There comes a time when condo boards must deliver bad news. Fees may be increasing more than anticipated, a major renovation may be behind schedule or major infrastructure requires early replacement.
Delivering bad news is neither easy or enjoyable. Doing it properly reduces anger and frustration while building trust. It all depends on timing, content and tone.
Bad news should be delivered as quickly as possible. This prevents others from trying to control the story and framing it in a way that makes the board or management look bad.
Some prefer to wait until all details are available. Delays create an absence of information vacuum where owners make assumptions that are shared with others. Once this starts it is difficult for a board or management to gain control of the message and refute incorrect information without appearing defensive. A false narrative will appear more credible than what comes later.
It is better to share what you know and promise to share additional details as they become available. Be sure to live up to this promise.
Bad news should be shared clearly and openly. Don’t hide it in a general or broader communication. Be sure to address questions others will have. Show that you care about residents’ right to know rather than protecting yourself and any legal liability.
Present the facts and their direct impact in a straightforward manner. Explain the situation in simple terms without placing blame or being defensive. Provide answers to anticipated questions. Explain what is being done to improve the situation.
Written communications should be easy to read and as if they come from a concerned neighbour rather than a condominium manager, board member or lawyer. Keep paragraphs short with text of a reasonable size and readable font. Keep the tone neighbourly, respectful and empathetic.
Periodic bad news is inevitable in most organizations including condominium communities. Delivering this information quickly, clearly and empathetically engenders trust while allowing the community to move forward.