Fostering Harmony and Welcome: Creating an Inviting Atmosphere in Community Associations

By Rochelle Ceballos, CMCA

For homeowners, returning to a warm and welcoming environment after a long day’s work is a cherished and vital part of finding solace and comfort. For community managers of Community Associations, it is our responsibility to cultivate an atmosphere that embraces this notion wholeheartedly. The key lies not only in maintaining well-manicured landscapes and pristine facilities but also in ensuring that the interactions within the community are characterized by understanding, respect, and a commitment to de-escalation. This article explores effective techniques for defusing tense situations with angry homeowners, offers insights into creating a harmonious and inclusive community where residents feel heard and valued, and provides valuable tips for staying in the good graces of the Board and the homeowner’s association, enabling you to foster a positive relationship that supports the vision and well-being of your community.

How many times has a homeowner called you or come into your office frustrated, angry and demanding to speak to the manager. If you’re like me, you likely waited to see how your team handled it first because empowerment and leadership are important for the entire team. Once you realize the situation may need additional finesse, leaning into assist the team and address the situation swiftly and calmly its key. Or perhaps you’re a portfolio manager, juggling multiple communities without onsite support.  Either way, it’s important to take yourself out of the equation. Most likely you didn’t do anything to upset homeowner so it’s important to understand what is driving this energy. As you can imagine, we all have very long days and fall short when it comes to showing grace at times; thus, it’s important for us to exercise such grace and demonstrate this to our teams to provide that exceptional energy to homeowners, when they need it most.

This can be done in many ways. First and foremost is to simply listen and understand what is the root issue they are communicating?  Timing is important as well. They may be in a rush and don’t want to repeat themselves. They may have underlying issues in their lives that are aggravating the situation and creating additional stress for them.  All of these factors must be part of your assessment observation (EQ). Again, remember this isn’t about us. It is about what is happening to them in this moment in time, and our goal is to provide resources, education, and care. Our industry is about managing people perhaps more so than property. In most circumstances, I find the below techniques / tips are helpful in diffusing an escalated situation.

·      Offer a warm smile and handshake
·      Lower your overall speaking tone
·      Be mindful of your body posture
·      Eye contact is very important
·      Take a few notes so they feel heard
·      If you’re sitting at a desk, lower your chair to match their height
·      Listen with the intent to understand, and not to interrupt
·      If necessary, review the rules or guidelines with the owner to provide added resources/education
·      Do not rush through the process as you will likely have them repeat their story
·      Assure them you will do all you can to investigate the matter and circle back with them swiftly

Once you’ve received all of the information, sometimes it’s important to simply respond with “thank you so much for sharing this important information, kindly allow me the opportunity to provide you a deserving response. Would it be all right if I connected with you as soon as I can to get you an answer or to fully address this issue”. Once you return their call or meet with them in person, I believe it’s important to offer options even if those options are not what the owner initially requested or desired. Many times, when an owner has had an opportunity to reflect, and is presented with an option (despite the options being suboptimal to the owner), giving them the power to make a decision, (which usually benefits the association or is within the governing guidelines) is helpful. This will aid towards fostering an inclusive and positive environment, and hopefully cultivating a mutual relationship going forward.

In other situations, you might have owners that enjoy coming into the manager’s office daily for a cup of coffee or just to talk, and as many of you know this could go on all day long. How do we show them that we care about their well-being but demonstrate the importance of running an operation. Sometimes understanding what their love language is can be an important way of communicating. Perhaps you have a competent colleague that could step in and connect with them. Other times, simply having a cup of coffee for a few minutes is important as it builds trust. If you have the same visitors daily, perhaps you could encourage them to join a club or committee to occupy some of their time. Other times, perhaps you could excuse yourself for another appointment. However you decide to address these seemingly innocuous situations, please keep in mind, loneliness can happen to anyone at any age and should not be ignored. For additional information please visit these links:

Community managers are not counselors or phycologists, but paying attention to patterns of conduct can teach us a lot about those around us. As many of you know, managing associations is a thankless job. For those of you who are fortunate to receive accolades and recognition from your boards, continue doing your great work. For those who struggle to receive any type of affirmation and/or feel they are working in a hostile environment most days, try and understand your board members, individually, set goals and arrange meetings as needed to discuss these goals and objectives individually. I understand they are not all always going to see eye to eye or get along and often try to pin you against someone else… Just remember bridging the gap in communication is your best way towards creating harmony and inclusivity. This will aid towards a positive culture for the betterment of the association. If your conditions are truly untenable, this needs to be raised with the board and/or your company, as no one deserves a hostile work environment. Remember, your working environment must be hostile-free by law.

Here are a few additional considerations in fostering a harmonious environment.
1.    Equip yourself with relevant knowledge of your governing documents, rules and regulations as well as architectural, EV or solar guidelines, matrix or other policies.  Utilize your local resources such as the water reclamation plant and the Water District, Refuse department, City Counsel, local Police Department for Community oriented officer involvement or ride-alongs.
2.    If you have onsite support, mentoring your team and fostering a positive environment that enables them to learn from you and make these strategic choices in the future. The goal should always be to assume the best in one another. It is easy to be cynical, but we should always remain respectful especially in front of owners and vendors.  Perception is reality.
3.    Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. Tag your calendar for two (2) weeks out from initial owner resolution and three (3) months out for a healthy check in.

Implementing the above tips will go a long way towards de-escalating conflicts, making your communities harmonious, and making owners feel comfortable and at home.

Rochelle Ceballos, CCAM, Executive Director of Marketing for SwedelsonGottlieb, (800) 372-2207 or

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