board – your job is to present the facts.   If you’re disrespected, absolutely present that, but do it as factual presentation.  Leave out the editorial and don’t push Boards to think less of the Association – you don’t want them breaking bad.  

Foster Trust and Respect

Management has a lot of power and authority.  In a given “he said, she said” dispute between Management and an Owner, in the absence of hard evidence, the Board should be trusting Management.  When that trust begins to erode is when Associations run into big problems.  That lack of trust festers, and it festers quickly, and soon you’ve got a real mess on your hands.

Board members – you must recognize the challenging jobs your Management has.  You must empower and protect them.   You must make sure they have the tools to succeed and not tolerate abuse to them – nor from them – when it comes to Owners.   Management must bring their “A game” and you need to reward that behavior.

There's a reason Aretha Franklin's song is so popular.
There’s a reason Aretha Franklin’s song is so popular.

Owners – you must not shoot the messenger.  You must treat Management with respect, just as they should treat you.  If you have a problem, lay out the problem in a rational way and clearly identify what gets you back to happy.  Don’t rant, don’t rave – remember, jerks don’t get helped.  Give Management a chance to help you.  Nine out of ten times that’s what they want to do – because that’s their job.  

The key here though is that Management is the glue that binds it all together.  Management sees more of the community than anyone else and facilitates the relationships across the board.  The Board needs to set the tone for a respectful community, but Management must lead by example – Owners see Management more than they see the Board.  

Is your Community Culture Healthy?

If you’re a Board member – time for a quick gut check.  Are you managing respect in your condo association?  Is your Management delivering?   Do you trust them?   Have you seen an uptick in Owner complaints stemming from interactions with Management?  If you don’t immediately believe you’ve got good or great Management, then you need to start thinking about ways that you can improve the culture of your Association.  Because it’s on you to lead, and for them to act.  

Management – is your Board treating you with respect?   If they aren’t, you should think about how you can help them establish a more respectful relationship.  Talk to them about how to improve things and why you feel you don’t have the tools to succeed.  These conversations are tough, and I know you don’t want to lose a client, but you need to make sure you have respectful boundaries.  It will only get worse and then you WILL get fired – or you’ll quit.  Try to not let it get to that level.

Owners – do you feel you have a respectful relationship with Management and the Board?  Will they react professionally to your needs?  If not, you may need to start getting involved in your Association.  If the current Board members won’t get the job done and run the Association the right way, maybe you need to get involved and find a way to run things better.

In Conclusion…

Ultimately, respect is one of the bedrocks of any effective relationship.  If you’re not cultivating a respectful culture within your building, you’re doing it wrong.  While Boards must lead – that is their job, and Owners need to be respectful and courteous, at the end of the day, Management is best positioned to lead by example and show the Association how to be a positive place.  After all, this is your place of work, so you’re well-served by ensuring it’s a pleasant environment!


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