It’s 2016, one week away from a new year and it seems that burnout has become a fact of life for community association managers. It is also a real possibility for dedicated Board members. Boards and managers are challenged by rudeness, confrontational and adversarial communications, even menacing behavior. And all the good you do is overshadowed by the negativity and constant challenges each day can bring.
However, all is not lost. There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from burnout, and to create a continuously enjoyable and productive quality of life.
- Don’t Get Personal. Nothing that happens is really about you, personally. None of the owners or others with whom you come in contact know you – who you are, what you believe in, what your skills are, and so on. Everything they do comes from their own needs, weaknesses, or life baggage. So, remind yourself that the interaction isn’t about you, and don’t get drawn into the drama. Be a problem solver instead of an active participant in the problem.
- Control the Communications. The Board should adopt formal communication rules. First, adopt and publish the official mailing address of the Association. Only a communication received at the official mailing address should get a response from the Association (or the Manager).
- Require communications to be in writing, and sent via U.S. Mail, or FAX, or hand delivered to the official mailing address. Require the name and address of the sender to be part of the communication.
- Communications fall into several categories: complaints, comments, or questions. Determine who will review the communications; and which type of communications will be passed on to the Board for consideration and action.
- What is Done, is Done. You cannot change the past, no matter how much time you spend mentally rehashing what happened. Every time you tell the story, to yourself or others, you relive the negativity. It only hurts you again. Learn from the experience. Figure out what you will do in the future if a similar situation comes up. Then, let it go and move on.
- Manage Your Attitude. There are really only two choices: positive or negative. And the choice is yours. You can look for the lessons, and see the silver lining. You can choose to be creative and find solutions. And, you can walk away from a negative interaction. Just as importantly, distance yourself from negative and destructive people in your life. Only you can give them power over you. Walk in the sunshine, not the shadow. You really are special, and you deserve every bit of your success.
- Validate Yourself. Don’t depend on anyone else to tell you how you are doing. Set your own goals and standards of excellence. Focus on your strengths. And, don’t take anyone else’s critical or petty comments to heart. Remember Lesson 1 above.
- Change Isn’t Good or Bad, it is just different. And, it is an inevitable part of life. Nothing remains the same forever. Embrace change. From change comes growth, and new opportunities. Be prepared for things to change. On the other hand, people don’t change. But, you can change how you deal with those people, and develop a different strategy for them if what you have been doing doesn’t work.
- Be an Active Listener. In our business, (and it turns out, in life in general) the words being said do not always match the real message being communicated. Hear between the lines. When what is being said doesn’t match the amount of emotion or energy invested in the words, see if you can figure out what the real issue or purpose is, before you respond, or get drawn into the drama again.
- Manage your email. The internet and email are both a blessing and a curse. Set aside a time during the day for reviewing and answering emails. Use your out of office assistant message to alert senders to your schedule. Sort and re-sort the emails, by category, by sender, by date to continuously bring emails back to your attention.
- Learn to use technology. Don’t let it use you. Use your personal tablet to photo document violations, and to take notes when you make site inspections. Also, use it to memorialize happy events, and great developments in the Community. And disconnect from your devices every day. We live in an age of instant communications and instant connection. Do not answer emails after office hours, or you will create the unreasonable expectation that you will be available 24/7.
- Take Some Me Time. Be passionate about what you do. And, remember to rest, relax and recharge yourself. Work on eliminating stress in your life. If you don’t have a hobby, get one. Walk around your neighborhood. Try out a new restaurant. Go to the mall. Rent a movie.
It is absolutely necessary to take a break and do something which refreshes your mind and spirit. Not only does it help cure fatigue and avoid burnout, but it clears your mind and helps you do a better job. Find a friend – If you don’t have many friends, find one at a CAI function or in an educational class – at least these folks will absolutely understand when you complain about your job.
Believe me, I know how tough it is to remember all this once the day gets a hold of you. And, there have been many days on which I have had to pull myself out of my own quicksand by reminding myself to actually follow all of this good advice.
But, the most remarkable thing about choosing to be positive, focusing your energy on being the best you can, and following your passions at work and in life, is that you will not only reduce your stress and live a happy life, but you will also make a difference in other people’s lives.