Board Bully Tearing Your Condo Apart?

We’ve all been around them – the one person who needs to be heard, who always has an opinion and likes to make sure everyone knows it. But, what if this person is doing more damage than good to the overall effectiveness of your condo board?

The best thing for your board to do is understand expectations and codes of conduct right from day one. By laying these expectations out, you’re likely to curb “bullying,” along with clearly defining what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.  When your new condo board or new parts of the board first come together, realize that there will be a “conflict” stage. This is highlighted through the concept of “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing,” introduced by Bruce Tuckman. The jist of this concept is when groups first form, these are four stages they move through as they grow together. In forming and storming, these are when arguments, conflicts, personalities arise that must be addressed before a group can productively move forward. In your initial board meetings, when you’re all getting to know each person’s personality AND, for some, their individual agendas, it’s important that your board:

  • Learns how to communicate with the different styles on your team. Whether you use a Myers-Briggs or DiSC® type test, you want to learn how each person communicates and, just as important, absorbs information. In doing this, you’ll be able to speak to each other in a manner that each of you actually understands.
  • Finds each member’s individual strengths as this can help guide the specific roles and initiatives that each person takes on, ensuring that you have the right people doing the right jobs for the overall betterment of your building.

What about the bully?

If your board has learned how to communicate with each other, found each others’ strengths, and everybody is focused on a common goal, but there’s still that one individual who steamrolls their way through their own agenda, then it becomes about managing the bully.

First, each board bully is going to be different. Is your bully simply adding another point that is valid or are they just arguing to be difficult? Try to understand and empathize with the direction the bully is coming from. Differences of opinion should always be welcome and you should be protecting the person’s right to say it. Your board should create an environment where everyone’s voice is heard and listened to. If a voice feels like it’s not listened to – note that this doesn’t mean acted upon – then the person behind the voice will (often) look to undermine you and the rest of the board. The problem won’t go away, but become more tough and insidious to deal with.

HOWEVER, if your board has taken strides to have the bully feel heard, depending on the situation, you may have recourse to terminate them. That said, terminating a board member is not a grey area, so wanting to terminate simply because they are tough to deal with isn’t a strong enough reason, as laid out in the Condominium Property Regulations. If the board bully member has, without a shadow of a doubt, committed one of the following, then termination can be brought to the table:

  • Negligence
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Proof of financial investment / interest in decisions that are made WITHOUT disclosing this

If, the bully has not crossed one of these very defined lines, then you will not have recourse to terminate.

Don’t forget…we’re all just human

At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to agree to disagree, which is where having the condo board functioning on a democratic process of majority rules is preferable. After all, we’re all human and there are always going to be individuals who are harder to work with than others.

The best thing you and your board can do to avoid a board bully is to set up systems for:

  • Managing conflict
  • Clearly communicating this process
  • Let every opinion be heard and acknowledged
  • Democratic approval

Board bullies will never disappear, but how they are dealt with can be an opportunity for your board to grow, to understand how to utilize everyone’s assets, and to develop strategies for effective, yet respectful human interaction.

As a condo management company, we’ve found that the boards that are most effective are those who have a level of empathy for each other, and function based on each other’s strengths. Great resources we often recommend for our clients to reach this empathy understanding include:

While these books weren’t written for condo boards, they have a lot of insight into how individuals interact and how you can work with differing personalities, particularly those who are more…challenging.

At the end of the day, the majority of people who join a condo board want to be there to make a difference. It’s simply a matter of understanding how they’re unique skill sets add the most value, then communicating this.

Curious about building more effective systems for working with a group of diverse individuals? Visit Alberta Condo Owners for Change and ask away!