Q: My title is manager but I am not allowed to manage anything. I am supposed to oversee a gated community of homes. The reality is that I have no authority to act as a manager, and I have to take up every issue I'm made aware of to the board of directors. That means I cannot decide anything on my own. It also delays the resolution process. I feel like an administrative assistant who is told what to do by the boss and cannot act on her own. The board members are reachable individually, but if it affects the entire community, their attitude is to wait until their regular meeting to discuss it and make a decision.
Resident know they are to call the police for personal emergencies, but there are often problems that are not life or death, and the owners would like an immediate response. It's humiliating to tell the homeowners that I have to report it to the board so they can discuss it and get back to me. They may even wonder why my title is manager. I am trained to manage buildings, so it's not as if I have no education or experience in the field even though I am young.
A: As you have already seen, you will not inspire confidence if your only response to homeowners is that you will present their issues to the board and get back to them with answers. Even though a situation may not be an emergency, no one likes being put off by having to wait for a third party to resolve an issue.
It's time for you to step out of that box in which the board of directors has placed you, and that may require some positive manipulation. The word manipulation has a bad rap since people associate it with a power for the sake of controlling others. But the word is not inherently negative. Manipulation can also mean artful or skillful management. Manipulation is used anytime an individual or organization tries to convince another to a certain way of thinking, which can be positive or negative. Telling a person all the reasons to stop smoking or to start eating healthy foods is meant to be helpful, but it is still a form of manipulation.
To make your job more satisfying, you need to convince the board of directors that you are fully capable of applying your education, experience and common sense to carry out managerial duties without having to run to them for approval, which delays taking action. Some managers are trusted from the beginning, but it sounds like you will have to gain the board's confidence by proving your ability to immediately resolve problems. This will also increase the homeowners' satisfaction of the community.
Create a list of the complaints homeowners report to you. Group them according to categories — complaints against neighbors, certain rules, procedures and requirements, potential planning, the buildings themselves, and perhaps issues with the board. When your list seems fairly complete, write form letters responding to each type of complaint and request a meeting with the board to submit the letters and discuss your role as a manager. It's better to discuss the issue in person so you can distribute a compete pack of letters to each member. Suggest reviewing the letters with the board so you can see their responses to your advice and solutions. This will show the board you are capable to act as a responsible manager and not as a secretary or coordinator.
If they are impressed with your responses and approve the letters, they should allow you greater authority in your job. If the board is unwilling to relinquish some control, politely but firmly discuss your qualifications and describe your training. Some individuals seek higher-level positions, such as on a board of directors, for status and control and will not acquiesce to your request. If you discover this to be the case, then you should decide whether you stay or start a job search for a more desirable situation.
Email workplace and life coach [email protected] with your workplace issues and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.