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AIM 2023: When Things Get Tough: Conflict Management Tools for Teams

It’s crucial for communities to write their de-escalation policy, train it, and share it.

As the economy shifts and renter expectations evolve, the opportunity for conflict continues to rise. While trying to figure out what a “new normal” actually looks like, companies across all industries have to be nimble and able to face new challenges in real-time.

One of the largest pain points for onsite teams is the increase in resident conflict, however, it is one area that these teams feel the least prepared for. This conflict can happen in person, but there is a massive increase in conflict via social media platforms, as well as reputation and review systems.

Discussing the topic were Laurel Zacher, VP of Marketing and Customer Engagement at Security Properties; Cayce Coon, Vice President of Operations, Madera Residential; and moderator Kendall Pretzer, Chief Executive Officer, Grace Hill.

When this approaches levels of resident embattlement, this is more than conflict, Zacher said. “This can become a crisis.”

Zacher said to write your de-escalation policy, train it, and share it. “There’s power in that.”

Coon said residents are sounding off. “We’ve had situations when things have gone wrong, and residents walked around and hung fliers on their neighbors’ doors telling them to go online and post negative reviews. Our property manager and she was a good one, was labeled ‘the devil.’ When she saw all of this, she resigned. It gets to be too much to take.”

Zacher said one resident was a drug dealer, but the community was unable to evict her (based on the law it became a long process) and the other residents were upset about this. It got so bad that one resident led an online drive to post negative reviews.”

In response, we held “open house” events where our company president got in front of the residents and explained the situation. The residents didn’t like the answer, but they appreciated that we took the time to explain. We left it by offering an open line to the president to communicate about their concerns”

Zacher, “Remember, when facing these situations, never make it an ‘us vs. them’ situation. That will be a loser every time. The problem-solving has to be an ‘us’ and a ‘solve this together’ mentality.”

Emphasizing empathy and open communication is a simple and most-effective manner.

More Interesting Points: 

  • Zacher said the most common resident complaints are about evictions, rent increases, and noise from work-from-home neighbors.
  • Pretzer, “We’re seeing 60 percent turnover in staff, and that’s at properties where the residents aren’t even complaining that much.”
  • Coon said, “With staff shortages, the list of daily tasks for the onsite team is rising and so are their stress levels. As supervisors, sometimes we can forget the impact this is having on them.”
  • Coon said that by using technology to conduct resident surveys and by scanning resident reviews, communities can measure where stress points are. Not addressing this will lead to poorer NOI and retention and slow leasing velocity, she said.
  • Coon said that given maintenance and overall onsite labor shortages along with tightening budgets, we tell our teams that they have to think through things differently. For example, if a refrigerator breaks, consider whether it can be fixed rather than simply replaced.

Here is the replay:

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