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.
Meet the strata council bullies
Often referred to as “strata trolls” is 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 to council and management. They spam you with dozens of emails a day with insults and complaints.
You can identify them in the minutes; they often make multiple privacy complaints.
They have many demands for information.
They ask for records, minutes, and correspondence that you wrote 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 trolls, 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 behaviour is not allowed, and according to Mendes, it is a contravention of your strata’s bylaws.
“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 bullies
There is no obligation to respond. For example, opinions about how things should be done, need no answer at all. Simply response in a standard manner - "your letter is taken under advisement".
Don't feed the troll - trolls 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 procedure 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.
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.