As property managers, one of our underlying goals is to have as many positive relationships as possible. However, despite our best efforts to be “professional problem solvers” who find win-win solutions leaving everyone happy, there will always be a percentage of our communications that go awry. Some people will be miss-informed, others will be simply cantankerous at the outset, and sometimes we might slip up ourselves by miss-speaking or leaving a poor impression. Regardless of the multitude of routes we as property managers end up in a communication dumpster-fire, the point is that it is inevitable that from time to time we will end up causing one, the important question is what do we do once this happens.
You know you are at this crossroads when, whether they are completely right or completely wrong, your counterparty thinks you are absolutely unfair, mistrustful, or incompetent; and in some way related to the anti-Christ. You find yourself in a position where without much effort, you could let the bridge burn; as always, our suggestion is to take the hard road and “save the bridge”.
Why Save the Bridge?
- In all likelihood, you will have to speak to them from time to time and having enemies makes every property manager’s life more difficult and less fun.
- It is the right thing to do. Doing the right thing, feels good.
- There are important lessons in doing hard things. Besides, “taking the high-road” is our professional responsibility.
- A good reputation is difficult to build and easy to tear down. Tenants, vendors, and landlords talk more than we know.
- 1 Star google reviews hurt business. They do.
What We Can Do.
Below are helpful tips to repairing any bridge, whether it is just starting to smoke, burning, or already reduced to charcoal:
- Work hard not to instigate quarrel in the first place. When you feel it coming, deploy tactics that course-correct
- Remember the first commandment of good communication: “Open thy ears, close thy mouth”
- Recognize their point of view as being valid, use their exact words and find common ground
- From that point of mutual understanding, expand on an additional point of view that they understandably may not have considered
- Apologize when appropriate (as Canadians this may be more often than needed)
- Change your mode of communication: if it’s a phone call try following up via email, if it’s an email try getting them on the phone. Note: Getting people face-to-face is the number 1 way to conflict resolution.
- Long after the dust settles, go out of your way to check in and see if their problem is resolved, or simply how things are going. This will surprise people as it’s something only a great property manager would do.. you can slowly change someone’s perspective of who you are this way
Our Greatest Obstacle: Ego
Often times ego gets in the way of making the right decision. You dig your heels in and are blinded to what the other person is saying; this will often sound like what the other party is doing, and it is helpful to reflect on whether you are doing so as well.
Additionally, it is helpful to remember what the end result is that you are working towards, and to remember it is not about you. You are a “tool” or “agent” for getting to that result, and nothing more. Feel pride in reaching that result, not in being “right” or otherwise supporting your ego. Similar to the say, “it is amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit” by Harry S. Truman, it is also amazing what you can accomplish when set aside your ego.
PS. Some bridges were built to burn. You will go mad trying to keep everyone happy. It is rare, but some people are designed for conflict. It is another skillset to recognize this and to move on. That being said, even these people deserve your efforts as noted above; when it comes time to accept that the bridge is going to burn, it feels nice knowing that you were not the one that lit the fire and fanned the flames.