Communication and Understanding Personality Tendencies

As community association management professionals, the need for us to be adept at communicating difficult messages is critical. Communication regarding covenants enforcement is especially fraught with tension because we are touching on an area that is personal. For many, outside of their families, their homes represent their largest single investment and as such, we must recognize that while this is a routine part of our operations, it may be perceived as anything but routine. When we send a violation notice to a homeowner, we may not always understand why they react a certain way when it is a clear violation of the governing documents. This article will present an example of a covenant violation and how the personality tendency of the owner informs how he/she will respond to the notice of violation and come into compliance.

As explained in more detail in the previous lead article, there are four personality tendencies, and they will be same ones we use as examples within this particular article’s scenario. They are Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

EXAMPLE SCENERIO: You, as a community manager, have noted that a shutter has fallen from a home and it is a clear violation of the architectural standards, which in this case, state that, “every home must have shutters in good repair attached to the exterior.”

The Upholder
The Upholder is the first to receive the violation notice. The main characteristic of the Upholder is that they want to know what should be done. Their reaction would typically be that they maintain their home on a regular basis and have read your letter and understand that they need to replace the shutter. They could also iterate that it is on their list to do this weekend and it is very out of character for them to have any defects on their home. They tend to become defensive and aggressive not because they are upset with you as the manager, but rather they have let themselves down and being self-motivated they internalize their failure. A possible course of action when dealing with an Upholder is to explain the standards and let them know that you understand they will get it reinstalled as soon as they can. You can expect that it will be resolved as they state.

The Questioner
The next owner you encounter is the Questioner. The Questioner wants justification and will likely ask where in the governing documents it states that the shutter must be on their home. Each answer you provide will more than likely foster another as that is their nature and they do not take the first answer you provide as justification for them to act. If you have a good rapport with them and they respect you and your expertise, then it will be much easier for them to acquiesce. They will act only when they feel that the actions requested of them are justified and not arbitrary. A course of action with the Questioner could be to clarify why they are required to comply and where in the governing documents the standard is found. They will need to have empirical data to have closure.

The Obliger
The Obliger is the third personality we meet. The Obliger needs outer accountability and expects it to be universally enforced. Much like the Upholder, the Obliger will be eager for compliance with the standards. They value commitments and regulations and will appreciate that there is oversight and accountability for owners within the community. In theory, these will be the easiest of the four to get to comply and with minimal effort. A course of action with the Obliger could be thanking them for being an integral part of the community and an example to others for adhering to the community standards.

The Rebel
Finally, we are face to face with the Rebel. The Rebel personality is exactly as you would expect from the name. They do not want to conform to the community standards and want to do it their own way. The Rebel will fight you on every reason you give as to why their home must be compliant and will try to find a loophole that will serve their agenda. They do not necessarily adhere to the rules and will be resistant to make sure they do not feel that they have been manipulated into conforming. The Rebel is a challenge for any community manager, but a possible course of action could be to appeal to their sense of identity and that they made the choice to put the shutter back up rather than they were being required to comply. You would want to stay away from words such as must, comply, duty, require, or anything that would insinuate that they are being forced into action.

This is but a brief look into these four personality tendencies and how  each are found in the communities in which we live and manage. You could also encounter hybrids which would encompass two or more of these tendencies. When dealing with any owner in difficult situations it is always wise to listen, empathize, and work on a solution that will achieve the ultimate goal, which is compliance.

By James Hawkins, CMCA, AMS

James Hawkins is a senior portfolio manager with Cardinal Management Group, Inc. and has been with the company since 2009. He has 11 years of community management experience and is currently working on obtaining his PCAM designation.

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