Getting Along and Going Along Resolving Board Conflicts

Sometimes being on the board of a co-op or condo is like being a politician. Fellow residents look to you to solve problems. They can vote for you, or they can choose not to vote for you if you do something they dislike. You feel like you're always in the spotlight and sometimes you feel that even your best may not be enough.

In short, it's a job with a lot of pressure—and that's why, when you put six, nine or a dozen board members in a room together, tensions may rise and conflicts may erupt. It's just the nature of the beast; different personalities, different experiences with even a little dose of stress can turn the most friendly colleagues into squabbling combatants. A warring board is a troubled board —so here are a few ideas that may help your board get through the tough times and avoid major conflicts among members.

How it Starts

Thankfully, much can be done to prevent these problems from ever starting, and even more can be done to ease conflicts when and if they do flare up. The most important way to curb problems is to understand how and why they happen, and to realize that the root causes are as varied as the people sitting in that boardroom.

For example, "Issues often arise when people get involved as a board volunteer for a personal reason," says Margie Russell, executive director of the New York Association of Real Estate Managers (NYARM). "If they join the board because they are personally upset about an issue or have an axe to grind. Once that seed takes hold, it's difficult to roll it back to a position of objectivity. It's very difficult to get a person to that objective position if they start at the wrong place."

Often, it's difficult for board members to remember that they are serving their fellow residents, not just themselves. "Some people who serve on a board cannot forget that they are making decisions for the whole co-op or condo and not for themselves," says Jeffrey Friedman of Vintage Real Estate Services, Ltd. in Manhattan "Therefore, each decision is made by first thinking, 'How does this affect me?'"


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