Is It Our Manager Or Is It Us?

board members community managers h o a homefront hoa homefront reader questions May 06, 2024
HOA manager discussion

By Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. CCAL, HOA Homefront Column

Many associations struggle with a poor manager relationship, resulting in frustration for both sides.  However, such struggles are sometimes created by the board and not the manager. Therefore, these can be resolved by a change in board practices.

Truly, some managers are simply not cut out for the job. The need for excellent HOA managers increases along with the growing number of community associations.  However, some are poorly qualified, overloaded with too many associations, disorganized, poor at customer relations, or even unethical and dishonest.  No excuses can be made for such managers, and they should not be accepted.

However, some managers are not allowed to succeed in their roles because their client boards set them up for failure. Before an association gives up on its manager, ask if any of the following factors are present.

You don’t, so I will – Often, a director who performs managerial tasks will explain that “somebody has to do it.”  This insulates a poor manager from taking responsibility for their performance and discourages good managers from doing their job.

What we have here is a failure to communicate - Many boards and managers do not establish expectations regarding communication flow. It’s important to designate the board’s points of contact and to agree upon a reasonable response time.  Set mutually agreed expectations and make sure both management and the board honor that agreement.  Remember, not everything needs to be handled now.  Your manager probably receives over a hundred emails a day from homeowners, not to mention phone calls, so allow them to triage the critical from the lesser. 

The handcuffed manager – Boards who do not trust the manager may need another manager.  However, if the manager is trusted, why should they not be given a reasonable amount of spending discretion, with regular reporting to the board?  Requiring board approval of every sprinkler head or window replacement bogs the manager down, and also involves the board in minutiae. 

Who’s the Boss? – Managers work for the corporation, which acts through its board, but some HOA presidents do not understand their role as president of non-profit is less powerful than the for-profit president. Presidents who order the manager around without board approval short-circuit proper association governance, forcing managers to choose between proper governance and good client relations. 

Managers should be seen and not heard - Many a fine manager’s morale is damaged by boards that do not seek or accept their expertise, treating them as functionaries instead of trusted professional advisors. Boards should insist their manager be experienced and knowledgeable, and should benefit from that experience and knowledge.

Civility deficiency - If a manager is treated rudely, why is it fair to expect a great attitude in return? It is not - the Golden Rule applies to managers also.

Trading manager in for a new model – When a new board begins service, particularly after a contentious election, it often replaces the manager, wanting their “own”.  This is often a knee-jerk and unfair assumption as to the manager, who must be loyal to the association, not who runs` it at any point in time.

If a manager has been given every opportunity to succeed and still fails, ask their employer to assign another manager to the account, before assuming the entire company should be terminated.