We have a resident who often meddles in the affairs of committees that she is not part of. I know we can issue a cease-and-desist letter, but what else can we do?
Highly vocal residents can sometimes be mistaken as nitpickers. According to an article by business writer, Jaimy Fordsome, some nitpickers are anxious and worrisome, and they nitpick because of their need to feel in control. Fortunately, community associations have several less litigious options before pursuing a cease-and-desist letter or a lawsuit. Those options include:
Involving the owner. Often nitpicking owners can have their energy redirected in useful ways, becoming part of the solution instead of the problem. If the person’s skill set and personality are a good fit, add them as a member, and put their energy to work.
Deescalating the rhetoric. Often, confrontation only escalates the discourse. An experienced committee chairperson can control the dialogue and prevent one person from dominating the discussion. Consider setting the committee meeting ground rules in advance and prohibit attendance from any owner unwilling to abide by them. Once the owner has made their point, consider inviting the person to submit possible solutions, preferably in writing, and also invite him or her to become involved in implementing the proposed solution.
Standardizing committee procedures. If one method of communication is creating an avenue for “meddling,” change the procedures. Consider requiring questions to be submitted in advance. The committee charter also can be revised to make clear that the committee is not obligated to respond to inquiries that are not constructive.
Meeting with the meddler. Consider inviting the meddling owner to a non-confrontation meeting to address their concerns. If the owner has valid concerns, this format may create an environment that encourages a cooperative solution. If, on the other hand, the meddler’s purpose is to grandstand before others, this format will eliminate one of the perceived benefits of being disruptive. If the owner refuses to meet in private, consider restricting communication to writing.
Closing the meetings. Most state statutes does not require committee meetings to be open to community members. So long as that’s the case in your community, consider closing committee meetings and providing only minutes or posting recordings afterwards.
Using conflict resolution. Community associations should resolve conflict through a constructive, people-centered strategy. To reach that goal, many communities turn to alternative dispute resolution and consensus building to foster greater understanding and improve communication.
Visit, CAI Press for more information on conflict resolution.
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