If you’ve been following my articles over the last couple of years, you know I have a friend who became a community manager. She, like all of us, loves it while simultaneously wanting to poke her eyes out. So, normal, right? Much to her amusement I have written several articles about the various scenarios managers – especially newer managers – find themselves in based on my observations of her experiences which in a way are reflections of my own experiences back in the day. Here’s what struck me this week: THAT guy.
You know who I’m talking about. That guy. Or that woman (for simplicity’s sake, we’ll use “guy” as the collective term). The one with a complaint or comment about everything. The one who fills your inbox. The one who leaves voicemail. The one who, on Friday at 6:15pm, makes an emergency complaint about a parking issue. THAT guy. Sometimes, that guy isn’t a bad guy, just a time sucker. And sometimes that guy is on the Committee!
In my managing career I had a lot of “that guys”, and the “that guy” profile hasn’t changed in 33 years. How did I deal with that guy? Well, sometimes I did pretty well and sometimes not, but nowhere near as well as I would today. So if you have a few minutes (and that guy isn’t calling you right now), let’s see if what I know now can help you deal with that guy.
Understand that guy’s motivation
LOOK AT ME! Make no mistake, that guy is seeking attention, be it yours, the Committees or his neighbours’. As the manager, you just happen to be the most accessible and to some degree have to give him attention. When that guy contacts you, you may feel like you’re in the spotlight…“Why me? Why can’t he find another hobby?” You have this backwards. You’re not his hobby – HE is HIS hobby. This is all about him, not you.
Doesn’t that guy just want to get things done? Good things? Maybe, but never in regular order. He can’t just send in a complaint form on the website. He emails the manager directly and cc’s others (LOOK AT ME!). His issues are pressing. They’re special. He’s special. If his issues aren’t responded to or rectified in a few hours, he’s calling. Or emailing again and cc’ing your boss and other residents. He’s doing what no one else will do because he’s noticing what no one else does. He is on it and by implication… you’re not. Though that guy’s complaint may be legitimate, his method is always to point out how great he is and how incompetent everyone else is. LOOK. AT. ME.
Managing that guy
First: Stop thinking he is anything but that guy. Once you’ve identified that guy the first thing you need to do is to stop being surprised or angry at what he does and how he does it. It’s like the moment you realize that dog is not a Labrador Retriever it’s a yappy purse dog. Hoping the yappy dog will stop yapping is wishful thinking and a waste of time. Now, how to manage that guy?
Attach none of your emotion to that guy. Because you’re busy and he’s annoying it’s easy to get sucked in to his vortex… the one where you’re mad and he’s getting what he wants (LOOK AT ME). When you stop thinking he’s going to be any different than he is (see above) your expectations change and your emotions go back in to the normal range. He is how he is, no amount of frustration or anger on your part is going to affect him. It only affects you.
Be Helpful! This is the critical positive action on your part. Of course, that guy drives you nuts and tries your patience with all his petty issues, but butting heads with him only makes matters worse. To that end, when you’ve done all you can for that guy with little if any positive results and it’s time for the Committee to get involved, try this: Suggest he put all his issues in one letter (email) to the Committee and let him know the date you’ll need it for the notice. Tell him it’s the best way for him to get his points across and for the Committee to review them in a systematic manner without having to wade through 13 emails and 7 phone messages (and in fact, that’s true). This will save you and the Committee time and emotional energy over the long haul. Also, you’re channeling his energy in to something that is actually productive for everyone and that’s your job.
Know when it’s faster to pick up the phone and just talk to that guy.? We resist phone conversation these days in favor of email. It’s less personal and takes less time…. Until it doesn’t. Sometimes, you just have to pick up the phone and call that guy when he least expects it to listen to him and give him a reasonable amount of your time and attention. It’s attention that he wants, and though maddening, giving him some on your terms is a part of managing him, not him managing you.
Our world of community management is one in which there is never a boring day, as much as we would sometimes like to have one. Dealing with that guy is just one facet of the challenging situations we find ourselves in. If you’ve been in the business awhile, you know that guy will show up in every Body Corporate sooner or later. Believe me, I’ve had my share. I learned to roll my eyes, put on a smile, deal with him and move on. If you’re new, you’re not alone with this problem, just remember that guy will always exist and how you react to him is on you. That guy will never change, but you can and will manage him and manage him well without giving him any of your precious emotional energy.
If you’re new to the business, you can find great comfort by discussing the “that guy problem” with experienced managers. They can provide expertise, guidance and assurance that you are not alone: They’ve been there, probably are there and will be there again. They just don’t let it get to them anymore because they have learned to manage that guy. You will, too.
This article was contributed by Julie Adamen – Adamen Inc.