Communicating With Difficult People… AKA 'Strata Council Bullies'
As a member of Council, you volunteer your time, giving up evenings to attend meetings, and following up with owners and tenants about issues in your building. You threw your hat in the ring to offer some help, perhaps to provide a particular set of skills and knowledge, or because you thought it would be a great way to be a part of your community.
And you were right – it is a great way to be a part of your community! But like anything in life, it also comes with a few headaches. Particularly the headaches caused by those difficult people (you know who we’re talking about) who make it their life’s mission to criticize and cause angst about everything council does...let’s call it Strata Council harassment.
But wait, Strata Council bullies aren’t always the Owners. Sometimes, a Strata Council bully might also sit on the community’s Council as well! This can make things extra difficult, especially if your Strata Council bully makes other members feel uncomfortable and want to quit their roles. Don’t let that happen, we have prepared some tips for you below.
Meet the Strata Council bullies
Often referred to as “strata trolls”, this is a term borrowed from a very prominent character we have all become familiar with over the last decade or so – the internet troll. You know this character…they post inflammatory, off-topic or just plain unnecessary comments in online communities. Read the comment section on any news site – it will be rampant with internet trolls.
“In this era of keyboard warriors, being a jerk has become synonymous with speaking your mind,” points out Paul Mendes, Partner, Lesperance Mendes Law Firm, “But the internet troll is no different from what I call the Strata Council bullies”.
The Strata Council bullies are the kind of person who enjoys annoying people, thinks everyone is up to something and monopolizes conversations. Unfortunately, they do exist! And while you may even have more than one, fear not, there are simple ways to deal with Strata Council bullies.
Identifying the Strata Council bullies
First – know who they are. According to Mendes, there are a few ways to identify them:
- The bully is someone who writes offensive correspondence in the community or to management. They spam you with dozens of emails a day (insults, complaints, you name it) and slow down the process of getting things done.
- You can identify them in the minutes; they often make multiple privacy complaints or are not transparent with their own work.
- They have many demands for information.
- They ask for records, minutes, and correspondence that were written years ago.
- They like to monopolize the discussion at meetings.
- To the Strata Council bullies, the purpose of an AGM is to satisfy their curiosity about the strata.
- They love extra-long meetings.
- They disrupt meetings with offensive behaviour, yelling, accusations, recriminations.
Once you identify these bullies, it is essential to take action. This kind of behaviour is not good for your community’s health, let alone the health of your Council Members.
STOP the Strata Council bullies
Bullying goes against bylaws. WHAT? Yes, you heard us. This kind of Strata Council harassment is not allowed, and according to Mendes, it is a contravention of your Strata’s Bylaws.
Note: The Property Bylaw that most stratas have references behaviour that would represent bullying. This can be found in Standard Strata Bylaw #3 which outlines examples of unacceptable behaviour.
“The Strata Council bullies are often outraged by everything, and it’s difficult to figure out what their motivation is”, explains Mendes. “But regardless of their motivation, it is very important to enforce your bylaws to maintain control of the situation and send a message that this behaviour will not be tolerated.”
Tips for dealing with the Strata Council harassment
Whether your community Strata Council bully is an Owner, or a part of Council, here are a few important things to consider:
- There is no obligation to respond to Strata Council harassment. For example, opinions about how things should be done, need no answer at all. Simply respond in a standard manner - "your letter is taken under advisement".
- Don't feed the bullies - they like to bully, and they need to be ignored. If you engage with them, they view it as a success. Only act on things that require action!
- Don’t fight fire with fire. Everything you write might be read by a judge, CRT, or tribunal member. They will judge you in the same way as them.
- Follow proper procedures for enforcing your bylaws (your management should know these procedures). This includes sending bylaw violation notices (section 135) and possibly issuing bylaw violation fines.
- Keep a record of their correspondence, and their offensive, disruptive behaviour. Remember, each trolling incident is an infraction of the bylaws.
How can Owners work against bullies on Council
As a few extra tips, here are some pointers to consider if your Strata Council bully sits on Council. Let’s work together to get out of this nightmare!
Protect your Owners by considering the following:
Encouraging Owners to make their vote at the next Annual General Meeting (AGM).
If a Strata Council member hasn’t formally violated any bylaws in your Property Bylaw (which most stratas have), but their behaviour still proves to be disruptive in a community, use the next election as a way to improve your Council.
Council Members are elected every year at the AGM. Individuals who reach “majority vote” and have the most votes, are welcomed to serve on Council.
Find out what characteristics makes a good Council Member and how Council is chosen by taking a look at our Strata Council – The Guide To Success [Strata 101 Series] Blog Post.
Ensure your Property Management company is aligned with your values and goals as a community.
The worst thing that can happen is working with a management company who doesn’t acknowledge the behaviour and allows it to persist...what?!
At Tribe, we take great responsibility in ensuring that our staff are protected from the health and safety risks that result from abusive behaviour. Whether that comes from a Council Bully Owner or Council Member, we recommend that Strata Council acts immediately by sending a violation letter to ensure that this behaviour doesn’t continue. We find that not dealing with this quickly sends the message that this behaviour is acceptable
The world of strata, not unlike the rest of the world, is made up of diverse personalities with unique communication styles, needs and ways of perceiving the world. Keep a level-head, communicate clearly, record everything, and enforce your bylaws.
Thank you to Paul Mendes, Partner, Lesperance Mendes, for guest speaking at our recent Tribe Open House on “Communicating with Difficult People” and “Short-term Rentals”. You can follow Paul on Twitter here.