Managing Bullies in your HOA

By Marcy Kravit
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The American Psychological Association defines bullying as “a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words, or more subtle actions.”

Unfortunately, it is all too common for bullying to occur in community associations. Board members and managers need support and guidance to handle these types of situations. Bullying is a form of workplace harassment and violence.

If the bullying is directed at an employee, it can increase the use of sick leave, increase medical costs, and cause employees to quit or request a transfer. Disgruntled homeowners who challenge the board’s decisions, harass board members, chastise the manager, and fight with residents have their own agenda and may be considered bullies.

There are many types of bullying. Verbal abuse is the most common and is extremely demeaning and degrading. These actions are dangerous to one’s self-esteem, causing anxiety, depression, and emotional and psychological harm. Cyberbullying can occur over email, social media, and digital platforms, and it can harm the association’s reputation and present potential liability.

What is the best way to address a bully? Here are some tips:

Talk with the bully face-to-face outside of a group setting. Take a positive approach, and communicate about specific unruly behaviors and how they adversely affected an employee, fellow board member, or resident. Explain how the behaviors impacted association operations.

If you feel like you need it, bring a witness to support you.

Criticize the behavior and not the person. Ask questions. Find out why they are attacking and belittling. Explain that the board, residents, and management are working toward a common goal.

Discuss and stick to the facts. Try not to get emotional. Maintain composure, and address the behavior in a friendly, professional manner.

Create and adopt a code of ethics and board code of conduct. Require all to sign it and refer to it when an individual gets out of hand.

Review governing documents, human resources policies, and state laws. If the bully is on the board, you may have the power to remove the member or reassign them. If the bully is an employee, speak with them, document the conversation, and review the employment manual.

Board and resident bullies need to understand how their behavior affects the entire association. Homeowners have the right to complain; however, they should never disrespect the manager and the board. If a resident makes obscene gestures, is disruptive, or uses profanity, they should be subject to removal from a meeting, cited for violating governing documents, and possibly fined.

A resolution can be adopted if the governing documents do not outline specific provisions regarding unruly behavior. Contact your association attorney to assist with drafting language for a board code of conduct or adopting a resolution. If things are out of control, consider a cease-and-desist order.

It is important to respect differences of opinion and agree to disagree. You may not be able to change someone’s behavior, but you can set boundaries to create a better environment that does not reward bullying or disrupt the association.

Civility Pledge

Community association boards are regularly faced with challenging and complex issues that can spark strong emotions. A critical responsibility of a board leader is to facilitate community conversation about these important issues. Community association boards can commit to embracing principles that establish a framework for effective community conversations by adopting CAI’s Community Association Civility Pledge.

Community association boards use this framework to lead their communities through conversations about difficult and complex issues and harmonizing feedback from residents resulting in decisions that are informed and well balanced for the community as a whole. explores questions and comments from community association members living in condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives. We then assemble trusted experts to provide practical solutions to your most commonly asked, timely questions. We never use real names, but we always tackle real issues. Have a question or comment about your community association? Submit here for consideration:

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Marcy Kravit

Marcy Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, is with Hotwire Communications in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.