RealManage Insight

Dealing with Bullies in your HOA: How to Put a Stop to Destructive Behavior

by Kara Cermak, CMCA®, AMS®, PCAM® on Sep 5, 2019 8:17:00 AM

A thriving HOA board is one comprised of members focused on doing what is best for the association. All it takes for disruption and sometimes, total chaos, is one board member who exhibits bullying behavior toward others. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines bullying as, "to treat someone in a cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive fashion." When an HOA board member—or even an association member—engage in this destructive behavior, there are options for addressing the problem.

Types of Bullying Behavior

The ultimate goal of an adult bully in a community association is often to gain power over another person or group.  While most adult bullying tends to involve verbal assaults, there are other types of bullying behaviors by adults, including:

Narcissistic—Bullies exhibiting this type of behavior show no empathy toward others and are usually self-centered.

Impulsive—Adults who are impulsive with their bullying are reacting to a stressful situation. They are often upset about a specific issue or person. 

Physical—This type of adult bullying can include actual physical harm or threats of harm.

Verbal—The most common type of bullying, verbal abuse involves demeaning language and starting rumors. 

Secondary—When fellow board, or association members, join in with the bully in hopes of protecting themselves, the problem only grows. The member may feel bad about their behavior yet they do not want to become a victim of the bully, either. 

Cyber—Bullying that travels via social media or email is as destructive as any of the behaviors listed above. The true power of cyberbullying is the opportunity for shares and forwarding, which spreads the rumors, and can potentially harm an association's reputation. 

HOA board members are volunteers, some of whom may deal with bullies throughout their workday.  When their position of power results in the bullying of others, it's time to take action to address the issue.

Addressing HOA Bullies

An adult bully can appear anywhere within an association. More often than not, a bully is usually found in the board leadership, particularly with the president. Dealing with the issue is stressful as the bully may have strong community connections and support. Standing up for the good of the association is imperative, however for removing the distraction and getting back to business. Here are several steps that help make that possible:

  • Talk with the bully. Perhaps the best approach is a face-to-face chat with the board member. While you may dread doing so, the end result of talking through the problems may benefit everyone in the long run. 
  • Review state law and the association's governing documents. Many HOA boards don't realize they have the power to remove a member from an officer to a director position.
  • Develop a code of ethics and present it to the board for everyone to sign. If the bully refuses to comply and sign the code of ethics, they may voluntarily resign. A comprehensive code of ethics gives the board a standing document to refer to if and when future behavior issues arise. 

Pursuing legal action is expensive in terms of both time and money. It can also draw negative attention to your association, which certainly has more positives than negatives. By strategically addressing your HOA bully, you can take the necessary steps to improve the situation.

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About RealManage

As a professional property management company, RealManage understands the complex challenges board members face. Board members agree to serve often because they have skills to share or they simply want to help the association. Different personalities are understandable and anticipated, however, bullying behavior is not acceptable. Guiding association boards through important matters is what we do. To learn more about us and how we can help your association thrive, request a proposal today. 

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