Managing Board Conflict How to Maintain Harmony

In a community association, it falls to the board to put out any fires that ignite among the property’s residents. But what happens when the blaze springs up between the board members themselves? 

Those who volunteer to serve on their community association or co-op board are likely to bring strong convictions – and personalities – to the table. As in any decision-making body, there is likely to be a difference of opinion, which, if the stakes and tempers rise high enough, can occasionally escalate into a war of words – or even knockdown, drag-out fisticuffs. Preventing any and all conflict is impossible, but minimizing and mitigating it is essential in order for a board to do its job. Board members should actively anticipate arguments among their ranks, and have a strategy on hand to ease tensions and reach an acceptable compromise before things get out of hand.

Talk It Out

One way to keep things copacetic among board members is to identify which attributes most contribute to a board’s functionality, and reach for those as a base-line when things start to drift off-track.

“I think that the key to harmony on a board is that its members have the ability to agree to disagree,” says Tina Straits, Vice President and General Manager of Baum Property Management in Aurora, Illinois. “Any one group of people is not going to reach a consensus on every issue. Where there is disagreement, it is vitally important that board members listen respectfully to each other and understand that having a difference of opinion is nothing to take personally.”

Communication, and the ability to calmly articulate why one board member may disagree from another – or a near-consensus – is critical. “Some disputes are caused by a lack of understanding among board members as to the regulation and operation of the association and the function of the board, which can be due to the inexperience of some of the directors,” explains Elizabeth Bowen, a shareholder with the law firm of Siegfried Rivera in Coral Gables, Florida. “To this end, a good management company with the ability to effectively communicate with a board regarding the needs of the association is important. 

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