Who’s the Bully?

October is National Anti- Bullying Month, officially. It doesn’t just apply to bullying in the schools or in relationships between family members or friends. It applies to what happens in the boardroom, and in meetings in a homeowners association. It should apply every day, not just one month a year, the anti-bully campaign, that is.

But it’s not easy to cover every topic every day so rest assured you don’t have to. Anyone  can visit my blog sites any day and find free articles and affordable primers on the hottest topics, California law regulating HOAS, and the absolute best I can come up with in seeking solutions to problems and differences that arise in HOAS. Some of the solutions come from brainstorming, with colleagues, peers, students and instructors in classes, college course lectures I regularly listen to in the car, and many are based on first hand experience from 30 years in the business. One of our best teachers is in the mistakes and I’ve seen plenty.  I hope you can recognize those and learn from them rather than giving up or building resentments. Throwing your hands up in the air in frustration or giving up doesn’t make anything better. And for some life gets even worse because then they take out the frustration or despair on those around them.

If you read an earlier blog I wrote you know I am using a book written by Sam Horn called “Take  The Bully By The Horns” as a springboard for ideas and strategies for my writings this month. I am also pulling from things I have learned over the years ( the many years) in Fred Pryor Careertrack classes and college courses I have taken post college to hone particular skills. I will give credit where credit is due when the opportunity arises. I learned most importantly early on that Knowledge is Power, and said that on the back of my First book FINDING THE KEY TO YOUR CASTLE.”

Sam Horn’s book has a helpful “test”  in the beginning chapter which helps you to identify the level of bully in the person you are dealing with. It’s a good tool. I am going to modify the questions to accomplish two Important  things. First, to address those questions I feel are most likely to relate to a situation in an HOA. And second, to turn the inquiry on its head to see if you might be projecting traits that you actually have that fall into the bully category.

Here’s the criteria for the test. You rate the level from rarely to often that the person does the behavior. A 1 rating means rarely.  A 3 means occasionally and a 5 means often. 2 and 4 fall between.


So here goes – remember I am using Sam’s general gist but modifying the questions somewhat to fit the situations that tend to occur in HOAS. And keep in mind this test can be applied for any person, including fellow directors, homeowners, managers, vendors or professionals including attorneys. Yes, I said attorneys. And you can analyze your own behaviors too. If you’re honest you may recognize an uncomfortable pattern that is causing others to react in a way you don’t like.


Do you find yourself on eggshells when around the person, trying to avoid saying something that will trigger their temper or angst? Do you think others may fear the same when addressing you?

Does the other person act condescending to you or others? Do you have a hard time not being condescending to someone you feel is uninformed or you believe is “less than” for any reason?

Is the other person hypercritical? Are you?

Does the other person have a Jekyll and Hyde personality? Do you? (Note – I have seen this in situations occurring between public and private meetings and also in email vs face to face communications. Some people have no filter when it comes to pounding out email communications.)

Does the other person use aggressive body language or threats of physical violence to intimidate? Do you?

Does the other person dominate conversations and talk over you or others? Do you?

Does the other person call people vile names or make derogatory statements about others (either in private or not)? Do you? (Keep in mind executive sessions are not for owner or tenant bashing  purposes.)

Does the other person insist on controlling decisions on the board, financial or other, and belittle or attack if anyone questions them about the choices they are advocating? Are they a lawyer or other kind of trained advocate with a “mad dog” approach who fancies themselves an expert on everything? Do you insist on controlling all decisions whether or not based on supporting facts?

Has the person tried to isolate you outside of board meetings to convince you to change your position? Do you call your buddies before a meeting and badger them into agreement so you can throw numbers  in support at the board?

Does the person play martyr or try to make you feel guilty for disagreeing with him or her? Do you do that?

Does the other person pick fights or criticize others for their views? Do they criticize the person or call them names? Make fun of or mock them? Do you?

If you object to the bad behavior does the person go on the offensive (or get overtly defensive) and use aggressive behavior to get you to back off, or try to make you the “bad” guy?  Do you get defensive or go on the offense when someone questions your behavior?

Does the other person complain, whine or blame everything that goes wrong on others and continually point fingers in an accusatory fashion at someone else?  Do you?

Does the other person indulge in crazy- making behaviors? Do you?

**end of questions.

As you can imagine, if the scores are high after asking these questions and you are applying a realistic value, the other person – or you – are a bully of the worst kind. If the scores are mid to low range the personalities assessed have some bullying qualities, but the approach to those behaviors is much different than the approach to a full blown bully! Why? Because you can usually reason with people who are coming from the perspective of a strong or overbearing personality, especially through presenting reasonable alternatives, or presenting facts and evidence in support of your own position, or sometimes even just taking the high road. But you cannot reason with a full blown bully. We get a taste of this in national politics every day right now because of a looming devisive political election. Want a lesson on how not to act? Watch the presidential ads and debates. In my estimation, one candidate falls closer to the mid- range in this test  – but the other ….. Well, you be the judge.

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  1. Ron
    October 15, 2016 | 11:07 pm

    I feel the Board of Directors & Management Co. at my HOA are bullies.
    We had our election recently.
    I. The Community Management company emailed Elections Rules that stated:
    1. Number and Qualifications of Directors for Election
    (b) must be current in the payment of all Assessments

    II. But our By-Laws State:
    Article IV, Board of Directors, Section 4.01, Number and Qualification
    (b) Must be Owner of record.(No mention of be in “Good Stand” on Assessments)

    The Election Rules are not consistent with our By-Laws. So the Election rules can’t be enforced. Correct?

    • Beth Grimm
      October 22, 2016 | 10:02 pm

      This question is debatable, because there is a California case where a judge allowed an HOA to set election rules on a topic that was not covered in the Bylaws. The rule adopted by the Board was that a husband and wife could not be on the board at the same time. The court said it was okay because it made sense to not give advantage to one family on the board (very simply summarized). With regard to good standing, any person could make a decent argument that board members who have not paid their assessments or are in violation of the rules are not good examples and could make it harder to enforce these things against others. Likewise, one could make the argument as occurred in an association I was working with fairly recently that there should be some exemption from the good standing qualification if the board member got into trouble with paying assessments (she had been temporarily laid off) but was under a payment plan to pay them back, that she had good intentions, and that she was an excellent board member, and that volunteers were hard to come by. Before I would take a stand as to whether or not it might be accepted by a court if raised, I would want to know what was going on within the association and why the board felt it needed that particular rule.