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How to Handle a Bully in Your Community

Search the term "bullying" on the internet and an array of corresponding stories and images will appear ranging from politicians to school accounts and social media trolls. Recognizing, understanding, and managing bullies has become even more important as the internet has added an additional platform for bullies to practice their power dynamic and attacks. Regardless of the platform, bullies are usually repeat offenders and do not “self-heal,” so understanding strategies to protect and defend yourself, your homeowners, your vendors and your community manager from them is vital.

First, it’s important to know not all bullies use the same style. Each one has their own bag of tricks and uses a variety of tactics in different circumstances. The different types of bullies include:

The Overt Bully – The overt bully is right out there in your face, yelling out from the audience or interrupting the board or manager. This is the bully that will use body language, like wagging a finger or invading someone’s personal space. They won’t back down, and they behave as if you have 100 percent of the responsibility for communicating or providing a solution to the problem. They threaten lawsuits, damages, reporting to governmental agencies and will always try to escalate to an alternative authority.

The Covert Bully – This is the sneaky bully, working behind the scenes to start rumors or raise questions about the board or community manager. This type of bully can also be known as a “hit and run.” They frequently start the story or make the implication and then let human nature take over to spread the ill will. They will minimize the expertise of others to elevate their opinion and always remind you of past mistakes in order to manipulate the situation.

The Professional Victim – This tactic is based upon gaining power by being hurt or angry so that everyone will walk on egg shells and avoid doing anything that may rock the boat. They are hyper-sensitive and believe everyone should work around their feelings and concerns.


Tips for Handling a Bully in Your Community

But once you identify which type you’re experiencing, what’s the best way to deal with a bully? Try a few tactics of your own.

  • Like most things in life, it’s usually in an assortment of approaches. But one key element is to keep your sense of humor. It helps keeps spirits high, and a smile can defuse many tense situations.
  • Use the power of labeling behavior as bullying. Call it for what it is, but not in a confrontational or aggressive way. Instead, remain calm and level-headed.
  • Stay calm and remember your objective or purpose. Arguing with a bully will only escalate or trigger a more aggressive response.
  • Use fact-finding questions and statements and avoid conversations that include “always” and “never.” Bullies will say anything to be right, so fact-based conversations are a great way to neutralize a bully.  
  • Let go of the need to be understood or bring the bully around. Defending your decision only fuels a bully. When you are sure of your facts and choices, show confidence by poking fun at yourself and admitting you’ve made plenty of mistakes, but not with regard to this specific decision.
  • Stand your ground. You can’t and won’t appease a bully. Don’t waste time on looking for the win-win.

Bullies succeed when people don’t get involved because bullies can’t and won’t stand up to a crowd. The most effective way to prevent the challenge of bullying is to create a positive community culture. It’s the best insurance you can have to protect your board, your manager and your neighborhood from bullying behaviors. 

About the Author

Ann Williams, CMCA®, serves as the president of Colorado Association Services, an Associa company. She oversees operations, business development and the association management teams within the three branch locations in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Lakewood.

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