Property Management Issues

July, 7 2022 Published by Eastern Ontario Chapter - By Val Khomenko

A Manager’s Perspective on Burnout in Condominium Management Industry

From the Volume 32 issue of the CCI Eastern Ontario Condo Contact Magazine

For many years, we as managers prided ourselves on our ability to tackle complex tasks, take on challenging schedules, assuage difficult personalities, and juggle multiple properties, all while remaining on budget, on time, and with a smile on our faces. In fact, it is this “can-do” multi-tasking machine attitude that has turned and bitten us in our proverbial backsides.

Our professionalism became a badge of pride, offered excitement and gave us a sense of fulfillment. However, our bill has come due, chickens have come home to roost, and the fallout isn’t pretty…

Here is why

On the face of it, the job of condo manager is a high stress position. It carries a relatively lower pay scale, and the high responsibility of managing multi-million-dollar assets. The demands of late-night board meetings and juggling the ever-present interpersonal conflicts keeps every manager on their toes.

Add to that professional licensing requirements, in 2017, when the Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario, under Condominium Management Services Act, 2015, became the regulator of condo managers. The CMRAO’s licensing fee structure contributed to an already stringent budget for management services providers and managers alike.

Kudos to those firms who have covered the licenses of their employees.

Then came COVID

Managers were hailed heroes and essential front line service providers. We became champions of safety and protectors of our communities, taking on the complex and often confusing job of disseminating governmental regulations for our stakeholders. Another badge of honour for the profession – protecting the community, during the gravest event of our lifetime.

However, this role of saviour took a major toll on the rank and file. The high from the recognition began to wane as pandemic fatigue kicked in. Residents and owners became irritable, supply chain woes increased and clients became more demanding.

The expectations of the “Super Hero” multitasking manager continued to increase while the offset did not. Workloads increased but the compensation did not. Working hours increased, while productivity began to wane. The “can-do” challenge was accepted, yet solutions became scarce. In short, a recipe for disaster was created.

Fast forward two years

Mask mandates have been dropped and restrictions are nearly non-existent. What remains are the emergency-level heightened expectations from clients. The result – burntout managers, who contemplated or switched careers, leaving for less demanding work.

Today, the market is facing a crisis.

Many transitional licensees are also exiting the market with the looming deadline of the license renewal. Managers changed companies because the upper echelon did not hear their cries for help and assistance.

Lack of industry support

While there were a few articles highlighting the issue of burnout, the task of “dealing with it” was placed squarely on the back of the managers themselves. As if there was not already an enormous time management problem, these overburdened employees were instructed to take up yoga or run, or take small breaks.

Talking about mental health and sanity are taboo

No one is addressing the huge elephant in the room – chronic stress. Burnt out managers feel guilty for voicing problems because performance is key. Admitting difficulty is a sign of weakness. There is no forum where managers can discuss coping strategies or speak about experiences. Only the channels of last resort (social media or a scant number of publications) are available.

“Take it easy or relax” still does not deal with the realities of overburdening clients, sometimes unsupportive upper management, and an industry that is plagued with individual jobperformance insecurity.

A culture where the thought of taking a vacation instills a sense of panic, rather than euphoria, is broken. Instead of washing away the stress with oceanic breeze and golden sand, thoughts linger on what will be waiting in the inbox upon return.

Again, high expectations and low compensation, result in a lack of resources to provide relief.

30- or 60-day notice contracts

One of the largest challenges of all, that I have yet to see anyone address, is the industry business model of a 30- or 60-days’ notice contract. In smaller markets, this has a devastating effect. With management playing such an integral role in the condominium communities, the protections of said roles are non-existent.

When contracts can be terminated with a shorter notice period, there is a higher risk to taking on a new condominium, as the potential loss of revenue and/or job creates a greater level of anxiety. This means it might make more sense to keep an existing, perhaps less lucrative, contract and trying to service it.

“Shaking things up” is not always the smart motivator

Yes, there are instances where a relationship has gone stale, and changes are necessary. Inviting new blood can bring in new points of view and different methodology.

However, treat this as a cautionary tale. Changing management companies simply for the sake of change or for a perceived demographic match of manager to building occupancy can result in a badly fractured relationship between the board and the management company. There is a high value in the trust established between manager and the board and/or owners. Soft knowledge of the property, the relationships with the trades, board, and owners is often irreplaceable.

Instances of 30-year contracts being lost due to a new board wanting to shake things up, or a management company wanting to make change, are unfortunately, not uncommon. This can result in fractured relationships where communities never fully recover.

Where do we go from here?

When the managers start thinking “what’s the point?” is the most opportune moment to reflect on where we are and examine how we move forward. There are no easy solutions. We must start the serious conversations required before the loss of talent will become a major detriment to an industry, that already is experiencing enormous labour shortages.

There are no easy solutions. We must start the serious conversations required before the loss of talent will become a major detriment to an industry that already is experiencing enormous labour shortages.

In order to restart the motivation engine, managers need to:

  • First watch for and take notice of signs of apathy, resentment, or lack of energy.
  • Tackle one challenge at time.
  • Break tasks down into manageable chunks and prioritize celebrating those wins, as there have been plenty.
  • Use your “Super Hero” talents to listen closely
  • We also need to educate boards and employers about the positive effects on productivity when employees feel valued.
  • Recognize calls for help and signs of burnout – in ourselves and in our colleagues.

If all else fails, remember, if your organization or client is just not supporting you, there are firms and clients who will.

Condo Boards, communities and Management providers need to listen and work with Managers to ensure their needs are being met as they work to meet the needs of the communities they serve. This will help to ensure a happy, fulfilled, and reinvigorated management team.


Val Khomenko,
ICON Property
Management

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