My Condo Manager is a Bully

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Reader’s Question

I’m having problems with the manager of our condo, who is a bully. The board offers no support, but in a saner environment he’d be fired. The man is 72 years old and, if you push him for an answer, he’ll get beet red, raise his voice, and get defensive; and in three instances with three different owners, he has called the police.

Scenario One: I questioned him about decorating a tree on an adjoining property. I asked why we were decorating on someone else’s property and he said, “Because I wanted to, as it would make our entrance look nice.” I asked, “Did you get permission?” “NO!” This was at an owners’ meeting, and the board said nothing and did nothing. The manager then went into a tirade about my husband and me being against him. I told him I was asking a question, and I didn’t need to be yelled at.

Scenario Two: Another female owner published a directory, after checking to make sure she could without legal ramifications. He asked her to come to his office the next day about the issue, because she was in trouble. She presented him with a copy of the article saying she was within her rights. He threw it across his desk, told her he wasn’t interested in her article, and told her to “Get out of my office.” She told him it wasn’t his office. He then berated her and told her to sit down, because he was calling the police. He picked up the phone and told the police that he had a woman in his office who was harassing him, described what she was wearing, and hung up. She waited as she was told and when no police arrived after 15 minutes, she left.

Scenario Three: He told me, during a phone conversation, that he was not going to submit my accident report to the insurance company, but was taking it before the board. I told him, “You’ll submit that to the insurance company.” He replied, “Don’t tell me how to do my job,” and hung up.

Shortly after scenario One, he, his wife and I were in the same elevator going to the same party. He was over-the-top cordial, with smiles, hugs, Christmas greetings, etc. — not appropriate. I feel this way because he is an employee, and it should never be tolerated for an employee to talk to anyone the way he talks to us.

The board has not addressed the issues. I do know that some men have gone to him and spoken to him about his anger issues. This has been going on for six years.

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How does an individual handle a person like this? I don’t want to get into a shouting match with him.

Psychologist’s Reply

Your condo manager sounds like a bully. Bullies are people who use their strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker, and it sounds like that is what he is doing. His behavior is consistent (it happens repeatedly and not just when he is having a ‘bad day’) and his abuse includes yelling, intimidating behavior (like calling the police), hostile criticism and insults. Moreover, given the general flavor of your descriptions, it sounds like he does this mostly with women.

Unfortunately, as is the case with a lot of bullying situations, the people in charge don’t seem inclined to do much about it. However, don’t lose heart, because there are things you can do. The first thing to do is refuse to get emotional during your interactions with him. Bullies think they’ve ‘won’ when others get upset, so don’t play that game. Being calm also gives you the opportunity to try to defuse the situation. One way to keep calm is to remind yourself that this is about him. His behavior is due to his problems, and not because you are a troublemaker.

Another technique is to build a support network. You say that he is doing this to a lot of residents, so you could possibly join together to give each other support. You could go with each other when there is the possibility of a potential confrontation. Bullies tend to back down when they realize they are outnumbered. Your “bully support group” could also agree to document everything he does that is unreasonable. Write down what happened, when, and who witnessed it. If you all get a big enough document, chances are good that the board will not be able to ignore a large group of residents with overwhelming evidence. However, even if that doesn’t happen, getting support from others is always a good idea.

A third technique is to develop boundaries. It sounds like you are already doing some of this. Prior to a confrontation with the condo manager, decide what behavior you will and will not tolerate. For example, behavior like yelling or saying belittling statements should not be tolerated. Tell him calmly and clearly that you refuse to be treated like that and if he continues, you will be forced to leave the conversation — or some other consequence. You do not have to accept his behavior and there is no reason for you to get into a “yelling match” with him. Tell him what you’re going to do and then do it.

Finally, do not expect that you are going to change his behavior. If he decides to calm down, that would be great, but it’s doubtful that he will without a significant reason. From your description, it sounds like he responds better to men than to women. You could do an experiment to see if that is true. Ask a male resident (maybe your husband) to ask a question or make a request and see what he does. Then you or another female resident should do the same thing. If the manager’s response is different for a man than for a woman, then you could have a potential discrimination complaint. I’d be willing to bet that the board would see that as a serious enough offense that they may talk to him.

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